Bear cubs force closure

Stay out of the woods

Posted: Friday, June 30, 2006

A wooded area and eight tent sites near the Russian River Ferry were closed to public access Wednesday after two brown bear cubs took up residence there. The cubs are believed to belong to a sow that was shot in the area last week, after the bear charged fishermen.

Adjacent fishing areas alongside the Kenai River, however, will remain open.

“It’s not going to effect access (to fishing) in anyway whatsoever,” said Jim Hall, acting manager at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. “What we are trying to do is to protect the public and conserve wildlife.”

The wooded area and tent sites within are located just downstream of the Russian River Ferry parking lot. The closure began began Wednesday at 6 p.m. and is scheduled to last one month. The closure, however, could be extended or shortened depending on how long the cubs decide to stay. The total closure area measures approximately 29.25 acres.

Hall pegged the ultimate responsibility for recent bear problems downstream of the Russian River Ferry on human activities.

“If folks would start chopping their carcasses and throwing their carcasses into the swift waters of the Kenai, this problem would eventually go away,” he said.

Bear conflicts with humans result when whole carcasses thrown into the river get caught alongside banks and attract bears, he said.

All season long, wildlife officials with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Kenai Wildlife Refuge remind fishermen to chop carcasses and toss them into swiftly flowing waters so they will be washed far downstream instead of collecting on banks.

Fishermen also need to remember not to leave coolers and backpacks containing food and fish where bears can access them, Hall said.

“All this stuff we’re talking about is common sense in bear country. People need to remember they’re not in a Disney World situation, they’re in the wilderness.”

Hall said the cubs took up residence at tent site number six, and have occasionally been seen walking between the site and the river to retrieve carcasses.

“They’re not aggressive in any way,” he said.

Although the cubs reside in the wooded area without a sow, officials still have not determined if the sow shot last week is dead.

“It’s a possibility, but it’s an unknown,” Hall said. “She might still be out there licking her wounds somewhere. We don’t know.”

Wildlife officials said they hope the closure will help prevent conflicts between the cubs and fishermen, but Hall said the closure is a short-term solution to a much larger problem.

“It’s still just a Band-Aid in the bigger problem we have here.”

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