A brown bear had to be put down in Lake Clark National Park Wednesday after biting a visitor to a private lodge. KDLG’s Chase Cavanaugh has more.
Alaska’s Lake Clark National Park is home to a large amount of black and brown bears, attracting many visitors who come to view them every year. However, on Wednesday, the park had to put down one of its brown bears after it bit a visitor on a nearby piece of property Megan Richotte is Chief of Interpretation at Lake Clark. She says with all the open land, there are usually few incidents between bears and visitors, particularly involving an attack.
“Bears for the most part, ignore them. Bears are grazing on the protein-rich sedges in the south marshes, digging clams on the beaches, and, beginning in August, fishing primarily for silver salmon in the creeks, so we have lots of visitors, and honestly, this is the first time this has happened.”
In this encounter, the assailant was a sub-adult female brown bear. According to Richotte, she had a history of approaching visitors.
“We had reports that it was coming right up to people. Our wildlife biologist and one of our law enforcement officers went out to Silver Salmon Creek about this time last year and hazed the bear with beanbag rounds. The reports from then on for that part of the summer was that it kept its distance from people.”
However, on Wednesday, the bear moved onto land owned by a private lodge and bit one of the visitors. At that point, the park rangers had to take action.
“They did not haze it this year and came back, so when this unfortunate incident happened on private land adjacent to park land, we sent rangers out immediately and they did put down the bear.”
The victim was flown to Soldotna for immediate medical care, and after successful treatment at Central Peninsula Hospital, plans on returning to Silver Salmon Creek. Richotte says while the park offers many opportunities to view wild bears, visitors still need to be careful.
“Alaska parks very rarely have problems with bears and visitors. For the most part, visitors keep their distance the way they should, they bear view and fish the way they should, and bears leave them alone, but they are wild animals, and they can be unpredictable at times.”
The National Park Service advises bear viewers to stay in groups, minimize noise and movement, and never approach, crowd, pursue, or displace bears. More information can be found at the website of Lake Clark National Park.