On a sunny Sunday in Anchorage, there’s not much that’ll keep residents off the trails– but longtime Alaskans Mike Squiers and Randy Bridwell found the trail on Bird Ridge to be mostly empty.


“There was nobody on the trail. Normally there might be 30 to 40 to 50 people on the trail right now, or more, on a day like today,” said Squiers, who says they only saw a total of three other hikers.


A predatory black bear killed 16-year-old Patrick Cooper on the mountain a week ago, in one of two recent fatal black bear attacks.


Sunday, only a few cars sat at the trailhead, while the parking lot at the Eagle River Nature Center was packed for a Bear Aware presentation with Fish and Game.


Down the road from Bird Ridge, hikers were getting their exercise on the McHugh Creek trail.


“I’ve heard from other people that [the bears are] a little bit more aggressive this year, so you just have to make sure that you’re making lots of noise and be careful. It’s a little intimidating, but won’t stop us,” said Kelly Wytasky, who carries a firearm for protection when out on the trails.


Black bear at Schodde and Richmond in Mt. View. (Credit: Liz Johnson)


Alaskans don’t have to be in the mountains or on a trail to come across a bear. People who live Mountian View were reminded of that Friday, when a black bear was spotted walking down the sidewalk.


“It’s their country, we’re just borrowing it,” said Billy Ray Yates at B&J’s Sporting Goods in Midtown.


Employees at the store were restocking their bear spray display Sunday afternoon.


“Anytime that you have any type of maulings like that, the public is like gonna get their hairs on end and they’re gonna want to take precautions,” said Yates.


On Bird Ridge, Squiers and Bridwell carried a pistol, “A little ways up the trail saw some fresh bear scat, so they’re still around,” said Bridwell.


Even as seasoned Alaskans, they found themselves slightly on edge.


“He got spooked by my dog,” Squiers said, laughing.


“It ran off in the woods this morning when we took off,” Bridwell explained, “I caught a glimpse of black. Yeah, thought it might be a bear.”


For Alaskans concerned about being out on the trails, Fish and Game says the next opportunity to learn about staying safe in bear country is during REI’s free bear and moose aware clinic on July 11, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the REI Classroom at 1200 W. Northern Lights Blvd. More information can be found here.


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