Another frightening reminder



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Our thoughts are with the family of Bob Eder, a local man who became the latest person to have a nasty run-in with a brown bear this summer in Eagle River. As of this writing, Eder was in critical condition at Providence Hospital with wounds his family described as severe. We wish Mr. Eder a speedy and complete recovery from this terrifying incident.

All three local attacks took place in the Eagle River Valley, an area well known for its dense population of brown and black bears. The attack on Eder occurred in roughly the same densely-vegetated area above Eagle River Road as a May mauling that hospitalized a local attorney. A June attack — in which a Kenai Peninsula woman suffered relatively minor injuries — happened further down the valley near the Eagle River Campground.

The only person truly to blame for these attacks is Mother Nature. Nobody can predict when and where bears will (or won’t) be, and it’s even more difficult to predict what kind of mood they’ll be in. In the most recent case, it’s been reported that the offending bear was defending a trio of cubs; in the first attack, the bear was later found to have been protecting a moose kill. Both of these are among the most dangerous ways to come across a bear, and it’s likely the men who were attacked had almost no time to react as they encountered extremely hostile animals in close quarters.

All three attacks could have easily been prevented — as could a fourth involving an Eagle River man hiking near Bird Creek — if the injured parties had simply stayed out of the wilderness altogether. Of course, that’s not an option for most Alaskans, who choose to live in this great state specifically because of the wild, natural wilderness that exists just feet outside our doors.

But these attacks shot that no matter how familiar you are with traveling in bear country (essentially all of Alaska), it’s never a bad idea to brush up on ways to minimize your chance of running into a dangerous bruin. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the following ideas should always be kept in mind when traveling in bear country:

— Avoid surprising bears at close distance; look for signs of bears and make plenty of noise;

— Avoid crowding bears; respect their personal space;

— Avoid attracting bears through improper handling of food or garbage;

— Plan ahead, stay calm, identify yourself and DON’T RUN.

Pepper spray is an excellent idea when traveling into the wilderness. Experts also advise people to travel in groups while in the wilderness and to make sure and tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back.

Here’s hoping this summer’s spate of bear attacks is over and that all the victims of this summer’s maulings are able to fully recover from their harrowing encounters.

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