KODIAK, Alaska - Foiled from raiding a trash bin, a cocky brown bear took a swipe at the grand prize Monday as it attempted to raid the Kodiak Baptist Mission Food Bank.
Trevor Jones, executive director of the Baptist mission, said the bear only succeeded in smashing a window but couldn't squeeze through the small opening.
"He didn't go in; we suspect all the noise scared him, and thank God, because I can't even imagine what would have happened if he had gotten in," Jones said.
After a lull in the first weeks of November, bear sightings within city limits have again spiked with the winter's first blizzard.
The spike could be a short-term problem, however, as winter forces bears toward hibernation and the road system bear hunt takes care of animals that stay awake.
John Crye, a wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said that as of Tuesday, hunters have reported taking 14 bears - 13 males and one female - on the Kodiak road system. The road system registration hunt opened Oct. 25 and closes Nov. 30.
Hunting is generally discouraged within city limits, Police Chief T.C. Kamai wrote in an email, and ordinances prohibit hunting within parks and watershed areas.
Outside city limits, even in urban Kodiak, the story is different. State laws forbid hunters from using artificial lights - and yes, that does include streetlights and lights shining from houses, said Alaska Wildlife Trooper Sgt. Paul Fussey.
Hunters also are forbidden from firing from a road or across a road.
Other than those limits, there is little to keep hunters from looking for bears in urban Kodiak.
"As long as they're out in the borough, there's nothing to stop them from doing it," Fussey said.
He added that hunters could be charged with misconduct involving a firearm if they act dangerously near others, and it's generally a good idea to stay away from populated areas.
Despite that, F ussey said he has "heard through the grapevine" that some Kodiak hunters are looking for a bear that frequents the Beaver Lake area just north of the city line.
Bear sightings are not a new thing within city limits, though this fall has seen an unprecedented level of bear activity. Between Oct. 1 and Nov. 7, the Kodiak Police Department responded to 164 bear complaints, frequently firing noisemaker shotgun shells or beanbag rounds to scare bears away from populated areas.
Countless other reports of bear activity have popped up on Facebook, where Kodiak residents have posted pictures of tracks, torn-open garbage bags and the occasional shot of a bear lurking in the woods.
As long as there's still easy access to food, Crye said, there's no guarantee that every bear will go back into hibernation. "We have some adults that will stay active through the winter," he said.
At the Kodiak Baptist Mission, that worries Jones. He arranged for an electric fence around the mission's trash bin and boarded up the broken window, but there's little that can stop a determined Kodiak bear.
"It does scare me; we've got these glass doors in the front of the food bank in two spots," he said. "If he decided, he'd probably just tear the door open."