Denali Park bear incidents leave one injured, close trails and parking lots
Two bear incidents at Denali National Park this week have led park officials to close parking lots and trails.
According to a park release, a small, subadult brown bear charged vehicles by the Primrose area and charged visitors near the Savage River in the Denali Park Road area. Then, on Wednesday, the same bear charged hikers on Salvage Alpine Trail.
“One hiker threw a daypack, hoping to distract the bear, and the bear immediately broke into the pack, played with it and consumed at least two candy bars and bottles of soda pop,” the release stated.
Park staff responded and cleared the trail of hikers.
“The bear eventually left the area with the pack. Park rangers found and cleaned up the food remains and other items,” park officials wrote. “Hikers on the trail recovered the pack and gave it to park staff.”
Now, the Savage Alpine Trail, the Savage River Loop Trail and both Savage River parking lots are closed. The park said wildlife technicians are working to teach the bear to stay away from humans.
The areas will remain closed until further notice. The release states no backcountry permits will be issued for the backcountry or camping spots in the Savage River Campground.
According to the park, this situation is particularly dangerous because the animal was rewarded with food and may have learned to associate humans with food.
“Park wildlife technicians are in the area searching for the bear. If they locate the bear and the opportunity arises, they will try to recreate the situation and use aversive conditioning techniques, such as firing paint balls, bean bags and rubber bullets. The hope is the bear is impressionable enough to become wary of people,” park officials wrote.
On Thursday, a grizzly sow with cubs bit an Aramark-Doyon employee, who works in the park as a bus driver, the release says. The individual was identified as Phil Buchanan.
Buchanan was hiking north of the Park Road, near mile 8. He said he heard a cub “shriek” as he walked through an area thick with shrubs. Then he told park rangers the cub’s mother charged him.
“Buchanan acted appropriately and stood his ground, he said, however the sow dove at his feet and bit him in his left calf. He also sustained an injury below his left rib cage. Buchanan curled up into the fetal position and played dead. He remained in that position for five minutes once the attack was over,”
The attack is typical behavior of a sow, the park wrote.
Buchanan had to hike for about two hours to reach Park Road and flag down a vehicle for assistance.
“He said it took him longer than expected to reach the Park Road because he was looking for a safer place to walk, an open area with no shrubs along a ridge line and then a creek bed, so he could see the bear if she returned,” the release stated.
Buchanan was treated for his injuries at the Denali Canyon Clinic and then was transferred to a hospital in Fairbanks.
Park visitors are urged to notify park rangers of any human, bear encounter.
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