Between three bears spotted at the edge of town and another grizzly shot and left to die at the Cape Nome quarry, bears are out and about in the Nome area.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued a brown bear advisory last week after sightings near Icy View, the Norton Sound Hospital, and along the Beam Road. Meanwhile, Alaska Wildlife Troopers are searching for the person or people who failed to salvage the meat of a bear killed earlier this month. In an online dispatch released Friday, Troopers said the bear was shot near Cape Nome around Sept. 5.
Despite the recent sightings, Letty Hughes said the number of bears is not unusual.
“It has been an excellent fish year. It’s been an excellent berry year, so that helps out. But it’s probably no more than usual,” said Hughes, an assistant area wildlife biologist with the Fish and Game. “When you consider where Nome is situated — we’ve got the coast, we also have the Nome River and the Snake River — bears are just passing through.”
This year, Hughes said the department has actually received fewer reports of bears breaking into cabins. Still, she said the bears are out there — and the population seems to be doing quite well.
“We hear reports from folks that they see cubs with sows,” Hughes said. “So even without having any definite numbers, they appear to be healthy.”
And definite numbers are on the way. Hughes said Fish and Game teamed up with the National Park Service earlier this year to survey the brown bear population on the Seward Peninsula.
“We spent two weeks doing this bear survey, using a lot of small plane time,” she said. “A lot of hours were spent flying around the peninsula this spring.”
A biometrician is using the data collected to estimate the bear population, and Hughes said the final count will be released later this fall. The number will be another important piece of information about the local animals, which Hughes said are also analyzed when they’re hunted and salvaged properly.
“We gather information that way on our brown bears,” she said. “A hunter has 30 days to get their bear sealed. What sealing requires is bringing in the hide with the claws attached, the evidence of sex attached, and the skull. We pull a tooth, measure the skull, and look at the hide for any abnormalities — anything that might be interesting.”
With current sightings, Hughes said everyone should continue to practice basic bear safety. Make noise and maintain a safe distance while viewing bears, hiking, and picking berries. And keep trash contained so fish and game scraps don’t attract animals. Hughes said anyone who sees a bear can report sightings to the Department of Fish and Game, the Troopers, or the Nome Police Department.