Alaska Wildlife Officials Kill 4 Black Bears at Anchorage Campground

The bears were spotted taking food and trash from a campground used by residents who are homeless

Black Bears
Photo: Brandon S. Olmstead/Getty

Wildlife officials in Anchorage, Alaska, killed four black bears at a campground within the city currently inhabited by Anchorage residents who are homeless.

On Tuesday, employees from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game killed the four black bears — a sow with her two cubs and a separate adult bear — that were spotted taking food, trash, and other items from tents inside the city-managed Centennial Park site, according to CBS News. A release sent out by the department noted that a decision was made to kill the bears as a matter of public safety, according to Alaska's News Source.

About 210 people are living in the park one week after the state closed its largest homeless shelter at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, which was organized as part of the state and federal government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Alaska Public Media.

As the city phased out its efforts to house people at the arena due to a decline in federal funding for the program, Anchorage officials repurposed spots at the campground in Centennial Park to provide unhoused people with a legal place to stay, Alaska Public Media reported.

Centennial Park is located in the northeast part of Anchorage near Chugach State Park; state wildlife officials described the area to CBS News as "a vast bear habitat." The city is reportedly home to up to 350 black bears and as many as 65 brown bears, according to CBS News, which cited the state's fish and game department. Anchorage mayor Dave Bronson's spokesperson Corey Allen Young said the city is providing "enhanced security" for people camping in Centennial Park in response to the bear activity near the campground.

Young told CBS News in an email that the city has brought 60 bear-proof food storage containers, 20 bear-proof, 32-gallon containers "and is doing hourly clean-up efforts to mitigate the trash and food."

"We also continue to inspect camps and educate campers about bear safe practices," he told CBS News.

Neither the Alaska Department of Fish and Game nor the Anchorage mayor's office immediately responded to PEOPLE's request for comment.

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The department's area biologist in Alaska, Dave Battle, told CBS News in a statement that while the campground's staff is trying to minimize campground conditions that may attract bears, "there are still a lot of tents with food in them."

"Until that changes, more bears are going to come into the campground and get into tents," Battle told CBS News.

"Killing any particular bear is a very temporary solution," Battle said in the statement. "There are always going to be more bears in that vicinity because of its location, and we can't teach bears not to eat what they can find."

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game's website estimates that 100,000 black bears live in the state.

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