Park rangers, police on alert after losing track of wounded bear near Skagway
Skagway police and National Park Service rangers are stepping up their presence in the Dyea area for the next few days after a bear hazing ended up injuring the bear. The bear escaped and is believed to have died, but no body has been recovered.
The bear was at the Dyea Campground Saturday evening, according to a statement from Ben Hayes, a spokesman for the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. Hayes said campers tried to scare the bear away with car horns, shouting and other noises, but were unsuccessful. A Skagway police officer responded and decided it was necessary to haze the bear.
Hayes explained hazing is an attempt “to create a negative experience for a bear that seeks out human food sources or loses its natural avoidance of humans and developed areas.” He said it’s standard to shoot a non-lethal round, like a rubber slug, at a bear, but the officer “inadvertently loaded a lethal slug into the chamber and it struck the bear in the hind section.”
The bear ran off and additional Skagway police officers and NPS rangers joined in the search for the bear. It was spotted swimming across the Taiya River, but was walking with great difficulty and “is believed to have succumbed to the river current,” Hayes wrote.
“Subsequent search efforts along the river bank have indicated no further sign of the injured bear, but authorities have not been able to verify that the bear has died from its wounds,” he added.
Visitors to the area are asked to report all bear sightings, and if any limping bear is seen, Hayes said visitors should call 911 or a ranger immediately.
“The National Park Service and Skagway Police Department regret this unfortunate outcome for the bear and the increased risk to public safety,” Hayes said. “The two agencies have reviewed the incident and the officer actions and are working collaboratively to review bear management policies and training strategies to ensure that response personnel are well trained and working together to protect park wildlife and the visiting public.”
The Dyea Campground is located nine miles from Skagway in Southeast Alaska, north of Juneau.
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