KENAI, Alaska – State wildlife officials are monitoring three bears that might have been the trio involved in the near-fatal mauling of a jogger in Kenai last week.
Biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game say they're not entirely sure the bears in the April 22 attack of Marc Johnson are the same bears being tracked just outside Soldotna.
"Based on the description it's very likely, but we're not positive it is the same three bears," said Jeff Selinger, the agency's area management biologist in Soldotna. "There are several groups of bears out there, and if we have to put some down we want to be sure it's the same animals involved in the mauling."
Officials may not be certain about the bears' identity, but they're sure what is keeping them in the general vicinity: attractants such as garbage improperly stored or not in bear-resistant receptacles, and inadequately protected livestock.
"This case clearly shows how once a bear has received a food reward, they will continue to go house to house in search of a similar meal," Selinger said.
The bears first appeared in the area on April 7, but they didn't stick around for long because they found nothing to eat. Days later, three bears found an easy meal in the Mackey Lake Road area.
"Bears fitting the same description got into some chickens two nights in a row," Selinger said. "The homeowners had taken measures to protect the birds, but they weren't adequate to keep the bears out."
On April 14 bears made another appearance not far away in the Sport Lake Area. They got into garbage left out on a porch in non-bear-resistant containers. They also tried to get more chickens, but got scared off, according to Selinger. Three bears were also seen in the area on subsequent days.
Since the cause of the problem is attractants, Selinger said he is never quick to run out and dispatch animals.
"We can kill or remove an animal, but if the attractant issue isn't addressed, another animal will just come in and take its place," he said.