Anchorage won't close trail where grizzly attacked

Posted: Friday, June 18, 2010

ANCHORAGE - After another bear attack, state wildlife biologists are urging the city to close the Rover's Run trail in Far North Bicentennial Park.

But Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan says no. He says people should use common sense in an area that has been identified as dangerous.

"Do we want our urban parks to be brown bear sanctuaries or do we want them to be places where people can recreate?" he said. "I think (that) is what the purpose of these parks were when they were created, as well as the trails."

A man riding his bike to work Tuesday was attacked by a grizzly sow. He suffered a torn ear and puncture wounds to a calf but was able to ride to the Alaska Native medical Center for treatment.

The Anchorage Daily News reports the city has closed Rover's Run the past two summers after two bear maulings in the summer of 2008 and continuing concerns over bear encounters.

Spawning salmon in the South Fork of Campbell Creek have long attracted bears, and the narrow, bumpy dirt trail, which winds alongside the creek, can make it easy for people to surprise the animals.

Rick Sinnott, the Anchorage area biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, thinks people should avoid Rover's Run and said he's having trouble understanding the mayor's reluctance to close the trail.

"It seems like an ideological argument, 'We're not going to let the bears push us around,"' he said.

Sullivan said in an interview Wednesday that he thinks a brightly colored warning sign telling people of the recent encounter is adequate. He also says the city needs to critically examine the state's effort to reintroduce salmon into the city's waterways.

"At what point do you say, this is not good policy? This is a city first. It's not a wildlife viewing area. It's not a sanctuary. It is first and foremost an urban environment," he said.

State and federal land managers in Alaska regularly close trails when there are potential dangers.

Morgan Warthin, spokeswoman for the National Park Service in Alaska, said closing decisions are made by park superintendents. On Tuesday, a backcountry unit in Denali National Park was temporarily closed because a bear ripped a tent, she said.

Tom Harrison, superintendent of the Chugach State Park, said it's a subjective call.

"If we anticipate a high-risk situation we will probably err on the one side (of caution)," he said. "However, there are bears in the woods."

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