Bear watchers need to be considerate

Posted: Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Juneau Empire's Aug. 16 story, "Bear activity shuts down glacier trail," while informative and entertaining, missed a more important issue than Steep Creek Trail being closed.

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In the evening after U.S. Forest Service personnel have gone home and tourists have returned to their ships, locals - you and me - have been visiting the viewing platform in record numbers to see and photograph the sow and her cubs.

I was there about 8 p.m. on Aug. 9. The parking lot was full, and cars stretched down the highway. More than 100 locals were strewn along the viewing platform. As I rounded the bend, I saw the evening's attraction, a black bear cub at eye level in a tree just a few feet from the platform.

Most folks were quiet and respectful, but several leaned toward the cub with their cameras flashing, frightening the little guy. He began to cry and scrambled down the tree to hide under the platform. We moved on quickly still hearing the cub crying. Several children were running and shouting. About three adults had their dogs with them, in spite of the posted sign: "No dogs." Later, we heard mama bear let out a loud growl.

The news story is likely to bring more locals to the platform in the evenings. I hope locals are not responsible for a bear incident that could result in a bear being put down. Please remember Forest Service advice to talk quietly on the viewing platforms. Don't approach the bears. Don't run. Don't bring food. And leave your dogs at home or in the car. Above all, enjoy the bears, but with care.

Pat O'Brien


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