Spring seems to have descended on Ketchikan, which means that residents should start preparing for bears to emerge from hibernation once again.
During an average year, bears are expected to wake up from hibernation around March or April, according to Ross Dorendorf, an area biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Dorendorf is responsible for overseeing Game Management Units 1A and 2, which includes the areas of Ketchikan, Prince of Wales Island and Hyder.
“The vast majority of bears come out of hibernation in April,” Dorendorf said during a Tuesday phone interview with the Daily News.
Dorendorf explained that the first bears to emerge from hibernation are generally male bears, followed by female bears without cubs. Female bears with cubs are the last to come out of hibernation.
This is the opposite of the pattern followed when bears go into hibernation.
Bears most often start hibernating between October and December, Dorendorf said.
As bears begin to wake up in the coming month, they may be lethargic.
“They’re kind of at an interesting time in their life cycle right now,” Dorendorf explained. “When they come out of hibernation, they go into what’s called walking hibernation.”
This stage lasts around two weeks.
“They’re not necessarily eating a lot; … the first couple weeks they’re kind of lethargic,” Dorendorf said.
After this period ends, “they kind of spring back to and are up and at it,” Dorendorf said.
The amount of time that a bear spends in hibernation can be influenced by environmental factors, such as the weather. If the weather is colder, bears will hibernate longer.
Conversely, Dorendorf said warmer weather might encourage the bear population to emerge “slightly earlier.”
With the possibility of soon seeing bears come out of hibernation, residents should be cognizant of limiting any possible attractants.
“Bears are starting to wake up and folks need to start thinking about how they’re going to secure their trash,” Dorendorf said.
Using straps on dumpsters and trash cans is a good tool for keeping bears away.
“That’s probably the most important one, because so many people have trash that — in one way or another — may be available to bears at this point in the year,” Dorendorf said.
If a trash strap is unavailable, bringing waste to the Ketchikan Solid Waste Facility as needed is another good option.
Livestock, especially chickens or ducks, are also attractive to bears.
Dorendorf recommended installing an electric fence or a similar barrier to prevent bears from attacking any livestock.
Bears may seek out food sources from trash cans or other man-made situations when natural sources are running low, Dorendorf explained.
“If the berries change or if the salmon change, it could be an increase or a decrease in the amount of activity we see here in town,” he said. “Because when there is a food shortage for bears, they will come in and try to get to those easier food sources.”
Dorendorf encouraged anyone with questions regarding bears or bear safety to contact the Alaska Department of Fish and Game via telephone or online at www.afdg.alaska.gov.