Follow safety guidelines in bear country

  • Thursday, August 6, 2015 7:12pm
  • Opinion

Recent headlines should serve as a reminder that here on the Kenai Peninsula, we live, work and play in bear country.

Last week, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge staff issued a caution that a pair of adolescent bears had been swiping packs and stringers of fish from anglers around the confluence of the upper Kenai and Russian rivers. And earlier this week, a woman was mauled by a bear on a remote trail on the refuge.

These incidents should serve as a reminder that in bear country, whether it’s the backcountry or just off the road, certain safety precautions are necessary.

First and foremost, if you’re out and about for a walk or a jog, even in your neighborhood, be aware of your surroundings. Make a little noise so that a bear in the vicinity knows you’re coming. If you do see a bear, give it space. Avoid thick brush; when the terrain or vegetation makes it hard to see, make extra noise. Hike in a group.

Thankfully, the bear mauling victim is in stable condition. We wish her a speedy recovery, and are grateful that the attack wasn’t worse. Initial reports suggest that the bear was startled and the attack was defensive; wildlife refuge personnel are investigating the area to ensure the bear wasn’t guarding a food source, like an animal carcass.

On the Russian River — one of the region’s most popular and most heavily used sport fisheries — anglers are required to keep anything that could be used to cook or store food, including a knapsack holding snacks, within 3 feet of a person, kept in a bear-proof container or left in the car. Stringers of fish are required to be within 12 feet of a person.

Bears are smart animals, and they’re looking for the easiest meal they can find to fatten up for another winter. Make sure easy food sources aren’t available, and most of the time, they will be just pass through, not stick around to cause trouble.

On occasion, a bear encounter will be will turn negative. But, by following guidelines for living in bear country, hopefully, those interactions will remain few and far between.