Two recent bear incidents in national parks in Alaska should send a message to all visitors that they have to be particularly vigilant when traveling in bear country.
In one case last week, two Katmai National Park archaeologists were forced to kill a brown bear after it attacked them. In the other, three kayakers in Glacier Bay National Park encountered a sub-adult brown bear that rummaged through their gear.
In the first case, the Katmai archaeologists had been camping and working on an offshore island for several days when a lone bear appeared at their campsite, according to park officials. "The bear showed continued aggressive behavior towards both members of the crew and was not easily chased away from their campsite. Various means were employed to dissuade the bear from approaching, including loud noises, visual displays and at one point pepper spray," reports Chief Ranger Neal Labrie. "At no time did the bear obtain food or other items from the campsite. On the morning of July 13th, the bear made an unprovoked charge at one of the archeologists while the camp was being dismantled for departure. Both archeologists fired their weapons to stop the charge, resulting in the bear’s death."
Park officials are continuing to investigate the incident. Samples have been collected from the animal and will be examined as part of the investigation. "While this level of aggression towards people has been rare in the Katmai area, it should serve as a reminder to all visitors and staff that bears and other animals in the park are wild and exhibit unpredictable behavior. Adherence to existing food storage and viewing regulations are essential to the safety of both people and the wildlife around them," noted the chief ranger.
At Glacier Bay, park officials posted a notice about recent bear activity at the mouth of Queen and Rendu Inlets. On July 11, three kayakers camping on the point of land between the inlets encountered a single subadult brown bear who investigated their property and caused minor damage to gear stored in their kayaks. The campers attempted to deter the bear by yelling and waving arms but the bear did not leave the area until the campers packed up and left, the park reported. On July 14, a different party of three encountered a bear of similar description in the same vicinity. The bear investigated and chewed on closed bear canisters until the campers scared it off by yelling and banging on their kayaks.
Glacier Bay officials are advising campers to avoid camping in this area until August 17 to avoid further bear-human conflicts. Additionally, they note that two important keys to minimizing the potential for conflicts include storing food and attractants properly and keeping control of gear and property at all times.