Haines brown bear raids garden for carrots

When Leigh Horner slipped out of her house on the outskirts of Fort Seward in Haines last week for a Mai Tai at the distillery, she didn’t realize someone was watching her, waiting for a chance to steal some of her things.

But the someone wasn’t a person — it was a grizzly bear, who Horner believes waited in the trees for her to leave and sauntered over to her glistening carrot patch.

“They only got the orange carrots, and he very carefully pulled them out of the ground,” said Horner. “The bear was very neat and tidy. I was impressed.”

Horner’s experience isn’t unique. After she posted about her loss on Facebook, a handful of other Haines residents posted about their experiences with bears in their carrot patches.

“Carrots are full of sugar — I’m sure they think it’s the greatest thing,” said Rick Sinnott, a retired Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist who dealt with urban bears in Anchorage for decades. He noted that bears pick out root vegetables in the wild, including Eskimo potatoes. And, he said they’re excellent visual learners as well, so trying one tasty orange carrot may have led to a preference for the orange color.

Fish and Game’s Juneau area biologist Carl Koch said carrot crunching bears are a regular — if not common — occurrence.

“Bears getting into carrots is not at all unusual. It’s an edible plant just like edible plants in nature,” he said.

Still, Haines residents say they believe one bear might have gotten a taste for carrots this year and may be responsible for several of the raids. Carole Tuynman said her family has grown carrots for decades. This year, for the first time, a bear cleared out her patch a day before she planned to harvest them.

“My first thought was one of the other gardeners must have come and harvested them all, because they were all gone,” she said. “It was like someone dug them out neatly and ate everything.”

Koch said despite their reputation as clumsy brutes, bears actually have dexterous paws. “While they’re capable of busting in a garage, they can also eat berries off of devil’s club,” he said.


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