Wild beasts loose on Mount Juneau

Posted: Sunday, June 03, 2007

I saw my first bears last week, a fat mamma black bear with a roly poly cub.They looked about as dangerous as a couple of warm pillows.

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I probably should be careful about what I say here, because I don't know much about pillows. I know even less about bears. But I finally witnessed them on Mount Juneau, picking and munching at bushes below me as I walked the flume trail.

They were smaller than I was expecting. They moved slowly and leisurely, until the mama noticed me out of the corner of her eye. Then she ambled up the slope and under some foliage, hiding from view. The cub scooted up behind her, bumbling and tumbling.

The mama had what looked like a giant price tag stapled to her ear. Was she for sale? Bargain bear? Was the Department of Fish and Game trying to raise some money?

I was going to investigate until I heard rustling and panting and the sound of animals running. A rush of fear shot through me. Then I saw a sight that has haunted my nightmares ever since - joggers. Gray-haired, sweating, clutching at their chests, they lurched past as I hid behind a spruce tree. Their short shorts billowed in the breeze. There ought to be a law against shorts like those ...

The bears weren't hurting anyone. But if those joggers get into my garbage, I'm calling animal control. It's bad enough that you see them roaming freely around town. But for them to be loose in the wild, that just doesn't seem right. I should be able to feel safe somewhere.

I propose we clip tags onto their ears. Sure it's painful, but think of the benefits to science. We could track them as they run past the Governor's Mansion, up to Basin Road and eventually the flume, coming out in the Highlands and probably ending up in Evergreen Cemetery. (Alive, I hope.)

Yes, think of the benefits to science. They are so numerous that I'm unable to focus on only one - let alone describe one. In fact, I can't even name one. But that's OK, because my focus is and was on the bears.

This week, I vow to launch an investigation into the tag in that mama bear's ear. For the sake of firsthand knowledge, I may even staple a tag onto my own ear. That could be useful next time I'm wandering around Mount Juneau. I could reach for the tag and remember - ah yes, here I am.

• Ken Lewis can be reached at ken.lewis@juneauempire.com.

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