Park bears waking up right on time

FAIRBANKS — A crew working on the park road at Denali National Park and Preserve spotted the first grizzly bear of the season.

It turns out the bears are waking up right on time.

Workers clearing the park road reported seeing the first bear sighting of the year Sunday. The work crew saw a big grizzly on the road in Igloo Canyon. They also reported seeing a bear on Sable Pass.

An estimated 300 to 350 grizzly bears live on the north side of the 6 million-acre park. Park wildlife biologist Pat Owen said the bears emerged from their winter dens right on schedule.

The emergence of the first grizzlies usually coincides with the first ground squirrel sighting of the season, and this year is no different, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported Friday.

Ground squirrels are about the only thing for bears to eat at this time of year until the snow melts and the grasses green up. Grizzly bears also have been reported in the Brooks Range north of Fairbanks, said state wildlife biologist Tom Seaton with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks.

“It’s definitely time for grizzlies to be out,” he said. “It’s still a little early for black bears to be out, but in the next couple weeks for sure.”

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