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Sleepless in Alaska: Insomniac bear prowls
ALONE: Warm weather may have derailed grizzly's hibernation, biologist says.

The Associated Press

(Published: December 28, 2002)
Fairbanks -- When a Fairbanks-area trapper looked out his window on Christmas Eve, he saw a grizzly bear snacking on bait stored in buckets in the yard.

Bears are supposed to be hibernating this time of year, but a state biologist thinks the record warmth this winter either drew out this grizzly or kept it from bedding down in the first place.

The trapper reported the sighting to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The bear was gone by the time wildlife biologist Don Young arrived. Young says the trapper told him the bear was defensive of the bait buckets.

Young studied the bear's tracks and estimated it weighs 300 to 500 pounds. Also, based on paw prints in the snow, biologists know the grizzly is alone.

The trapper's encounter was the only reported sighting, but other residents in the neighborhood have seen the grizzly's tracks in their yards. Some residents say they are taking precautions.

"Like everybody, we're aware of it," resident Andy Greenblatt said. "We don't let the kids run around."

Cheyanne Fleury, whose family has seen tracks within a quarter-mile of their house, agreed.

"It isn't a good time to take a walk," she said.

Young, the biologist, said it's no surprise to hear of a bear in that area of town. The surprise is seeing a bear this time of year.

"This has been an unusual year. It's been real warm. I suspect that has something to do with it," Young told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

State biologists are monitoring the bear, which hasn't caused any trouble.

"As long as that bear doesn't get into any trouble, doesn't show any signs of aggression or anything like that, we're going to treat it like we would any other bear situation," Young said.

That means biologists will monitor its activity and warn residents to take precautions, such as not keeping food outside.

"We want people in the area to be careful. It's kind of an unusual time when people aren't thinking about a bear being out," he said.
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