Bogus tracks scare trail users

Posted: Thursday, January 06, 2005

FAIRBANKS - Someone is putting the scare into people walking trails at Creamer's Field in Fairbanks by laying down bogus bear tracks.

"It's either a person or a circus bear with two left front feet walking on its hands," said state wildlife biologist Harry Reynolds. "There are no hind tracks."

The tracks feature a foot pad, toes and claws that stretch out 3 inches from the toes. Reynolds said it's either a boot or some little attachment someone is putting on a boot.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has received several reports of grizzly bear tracks on the trails in the past few weeks. The first report came about three weeks ago from Jim Brader, who was skiing on the trails when he noticed what appeared to be bear tracks near the farmhouse visitor center.

"I thought, 'If there's a bear out here now it's a problem,"' said Brader, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service. While he recognized there were no rear tracks, Brader still felt compelled to report the tracks to Fish and Game.

A couple days later, Fish and Game received another report of bear tracks at Creamer's. Reynolds investigated and quickly deduced the tracks were fake, based on the fact there were no tracks from rear feet and there appeared to be the faint imprint of a boot or shoe.

The latest report of the tracks came over the weekend.

The bogus tracks have startled some trail users, said Mark Ross, who works at the Creamer's Field Farmhouse Visitor Center as education coordinator for the department.

"A couple of people have come in and said, 'There's bear tracks out there,"' Ross said.

Even though bears are supposed to be hibernating now, it's not unheard of for a grizzly to be wandering around in the middle of the winter. Just two years ago, there was a grizzly bear shot and killed in late December about 10 miles west of Fairbanks.

"It's not a laughing matter to a lot of people," Reynolds said.



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