It may feel like winter, but bears in the area are still active, according to area trails advocate Dave Brann who keeps a close watch on local trail conditions.
Tracks for a brown bear and a black bear have been spotted from the Roger’s Loop trailhead, throughout the lower Baycrest area, from the waste transfer site to Diamond Ridge and east.
“I think it’s one fairly large brown bear — probably the female that’s been there for three or four years; in the past she’s had a yearling with her, but I haven’t seen one this year— and a black bear,” said Brann.
There have not been reports of anyone seeing the bears during the day, but finding tracks in the morning leads Brann to believe they’re active at night. Brann urged people in the area to be alert and pay attention to their surroundings, make noise, hike with a friend and let someone know where they are.
“We haven’t had any encounters that I know of over the last couple of years, but you never know,” said Brann. “You don’t want to be the one caught by surprise that becomes a statistic.”
The best defense against bears is being alert and aware of your surroundings, according to Jason Herreman, assistant area biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Homer. Signs a bear may be in the area include:
■ Fresh tracks;
■ Droppings containing vegetation, berries or hair and having a tarlike appearance;
■ Animal carcasses (flocks of ravens, jays, or eagles can often indicate a carcass);
■ Torn up stumps or rotten logs;
■ Digging near animal burrows;
■ Matted vegetation in berry patches;
■ Claw marks on trees.
To Brann’s suggestions, Herreman added traveling in groups during daylight hours, avoiding areas of restricted visibility, carrying bear spray or a firearm in an accessible location when traveling in bear country and knowing how to use it. If a bear is spotted at a distance, change your route to avoid the animal.
“Should you come upon a bear that is unaware of you, stop and quietly backtrack your trail to a safe distance,” said Herreman. “If the bear is aware of you, talk to it in a calm manner. Help the bear identify you as a person.”
If the bear does not approach, slowly back away in the direction you came while talking to the bear, Herreman advised. If the bear does approach, stand your ground and try to make yourself appear large, yell and waive your arms.
“If a bear charges, stand your ground. Do not run,” Herreman emphasized. “Many charges are bluffs.”
If you have bear spray, use it when the bear is within range, approximately 10 yards. Yell and shout at the bear. If you are attacked, drop to the ground and assume the fetal position, covering the back of your neck with your hands.
“It is legal to shoot a bear in self-defense, but you must salvage the skull and hide with claws attached and turn them into the nearest Fish and Game Office as soon as possible,” said Herreman.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at email@example.com.