By Melinda Munson
The National Park Service (NPS) shut down Dyea Campground Aug. 23 as a result of several bear encounters. The area will remain closed through Labor Day.
Karl Sommerhauser, NPS Chief Ranger, said the bears all matched the same description and are believed to be one culprit, a young black bear.
The first incident occurred Aug. 20 when a bear entered an unoccupied tent, “got a hold of a camping mat and ran into the woods.”
Several incidents followed on Aug. 22. Early in the day, a camper used bear spray on a bear close to the entrance of their camp site. The bear ran into the woods. Later while the camper was cooking at their site, the bear was again spotted. The camper set off their car’s panic alarm.
That evening, the bear approached another site and sniffed an occupied tent. For safety, the family left the area. Upon returning the next morning, they found the bear had destroyed the tent.
On Aug. 23, Sommerhauser observed a bear approaching a tent and deployed bear spray.
Dyea Campground has a red box with a phone inside that connects directly to the police department. Sommerhauser encourages campers to immediately report bear activity so officials can respond appropriately.
“If we get the info late, the [bear’s] behavior goes unchecked,” he said.
Visit https://www.nps.gov/articles/hiking-in-bear-country.htm for information about living in bear country. A 20-minute bear safety film is available at the Chilkoot Trail Center on Broadway between 5th and 6th.
“Preventing a food reward is essential to maintaining healthy interaction with bears,” Sommerhauser said. Odorous products such as toothpaste can also attract bears. Cooking in a separate food pavilion vs. in a camp site and changing clothes after preparing meat are also best practices.
“We did not identify any issue of food storage as being a problem,” Sommerhauser noted regarding the recent bear activity.
Sommerhauser said he is working closely with the Skagway Police Department. They continue to monitor the situation with the hope of hazing the bear to discourage it from re-entering the campground. The municipality’s Dyea Flats Campground remains open.
“Keep bear spray close,” Sommerhauser advised.