Furry visitors have kept the residents of Angoon on their toes for the past few weeks. Several bears have made a habit of passing through town.
“We live on an island surrounded by bears,” said Angoon Mayor Josh Bowen. “It goes with the territory.”
Locals understand that bears will walk around, and it’s not that big of a deal when they pass through. But lately, it’s felt more like the bears are trying to move in.
Mayor Bowen would rather not kill bears, but when they started knocking on his constituents doors last night, he saw no other choice. At about 2 a.m., the dogs in town started “going crazy,” Bowen said, which usually means the bears are in town. And they were: one was bold enough to walk up to an apartment door. The resident stood and watched the bear approach.
Luckily, they had called Village Public Safety Officer Bryan Shoemate, who shot the bear before it harmed anyone. But the bear wasn’t alone. Another visited Bowen at his apartment on Friday morning.
“I told him ‘hey go away before you end up like your buddy’ and he actually did,” Bowen said.
But the bears aren’t just making house calls. For the past three weeks, they have made a habit of wandering Angoon’s downtown streets. Bowen spotted two young cubs at the post office a few weeks ago. Two dogs tried to keep them out of town, but the bears prevailed.
“In the 7 years that I’ve lived here it’s never been like this,” Bowen said.
The state troopers came to Angoon on Friday morning for a meeting about how to manage the threat. Midday, they decided to kill two of the two young, aggressive bears. Bowen asked the troopers about the possibility of relocating them, but the officers advised against it.
“They’re not afraid of anything so I think when it gets to that point you don’t really have a choice,” Bowen said.
He thinks part of the problem might have to do with a bigger issue: the local landfill. It’s community run and something of a magnet for bears, Bowen said. That’s why he wrote a new position into the city budget for 2020: a Landfill Attendant. Now, the landfill is open access: anyone can go in and out at their convenience. With the new position, Bowen wants to change that.
“We’re going to put some more controls on that and have certain hours of operation,” he said. He wants to make sure there is someone at the landfill to deal with incoming trash, instead of waiting for the bears to come and dig in.
In the meantime, Bowen advises residents to take immediate precautions like spraying bleach on trash cans and sheds. And to stay alert.