GATHERING OF CULTURES – Dorothy Gordon holds year-old Marilyn De La Torre as they perform an entrance song Thursday at the B.J McGillis Gym during the annual Gathering of Cultures. A Tlingit dance group made up of several Sitka Tlingit dance groups opened the gathering. Mt. Edgecumbe High School’s student dance groups representing cultural groups from five regions of Alaska also performed. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

Nonprofit Offers Electric Fence Subsidies


Sentinel Staff Writer

As days grow longer and bears are up and about again, Sitkans can learn how to avoid bear confrontations at two presentations this weekend hosted by Defenders of Wildlife.

As part of its advocacy of coexistence between humans and wild animals, the national nonprofit is running a subsidy program for electric fences to keep bears away from livestock as well as smaller attractions such as chicken coops, gardens, and garbage cans.

Isabel Grant, a consultant working for Defenders of Wildlife, will be in Sitka Saturday for two presentations on bear safety and electric fences. She will be at Fortress of the Bear from 10 a.m. to noon, and at Sitka National Historical Park from 1 to 3 p.m. Both events will include discussion of bear fences. At the Fortress there will be a demonstration of bears trying to break into a bear-proof garbage container.

Electric fences have been proven effective in the Rocky Mountains, where grizzly bears are being reintroduced into the wild, Grant told the Sentinel by phone from Juneau Thursday.

“A lot of research coming out of Montana showed that electric fencing was a really effective tool in preventing depredation events on people’s livestock from grizzly bears, and that’s how Defenders started that (subsidy) program in the Lower 48,” Grant said. “From the success of that program, and from more research showing the efficacy of electric fencing, Defenders decided to expand the program into Alaska.”

In Montana, the program began in 2011 to protect both livestock and endangered bears.

“That was designed to aid in grizzly bear recovery, because grizzly bears in the Lower 48 were hunted to near extinction,” Grant said. The Montana bear population is now in slow recovery, she said.

In Alaska, the fences are more to keep bears away from people who may have bear attractants in their yards.

The initial Defenders bear fence projects in Alaska occurred on the Kenai peninsula in 2019. Since then the organization has reimbursed part of the cost of 27 electric fences “and received a lot of really good feedback from people,” Grant said.

The Defenders will reimburse up to half the cost of a fence with a ceiling of $500, she said.

The need for more bear awareness and prevention in Southeast became apparent in 2020, when an unusually high number of bears were shot and killed “in defense of life and property.”  After 14 bears – a record number – were killed in Sitka that year, the Department of Fish and Game called a public meeting on the problem, and the city reactivated its dormant bear task force.

Following that, Fish and Game and the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska reached out to Defenders of Wildlife inquiring about extending the bear fence program to Southeast, Grant said.

At the present time, portable bear fences designed for use by backpackers and hunters can be borrowed from the Sitka Fish and Game office.

Grant said the electric fences are quite effective.

“Bears really don’t like the shock; it’s very painful. And so it creates both a physical and a psychological barrier for them,” she said. “They really don’t want to cross it… Four to five feet (tall) is a minimum; six to eight feet tall is probably a little bit better. You’re really aiming to have about five strands of wire along the fence to provide more points of contact, and a really key piece is having an energizer that produces a minimum of 0.7 joules.” In electricity, one joule is a single watt-second of current.

More information is available at, and people can reach out to the group at or by phone at 1-800-385-9712. Grant encouraged people to call before buying bear fence components to ensure they are correct for this use.

“I really enjoy talking to people, answering questions, and just sort of describing how electric fencing benefits, not only people but also bears, because it is a coexistence tool,” Grant said. “It’s something that enables us to share spaces safely with wildlife.”

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At a Glance

(updated 9-12-2023)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 8:57 a.m. Tuesday, September 12.

New cases as of Tuesday: 278

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 301,513

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,485

Case Rate per 100,000 – 38.14

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "Low.'' Case statistics are as of Tuesday.

Case Rate/100,000 – 152.50

Cases in last 7 days – 13

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,575

Deceased (cumulative) – 10

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.






March 2004

Photo caption: Fire engines and ambulances shine in the sun outside the new fire hall Saturday during an open house. Hundreds turned out to look over the $4 million facility, which is twice the size of the building it replaced. It features a state-of-the-art exhaust system and much larger offices and a large training room.


March 1974

The Sheldon Jackson Museum will have a special showing of replicas of ancient Tlingit hunting weapons. The replicas were made by A. P. Johnson, a Tlingit  culture instructor and metal arts teacher at SJC.


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