This August 2016 photo shows Skilak Lake with Mt. Redoubt in the background on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. The state of Alaska is engaged in two lawsuits at the federal level with national implications, one of which involves a set of rules for hunting on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, finalized in March 2016. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)

This August 2016 photo shows Skilak Lake with Mt. Redoubt in the background on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. The state of Alaska is engaged in two lawsuits at the federal level with national implications, one of which involves a set of rules for hunting on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, finalized in March 2016. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)

Bear that damaged tent at campground wasn’t going after food

The black bear that damaged a tent Saturday morning at the Lower Ohmer Lake campground didn’t get any food from the site and hasn’t hung around there since, said Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Deputy Manager Steve Miller.

On Saturday, Miller said, a bicyclist camping at Lower Ohmer Lake was awakened by a bear stepping on her tent.

“She made noise, the bear ran off,” Miller said. “The neighbors in the adjacent campsite came out. Then they all went back to bed, and it seems like the bear returned later. The woman didn’t report anything to the refuge, though we’ve contacted her since then. She doesn’t report any injuries — she said she had a slight scrape on the shoulder.”

After getting a report from a neighboring camper the next morning, the Refuge closed the Lower Ohmer and the nearby Upper Skilak and Engineer Lake campgrounds to tent campers, moving those there to Hidden Lake campground and waiving the fee for that site. The three campgrounds remain closed to tent camping, though open to day-use and hard-sided recreational vehicles.

“We’ll make a decision over the next few days here about when it should be safe to go back in there,” Miller said. “We’ve had people enjoying those campgrounds and haven’t had anything approaching that incident since then. Bears since then have walked through the campground, but shown no interest in any of the campsites.”

Four days before the incident, another black bear with three cubs had torn into an unattended tent in Anchorage’s Centennial Campground, puncturing a two-liter bottle of soda that had been inside — the sixth recorded incident of those four bears going after human food, according to the Anchorage Daily News. The next day, biologists from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game shot the bear and cubs. The incident at Lower Ohmer lake is different — for one thing, the bicyclist had no food in her tent.

“We don’t know exactly what led to it, because in this case the lady had done everything right,” Miller said. “She was traveling by bicycle (with) her food and other smelly items, (so) she’d asked the adjacent campsite if she could put them in their vehicle, and stored everything there that night. So the attractant wasn’t anything food-related. Who knows what the bear was thinking at the time?”

The refuge gives citations to those leaving food unattended and so far has had to kill one bear this summer, at Upper Skilak campground. That bear’s behavior was very different from the bear that visited Lower Ohmer on Saturday, which left without taking food and hasn’t been seen again by the refuge’s patrols there. The bear killed at Upper Skilak campground “had gotten food, and was not leaving that campground,” Miller said.

“It showed no fear of humans,” Miller said. “The officer arrived and he couldn’t even scare off the bear. Then the bear approached again, and lethal action was taken at that point.”

Bears that come to see campgrounds as easy food sources are the ones that become problems.

“You see the signs around the campgrounds: ‘A fed bear is a dead bear.’ That’s what we don’t want to happen,” Miller said. “… As the national wildlife refuge, we’re here for both people and bears, people and wildlife. In the past it’s worked out well. This year we’re hoping to get through the busy part of the season and turn it back over to the wildlife again.”

Reach Ben Boettger at bboettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

tease
House District 6 race gets 3rd candidate

Alana Greear filed a letter of intent to run on April 5

Kenai City Hall is seen on Feb. 20, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai water treatment plant project moves forward

The city will contract with Anchorage-based HDL Engineering Consultants for design and engineering of a new water treatment plant pumphouse

Students of Soldotna High School stage a walkout in protest of the veto of Senate Bill 140 in front of their school in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
SoHi students walk out for school funding

The protest was in response to the veto of an education bill that would have increased school funding

The Kenai Courthouse as seen on Monday, July 3, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Clam Gulch resident convicted of 60 counts for sexual abuse of a minor

The conviction came at the end of a three-week trial at the Kenai Courthouse

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meets in Seward, Alaska, on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (screenshot)
Borough awards contract for replacement of Seward High School track

The project is part of a bond package that funds major deferred maintenance projects at 10 borough schools

Kenai Peninsula Education Association President LaDawn Druce, left, and committee Chair Jason Tauriainen, right, participate in the first meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Four Day School Week Ad Hoc Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
4-day school week committee talks purpose of potential change, possible calendar

The change could help curb costs on things like substitutes, according to district estimates

A studded tire is attached to a very cool car in the parking lot of the Peninsula Clarion in Kenai, Alaska, on Monday, April 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Studded tire removal deadline extended

A 15-day extension was issued via emergency order for communities above the 60 degrees latitude line

A sign for Peninsula Community Health Services stands outside their facility in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, April 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
PCHS to pursue Nikiski expansion, moves to meet other community needs

PCHS is a private, nonprofit organization that provides access to health care to anyone in the community

Jordan Chilson votes in favor of an ordinance he sponsored seeking equitable access to baby changing tables during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna OKs ordinance seeking to increase access to baby changing tables

The ordinance requires all newly constructed or renovated city-owned and operated facilities to include changing tables installed in both men’s and women’s restrooms

Most Read