Kodiak bears are learning to break into unlocked vehicles by opening the doors with their teeth, according to Alaska Wildlife Troopers.

Although this is a normal occurrence in other areas, it is new in Kodiak, said Sgt. Todd Mountain. 

“The idea that one of the bears can open vehicles, is something that hasn’t happened in the past,” he said. “Bears are smart. They learn … If the door is unlocked they will grab (the door handle) with their teeth.

“We have had more encounters close to town because of the larger amount of people, which increases their food source and amount of garage,” he said. “Bears have broken fences and gates, and demolished roll carts.”

A bear was seen Wednesday night walking toward the docks in between King’s Diner and the smokehouse, the sergeant said. 

There are at least three bears that Mountain said he could recognize as locally famed “town bears” that frequent areas inside city limits.  

“There is one larger bear that has been seen on Selief Lane. He is probably larger than the other two,” he said. 

Bears frequent areas within the city to find food, often breaking fences and gates and entering vehicles to find food. 

“We have had some trouble with bears getting into a garage last year, or getting into a food trailer a couple of times,” Mountain said. 

In the garage incident, although the residents “had everything closed up and locked, they had game animals hanging on the inside (of the garage),” he said. 

The bears returned to the trailer even after the meat had been removed and the trailer had been cleaned because they remembered the smell, he said.

Whether residents are out hiking, walking a dog in the dark or on foggy days with low visibility, Mountain said everyone should carry pepper spray and bells or make noise. 

“Surprising a bear is probably the biggest danger. If you make noise, for the most part the bear knows you’re there,” he said. “A large majority of the time, bears don’t want to be in the same space with you either. They are a wild animal and will do what they can to get out of danger.”

In city limits where houses are located close to one another and there are fewer escape routes, it can be especially dangerous to cross paths with a bear, he said.