FAIRBANKS — Mushers and others have reported seeing bloodied grizzly tracks on trails near Denali National Park and Preserve.
Four-time Iditarod Trail Sled Dog champion Jeff King lives in the area, and told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that he saw fresh, bloody bear tracks Wednesday.
“I followed them for about a mile up the Yanert Valley,” he said. The bear walked in the middle of the trail, and didn’t appear it wanted to get off it.
King said the fresh tracks made him apprehensive, and the fact they were accompanied by blood didn’t help.
“I immediately turned around as soon as I found a decent spot,” King said. “The thought of running into a bloody bear in January wasn’t something that appealed to me.”
He said according to the tracks, the bear appeared injured.
“It looks like he’s got a dangling appendage,” the musher said.
“The drag marks don’t leave the ground. The track looked like he pulled a bloody mop head behind him,” he said.
Another resident, Mike Speakes, also saw the bear tracks Wednesday, about four miles off the Parks Highway. He estimated they were a day or two old, but he didn’t see any blood.
Speakes said it was obvious the bear was wounded, though, and saw drag marks.
“He was hopping along,” Speakes said, speculating from the tracks.
He followed the tracks for a while, but turned around and headed home. That’s when he ran into fresh, bloody bear tracks that hadn’t been there five minutes earlier. He said the tracks were so fresh, the blood hadn’t yet coagulated.
“It looked like someone had taken a paint brush and was painting a red stripe down the trail for a mile or two,” he said.
The tracks eventually led back toward Revine Creek.
A game official said it’s not unusual to get reports about a bear being active in the winter.
“There are all sorts of reasons a bear might be out now,” said Cathie Harms, a spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks. “Poor den site choice, an older bear, a hungry bear, a sick bear, a bear that somehow got awakened by a disturbance.”
She said there are many ways a bear could injure its leg, including getting caught in a wolf trap. Other possibilities are that it was stomped by a moose, shot or hit by a car.
No one knows what will become of the injured bear, but Speakes said there were fresh wolf tracks nearby.
“There’s some wildlife drama going on out there,” he said.