Russian River night closure continues after mauling

Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) Federal agencies and state wildlife officials have extended a nighttime fishing closure near the Russian River in the aftermath of a bear mauling last week.

Dan Bigley, 25, suffered head injuries and bites in the attack just after midnight on July 15. He remains in critical condition at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.

During a Monday meeting with state officials and the campground concessionaire, the U.S. Forest Service decided to continue a nighttime trail and bank closure through Friday morning, said Chugach National Forest spokesman Doug Stockdale. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to close the land it manages along the river in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

''We're hopeful that when the next run of salmon comes in, that the bears will spread out a bit,'' Stockdale said. ''For the most part, people have understood (the closure), and they have respected it, and they have been complying.''

Both banks and trails will be closed to public access between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. from the Russian River falls to the confluence with the Kenai, and on downstream on the south bank past the ferry to the power line crossing. The agencies will meet again Friday to review the closure, Stockdale said.

By keeping most people off the river during the darkness, the land closures will reduce chances of another human-bear conflict, said Jeff Hughes, regional supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife Conservation.

Over the weekend, state biologists continued to shoot rubber bullets at three yearling cubs that had been stealing fish last week, and the sow with those cubs appeared to spend more time on the less accessible south and west bank, Hughes said.

''We haven't had any further incidents with the cubs,'' he said. ''The other thing is people have been doing a great job of not letting them have fish.''

A fund has been established in Bigley's name at Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, said Providence spokeswoman Sherry Hill.

Residents, anglers and visitors already have begun raising money at the Russian River Ferry and other Cooper Landing businesses, said river guide Jeremy Anderson.

''People have been more than generous,'' said ferry worker Trevor Evans. ''I'd say there's been a couple thousand dollars raised in a few days, and that's just the ferry and the campground.''

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