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Portion of Steep Creek trail sees annual closure

Posted: July 22, 2013 - 7:40pm  |  Updated: July 23, 2013 - 12:07am

With sockeye and coho salmon swimming in droves through Steep Creek as the season nears its peak, the Forest Service has closed the backside of Steep Creek trail.

The closure occurs annually as more fish enter the creek and into the area where they’re most vulnerable to bears.

“We close the trail every year in part for safety at the bear crossings,” John Neary, Director at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, said. “But the other part is just because the more the bears are comfortable, the more they’re going to spend time out in the open where we want them to.”

It’s prime viewing for residents and tourists who want to get close to the feeding grounds at the glacier.

“It’s a great viewing opportunity,” Neary said.

Walkers and bikers won’t be allowed to cross between Moraine Ecology Trail and Steep Creek trail, though access from trailheads at Mendenhall River, Dredge Lakes, Glacier Spur Road and the Juneau Ranger District parking lot are still open to a point.

“You’ll run into a very clear yellow rope and you can follow that rope and exit out that way,” Neary said.

Black bears congregate at Steep Creek during sockeye and coho salmon runs through autumn. More bears are viewable in the meadow and stream given enough space by visitors to the glacier.

“Give them space,” said Neary. “That’s really the key thing, and make sure there is no food with you at all. Leave it at home — even better.”

It goes without saying that caution should be heeded this time of year as bear season gets into full swing.

Local organizations publish several pamphlets and online material that outline ways to maintain sound bear safety practices.

In the event you encounter a bear, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game says it is best to make your presence known — make noise and talk normally to help the bear recognize you. A standing bear is not a threat, only curious. The best thing to do is slowly back away — never run.

The City and Borough of Juneau says, in a pamphlet available at City Hall, the best way to avoid unpleasant contact with bears and to keep them from rummaging through your trash is through double bagging garbage, separating “wet garbage” into an airtight container and freezing meat or fish scraps until pickup day.

For more information on bear safety, go to Juneau.org.

Contact reporter Kenneth Rosen at 523-2250 or at kenneth.rosen@juneauempire.com.

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