A brown bear walks around a backyard chicken coop, stands on its hind legs and forcefully bangs against the side of the structure over and over again, using its paws to tear off a piece of paneling.
A black bear walks past an outdoor children’s play set, poking its head inside before heading to a nearby patio.
A sow crosses an alley with two cubs in tow. Another black bear is swinging atop a red fence.
Bear sightings in Anchorage abound on social media.
Check Nextdoor or Facebook, and grainy security camera footage or a zoomed-in photo of a bear wandering down an alley, bike path, or front yard will almost certainly appear if you scroll long enough.
The platforms are a tool for residents and wildlife officials. Posting these videos, photos and updates provides an additional measure of safety, alerting neighbors to potential dangers nearby.
While social media can make it seem like there are more bear encounters than ever before in Anchorage, a local wildlife official said there are not, although some neighborhoods may see more activity than others: more public observations.
Misty Nemec, who lives in the Mountain View neighborhood, recently posted a note on her neighborhood’s Nextdoor, feed about two young black bears, including one who climbed her fence.
The children live nearby and she said she wanted to warn people in the neighborhood. Of course, Anchorage is bear country, which means everyone should be aware of this, she said. But the post lets people know more specifically which bears might be nearby.
“How can you be aware of the bear if you don’t know the bear is there?” Nemec said.
Steve Conway recently posted a screenshot of a large brown bear spotted in Kincaid Park. He has used the park year-round for skiing, biking, canoeing and walking for the past two decades, he said, and posted a post to educate others.
âThis is the first large photo of a grizzly bear I’ve seen in Kincaid,â said Conway.
The Alaska Department of Fisheries and Game also uses platforms like Nextdoor to alert specific neighborhoods of problems, said Dave Battle, an Anchorage area biologist.
Even though videos and posts of bears rushing down aisles and sneaking into backyards are plentiful on social media, that doesn’t necessarily mean there are more bear problems in Anchorage this summer. , according to Battle.
Anchorage has always had bear-man conflicts. But even six or eight years ago, no one would have known about them except those involved in the problem and wildlife officials, Battle said.
âNow everyone seems to be posting every bear sighting and every conflict they have,â Battle said. “And so there is a very strong perception that things are worse than they’ve ever been, which I don’t think they are.”
Battle said he didn’t want to downplay concerns about conflict with bears.
An area may have more conflicts than normal. Bear hotspots in the city can really vary from summer to summer, usually because someone in the neighborhood leaves bird feeders in place or not securing their trash, which attracts bears. and creates a problem for everyone nearby, Battle said.
âOne year, people in a particular neighborhood will say to us, ‘Oh, we’ve never had so much conflict with bears,’â said Battle. “And then the following year, we will hardly hear anything from that area and the hot spot will have moved.”
Fish and Game tracks wildlife-related conflicts in a digital database, which it began using in 2017. And although the database shows differences from year to year, the total number of reports did not increase, he said.
In recent years, 2017 and 2018 have proven to be particularly difficult years for bear conflict, Battle said, while 2019 “was almost like a vacation.” The past two years have been pretty normal, he said.
Dawn Anderson lives in Hillside, near South High School and Rabbit Creek, which means bears are not uncommon in the neighborhood. When her family moved in four years ago, Anderson said, she installed cameras.
She’s a long-distance runner and wakes up early to run some mornings, so Anderson checks the camera to see if anything is walking in the yard.
âAnd then I feel a little better,â Anderson said. “But I always wear bear spray, clap and sing alone in the morning when I run down the road.”
Anderson recently posted a video from one of the cameras on the Anchorage Bear Tracker Facebook group, which is full of doorbell and phone videos of local bear sightings this time of year.
Her neighbors include several families with young children, and she said the signage is one way to help publicize there may be bears in the area.
âI feel like a neighborhood watch,â Anderson said. “But maybe neighborhood watch with bears.”
She also shows the videos to her own children, three of whom are high school students and walk through the woods to South High. One night, Anderson’s son walked past a camera on his bike around 12:24 am At 12:28 am, a bear walked past, she said.
âI hope this will impress my kids too,â Anderson said. “Like” Hey, you know, like, two minutes after you walked past the camera, a bear walked past the camera. Remember they are there. And please don’t wear your fucking headphones. “