Last summer, three people were mauled by bears in Eagle River and another — a young girl playing behind her home — was trampled by a moose.
Fortunately, none of the victims died in the incidents. But the attacks underscore this area’s often dangerous reputation as a place where residents should be extra careful in the great outdoors.
“The bears have been up for several weeks now,” said Jessy Coltrane, area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Springtime is especially dangerous, with cow moose about to go into hyper-defensive mode as calving season begins.
“The next couple weeks is going to be the most dangerous time for moose,” said Coltrane, who noted that the peak of moose calving season is typically May 25.
The combination of hungry bears and protective mama moose means now is the time to be especially vigilant.
“Watch where you’re going, pay attention to your surroundings,” Coltrane said.
Coltrane said the biggest way to mitigate potential bear trouble is eliminating easy food sources around the home. That means storing garbage in a bear-proof location, making sure bird feeders are down and securing livestock. The last tip is especially important for people who keep chickens. Coltrane said electric fences should be used and — most importantly — properly installed.
“If you don’t do it right you might as well not do it at all,” she said of the fencing.
The department offers proper electric fence installation instructions, as well as other bear safety tips, on its “Living with Bears” web page at www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=livingwithbears.main
As for moose, Coltrane said it’s important to give the animals an extra wide berth this time of year. That means being careful around blind corners and avoiding single-track bicycle trails until about the middle of June.
It’s also important to remember that moose calves are wild animals and should not be approached. It’s illegal to pick up a moose calf, Coltrane said — not to mention dangerous.
“If you see a moose calf by itself, do not pick it up,” she said.
Just because a calf is alone doesn’t mean it’s been orphaned, she said, as mama moose often leave their calves to feed.
Anyone who has a concern about a possible orphaned moose — or any other wildlife emergency — can call Fish and Game at 267-2100 or dial 911.