Saturday, August 16, 2008

Rural meets urban in Anchorage

Three bears have attacked people in Anchorage this summer, according to this AP story. Here's the lede:
Even in a city whose official slogan is “Big Wild Life,” the summer of 2008 is testing residents’ tolerance for large carnivores.

The problem is bears, black bears and bigger grizzlies. So far this summer, three people have been mauled in the city.

* * *
Anchorage residents share the municipality, which covers more than a million acres and includes some 360,000 people, with more than 300 black bears and 50 to 60 grizzlies. Aggravating the problem is that Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska, is nestled against the half-million-acre Chugach State Park.

“Chugach State Park is a bear factory,” said Rick Sinnott, a wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “It pumps out bears every year.”

What's the solution? The state tried issuing hunting licenses for grizzlies last year, but none were killed. Of course, those injured cannot sue the bears, and there would be immunity issues if they wanted to sue the state for its policies. But reading the story made me think the residents assume this risk by living in Anchorage (as elsewhere in Alaska, no doubt) -- just as those living on Lake Tahoe or camping in Yosemite or Yellowstone do. I guess that's just a little harder to swallow because in spite of its proximity to wildlife, Anchorage is nevertheless a city, where commercial and other urban activities are pursued. Many of those activities are surely inconsistent with always being--literally--"loaded for bear."

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