FAIRBANKS — A Fairbanks family on a blueberry picking camping trip was stalked by a large grizzly bear, which came within several feet of one of the campers before it was shot at and ran off.
Chris and Alina Wyatt and their two children had just set up camp near the top of the Table Top Mountain Trail in the White Mountains National Recreation Area north of Fairbanks when they first saw the bear Aug. 17, the Fairbanks Daily-News Miner reported. The family’s two dogs chased the bear away.
“We thought that was going to be the end of that,” Chris Wyatt said. “The bear’s seen us and got scared away.”
The family started hiking up the trail to look for the thickest berry patches so they could load their buckets the next day. Then they saw the bear, this time approaching them from another direction.
Chris Wyatt started making noise and held up his pack to look big. But the bear got closer, and Wyatt fired a warning shot with a .44-caliber handgun.
“I fired a shot over his head, and he didn’t even flinch,” he said.
The bear continued to come closer, even though the family continued to yell and make noise. Then it turned around and headed back in the direction it had come from.
The family decided to leave. Wyatt was packing up the camp — as the others kept watch— when the bear returned a third time. The bear was spotted by 12-year-old Pearl Wyatt.
The bear was coming from another direction and was about 100 yards away, moving toward them. Chris Wyatt fired another warning shot, but the bear remained unfazed.
The bear got within several yards of Wyatt, who shot at it twice.
“The second time I shot it, it made this weird turn, and I thought maybe I hit it,” he said.
The family didn’t see the bear again. It was getting dark by the time they reached their truck at the trailhead. They wrote a note about an aggressive bear and pinned it to the bulletin board.
They looked for a Bureau of Land Management ranger but didn’t find one and drove back to Fairbanks.
The following day, a Sunday, Chris Wyatt finally got ahold of a BLM ranger, John Priday.
Priday checked the trail and closed it based on Wyatt’s report. He didn’t find any sign of the bear.
The ranger returned to the scene with Chris Wyatt two days later, but there was still no sign of the bear or clues that a bear had been killed or injured.
Priday said that while the bear never displayed any real aggression, its behavior was worrisome, and there was cause to consider it a dangerous situation.
“It wasn’t afraid of warning shots. It wasn’t afraid of attempts to haze it. It was intent on interacting with them, and that would have concerned me,” he said.