Bears get in on Russian River fishing action, too

Posted: Friday, July 30, 2004

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is asking anglers and other recreationists around the Russian River to be aware of bears.

At least one and potentially more brown bears have made a presence in the area.

"A young brown bear, likely a 3-year-old bear, has been getting bold," said Thomas McDonough, an assistant area biologist with Fish and Game.

"The bear has been snatching stringers of fish, back packs and also reportedly shook one RV in the campground," he said.

McDonough and other Fish and Game personnel made a trip up to Cooper Landing to investigate the scene earlier this week. They didn't get a glimpse of the bear but based on what they did find, McDonough said it wasn't a surprise the bruin was hanging around.

"We counted more than 20 fully accessible coolers outside of RVs. We also saw people fishing down in the water and leaving their backpacks up on the high bank," McDonough said.

In addition to leaving food items left strewn about, the care and cleaning of fish caught in the area also has been less than ideal.

"It's not a good situation to have this bear keep getting food rewards," McDonough said.

McDonough said relocating the bear has been discussed but it would it be challenging due to the logistics and safely darting the animal in such a heavily people-populated area as the Russian River.

"Also, it's not going to fix the problem," McDonough said.

Since there are many bears in that area, removing one just makes room for another to move on in. It's not a problem of the bears being there, but rather them having easy access to food rewards as a result of irresponsible human behavior, he said.

"We're hoping an educational effort will eliminate the problem," McDonough said. To that end, Fish and Game has released a list of safety tips to help reduce the risk of having a negative interaction with bears in the area.

Avoid getting "tunnel vision" while fishing or hiking. Be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Make plenty of noise while hiking to and from the fishing area and try to travel in a group.

Do not leave fish or food unattended at any time.

If approached by a bear, stop fishing and gather up your fish and other belongings. Stand your ground. Do not surrender food or fish to a bear. Instead, be prepared to throw fish into the current and away from the bear if approached.

If you have a fish on your line and a bear approaches you, be prepared to cut your line.

When cleaning your catch, cut carcasses into several small pieces and throw them into the main current. Rinse down the cleaning station. Carcasses attract bears.

Fishing after the last ferry runs is not advisable. Bears can be more active at this time and the low light conditions can hinder your ability to see bears and their ability to see you.

Remember that bears are wild animals. Maintain adequate distance and respect a bear's "personal space."



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