All nature center trails now open

Wednesday, November 8, 2017 - 14:29
  • A hairy woodpecker hangs out in a tree at the Eagle River Nature Center in March, 2017. All trails at the center are now open, following the annual fall closure of the Albert Loop due to bears. (Star file photo/Matt Tunseth)
  • A black bear examines maintenance equipment at the Eagle River Nature Center June 4, 2017. Both black and brown bears frequent Chugiak-Eagle River parks and neighborhoods. (Star photo by Kirsten Swann)

Despite some late-season reports of activity — including a family of brown bears spotted getting into trash at Eagle River High earlier this week — bears in the Eagle River Valley have been deemed drowsy enough for the Albert Loop Trail to be reopened to hikers.

The trail’s annual fall closure ended Friday, Nov. 3 — though park rangers warned users should always remain alert in an area known for healthy populations of black and brown bears.

“Even though the trail has been reopened, bear encounters are still possible and trail users should take appropriate precautions,” wrote ranger Kurt Hensel in a press release.

The trail was closed Aug. 17, as it has each year since 1997. The trail passes near spawning areas of the Eagle River and includes boardwalks that go out over the water. In the fall, bears often use the trails and boardwalks to access the area.

“Black and brown bears and their cubs use the bridges and beaver dams as fishing platforms and utilize adjacent brush and trees for cover,” the Department of Natural Resources explained in an August press release.

Most bears are now in the process of going into hibernation and moving into their winter dens, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, which has species profiles on its website. Bears can and do emerge from dens during wintertime, a period during which they become dormant rather than truly hibernating.

“Although this is not true hibernation, their body temperatures, heart rate, and other metabolic rates are drastically reduced,” reads part of the brown bear profile.

In colder areas, bears may stay dormant for as much as eight months, according to ADFG, while in warmer areas or winters some are active all year.

Trails at the nature center are currently in good shape, according to a weekly online trails update posted Tuesday, Nov. 7. The center (which is located at the end of 12-mile-long Eagle River Road) is the starting point for several trails that wind through the Eagle River Valley. The area has only received “a dusting” of snow, according to the report, with the only trail hazards some areas of ice in the morning and muddy spots when the sun warms things up.

For information and up-to-date trails reports on the Rodak Nature Trail, the Albert Loop Trail, the Historic Iditarod/Crow Pass Trail or the Dew Mound Trail, visit the center online at ernc.org or call 694-2108. The visitor center is open Friday-Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the trails are open all the time.

Programs ongoing

In addition to winter hiking (and skiing, once the snow arrives), the center offers weekend programs through the winter. Among the upcoming events are a teen evening hike Nov. 10 from 6 to 9 p.m., an “Astronomy Series” presentation Nov. 10 at 7 p.m., a presentation on how to make bird feeders Nov. 11 at 2 p.m. and an avalanche awareness workshop Nov. 12 at 2 p.m.

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