The summer of 2008 saw many bear attacks in the Greater Anchorage area. Some attacks were by Black Bears and some were by Grizzlies. No matter where you are in Alaska, you need to know how to survive a bear attack. These magnificent creatures are huge and can be ferocious. Mother bears, called sows, are particularly dangerous when they have their young with them. A lot of the secret to surviving an attack, is preventing the attack in the first place.
Anchorage backs up to the third largest state park, Chugach State Park. This state park is a half a million acres of wilderness with plenty of streams and resources for the bears to feed. Visitors to Chugach State Park go there wanting to see the wildlife. Most people do not want to see the bears killed. It is understandable that a mother sow will act to protect her young and do what is necessary to feed them.
The close proximity of Anchorage to the wilderness poses a problem. The bears can wander into the city looking for food. Sometimes they come and dig through the garbage. The summer of 2008 was a bad year for salmon. This drove the bears into the Anchorage area. Not only does Anchorage have plenty of streams with salmon but it has lots of garbage. For the bear it is strictly survival.
Anchorage has many city parks that have trails weaving through the wilderness and long salmon rich streams. It has been in these city parks where some attacks have taken place. One girl was mauled at 1:30 a.m. on a trail in a city park while on a bicycle. She was participating in a 24 hour race. She was a fifteen year old teenager, who might not have known better. It is not a good idea to surprise a bear. They don’t like surprises. It is common knowledge that when in bear country it is wise to wear some kind of a noise making device. Probably one of the more simple and inexpensive devices is a bell worn around your neck. Secondly, it is a good idea to always walk, hike, fish or bicycle in groups or at least with one other person.
The authorities did close Rover’s Run Trail but in order for this measure to be effective, people must comply with the order. When a dangerous area is recognized, always be sure to respect the ordinance. It might save your life.
The summer of 2008 had eight bear maulings with three of the maulings occurring in five days. This was a record, even for a state known for its wildlife. Fortunately, no one died. However, these occurrences did show the need for action and education. Many people were asking the authorities to do something about the dangerous situation.
Residents and visitors should realize that Alaska is the “Last Frontier”. Even the license plates sport this logo. There is no question that if you visit Alaska or live here, you need to be educated in the wildlife that is present all around. There are bears, moose and wolves all around us and sometimes within the city limits. In Spring when the bears are coming out of hibernation with their young, it is a good idea to carry bear mace. Always be aware of your surroundings. Alaskans never step out of their front door without looking around. It becomes second nature. Half of solving any problem is being aware of the problem. Awareness has been key to surviving the Summer of 2008.