Brown bears make appearance at Russian-Kenai confluence

Posted: Monday, July 07, 2003

The fishing may have been slow this weekend where the water of the Russian River meets the Kenai River, but there still was plenty of excitement courtesy of a few bears.

An enormous brown bear sow made an appearance early Saturday morning with three cubs that were, based on their size, at least 2 years old.

The quartet of bruins came out of the woods at roughly 8 a.m. on the south side of the river and wandered down to just yards away from the docking area for the Russian River Ferry.

"We've seen at least four bears this season, but this was the closest they've come to the ferry," said ferry captain Alexis Cammack. "They came down to the water in the handicap access area."

Cammack gave the word for people in the vicinity to get on the ferry, but many people wouldn't stop fishing regardless of the potential danger.

She sounded an air horn in an attempt to spook the bears away, but said "I think they're starting to get use to the sound of it."

Ferry manager Chuck Brooks said Cammack did exactly what she was supposed to.

"No one was in immediate danger, but we had to take precautions just the same. The safety of the people is our first concern," he said.

This year, 13 bears both brown and black already have been reported in the vicinity around the ferry. Many frequent the high bank area west of the ferry to feed on the salmon carcasses that line the shore.

"They're just bears doing what bears do," Brooks said.

However, not everyone was as casual about the presence of the bears.

"That one was quite large," said Sandy Wood of Eagle River, in regard to the sow. "It was the biggest brown bear I've ever seen down here, and this was the first time I've ever seen four at one time."

Scott Cords from Anchorage was another angler that had a close brush with the bruins along the river bank.

"I saw the three cubs first, but no mom. Then the mom came racing down to the water and stomped her feet," Cords said. "That was the closest I've been to a bear. It was quite an experience. I was pretty darn nervous, I'll tell you that much."

The bears moved east along the Kenai to the confluence with the Russian River, where they followed the Russian upstream.

The bears meandered in the area for more than three hours, periodically heading into the woods then quickly returning to the water further upstream.

The cubs seemed to be fearless, and the three wrestled with each other and played with fish in the shallow, swift moving water.

An undeterred angler fired a warning shot at the bears. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was called at the onset of the sighting. Officers were on location for several hours, but were unavailable for comment.

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