Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Bears Are Consistently A Big Story In Alaska

Written from Beaver Creek, the Yukon--

Bears and their relationships with human beings aren't a story every day in the Anchorage Daily News, but they are frequently.

In the 38 days, I spent in Alaska, grizzily bears killed one boy in the Kenai Peninsula, south of Anchorage, the killing of a female grizzily with three cubs aroused much controversy, a bear ran into a man on a motorcycle on the Glenn Highway, and bears showed up in great numbers to catch and devour salmon on a stream just outside Anchorage, the state's largest city.

I spent part of my four days at the Camp Denali wilderness lodge reading a book arguing that grizzilies are very intelligent and not as altogether dangerous as many humans think.

Still, in Alaska it is permissible to shoot a grizzily dead in self-defense.

Altogether, Alaska has between 18,000 and 20,000 living grizzilies, and they are apt to turn up unexzpectedly almost anywhere. Also, the state has thousands of black bears and several hundred of the highly dangerous polar bears, which are now threatened by diminishing ice in the Arctic Ocean.

I missed seeing any polar bears, which are not in yet, in Barrow, but I saw seven grizzilies in Denali National Park and two black bears on the shores of Kachemak Bay. This was one of the thrills of my Alaskan trip.

Grizzilies are unpredictable and can kill. But mostly, they will shy away from humans. They are very clever and cunning, and respond violently when attacked. But their most common food is berries and shrubs.

More often, humans are too aggressive toward grizzilies. No one knows who shot and killed the grizzily in Kenai last week, but her cubs were just two years old, may or may not survive, and they got considerable sympathy.

There had been aggressive bears fishing for salmon in the Kenai and, passing through there one evening, I noticed a circus like atmosphere when bears were seen. The highway was clogged, while men, women and children pulled over trying to get a glimpse of the bears.

Bears are not the only environmental focus of Alaska papers. Indeed, Alaskans read a lot more enviornmental news of many kinds than Californians, judging from what I could observe.

California saw its last grizzily in 1929, but at one time, there were 10,000 grizzilies in the state, some on the beach near San Luis Obispo.

Bears help make Alaska so fascinating. Long may they live! I hope to see some on the
Canadian portion of my trip. now just beginning.


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