Chichagof Island is home to an abundance of bears (xóots), which are a vital part of the ecosystem but can pose a threat to humans. Several tribal members said they didn’t recall seeing as many bears in town when they were younger, and those with children voiced concerns about allowing their children to play unsupervised outside because of the risk of encountering a bear. One elder said the rules about garbage had changed from when she was younger, as residents now place bins outside the day of garbage collection as opposed to the night before, but that it clearly wasn’t enough based on how often bears got into trash. While bear populations face threats due to various environmental threats, behavioral changes in the bear population poses a direct threat to residents both in the town and while out the road harvesting. An increase in negative bear-human encounters thus endangers local brown bear populations even more, as local efforts to terminate threatening bear encounters can result in more bear shootings in or near town.

Primary Risks


As an apex predator, the largest risk to bears is upsets in their food availability. Changes in the timing of seasons heavily affects when bears transition from eating berries to fish, and if berries are available until later in the year, bears are likely to spend less time munching on salmon. While this might leave more fish for subsistence fishers to get, it will reduce the number of fish brought into the forest by bears, which provide some 80 percent of the nitrogen to the trees in the Tongass.


Bears know when to leave their dens based on weather conditions, and as temperatures get warmer and more variable, it is likely that bears will become confused about when they are supposed to engage in certain behaviors. The beginning and end of hibernation cycles are triggered by the weather, and if Southeast has shorter, milder winters, it’s highly likely that the length of time that bears hibernate will decrease. Archeological evidence suggests that a combination of human activity and climate change led to declines in the number and size of bears across Europe at the beginning of the Holocene era (approximately 12,000 years ago).


Coastal brown bears get over 40 percent of their food every year from salmon runs, so if salmon runs decrease, the bears are likely to have a problem. If they start going hungry, bears will be more likely to come to town to forage for garbage, which can lead to dangerous interactions with humans and pets. Bears are also becoming increasingly habituated to humans because of increased tourism and a growing population, which means if they do encounter humans, they’re less likely to leave the situation.

Adaptation Strategies

SHORT-TERM[1] [2] [3]  GOALS:   

1.1: Identify local and regional partners to help address and mitigate climate change impacts on brown bear habitat

1.2: Develop food waste reduction strategies and programs in Hoonah

1.3: Identify and apply for funding sources that support minimizing negative human-wildlife encounters

1.4: Hold annual ceremonies to acknowledge and celebrate brown bears as a relative and community member to restore and revitalize community members’ connections with nonhuman relatives, increasing capacities to empathize with brown bears


2.1: Establish suitable bear habitat conservation areas that maintain connectivity under future climate change scenarios

2.2: Develop and implement environmental education plans / programs that help prevent and explain negative human-bear interactions, thus preventing retaliatory action 

2.3: Perform environmental restoration practices that increase the availability and quality of brown bear habitats and food resources

2.4: Perform assessments around local bear behavior and annual availability of brown bear food resources to identify prime bear feeding habitat locations and times 

2.5 Establish programs and capacities necessary to participate in advocacy efforts around climate change, just transitions, and maintaining Indigenous rights.

2.6 Identify and participate in political avenues (e.g. Fisheries Commissions) to address depleting wildlife habitat(s) and food sources

2.7 Develop an evaluation procedure to assess which approaches are more / less effective at maintaining, and expanding, the habitats and food sources of local brown bear populations, thus reducing the threat of brown bears in town

2.8 Investigate effectiveness of bear-proof trash bins, and if deemed appropriate, fund their distribution throughout Hoonah


3.1: Develop waste-management plans with relevant stakeholders for varying in-town bear activity scenarios[4] 

3.2: Allow unnecessary and/or unused roads to be reclaimed to support bears’ out-of-town foraging opportunities

3.3: Adjust bear viewing schedules to prevent tourists / wildlife viewers from detering bear foraging in prime locations and times

3.4 Have continuous representation and participation in advocacy efforts around climate change and Indigenous rights

3.5 Evaluate interdisciplinary efforts to understand which have been effective at supporting / expanding brown bear habitat and food sources to eliminate the threat of brown bears encroaching. is there a time frame y’all have been using to differentiate between long, mid, and short term goals?

I think that’s under development.

Discussed with team on 2/1: 

Short: Within 1 year 

Mid: 2-5 years

Long: 5+ years

On some of these, you can link to examples of templates etc. so that it’s clear what is being meant in terms of the specifics.