Bear encounter closes popular trail
FAIRBANKS (AP) — Park rangers closed a popular trail near Fairbanks after a black bear tore a hole in a tent set up along a popular trail and refused to move away from a family even after being hit with pepper spray.
Saturday's bear encounter was the third such encounter along the Granite Tors Trail in the past week and a half, the Fairbanks Daily News-Minerreported Tuesday.
Previous encounters involved two young grizzlies.
Chief ranger Ian Thomas said after the black bear ripped a hole in the tent, the family yelled at the bear and the man sprayed the bear with pepper spray. But the bear "just shook its head a little bit" and started coming toward the family again, the ranger said. At that point, the man and woman began hitting the bear with "some good-sized rocks" that dissuaded it, he said. The couple were with their 2-year-old child.
The man was able to call the ranger, whose phone number was posted on a sign at the trailhead warning hikers about the presence of bears, just before 11:30 p.m.
Thomas offered to drive out to the trail and hike in to escort the family out to the trailhead. The family was just reaching the trailhead when Thomas and another ranger arrived to begin hiking in.
"They set a record for descending the Granite Tors Trail in the dark," Thomas said.
Two young grizzlies had previously harassed two lone hikers on the trail two weeks ago, as well as a woman and two young girls last month. One of the lone hikers fired two shots from a handgun in front of the bears to keep them at bay. The bears followed him down the trail a ways before backing off.
The other single hiker told park workers that the bears approached her near the trail shelter at about the seven-mile mark. They got close enough that she could have sprayed them with a can of bear spray she was carrying. She said she didn't because she was worried she didn't have enough spray for both bears.
The woman was unhurt and hiked out to the trailhead.
The bear that accosted the campers on Saturday night tried to get into a bear-proof food container the family had and also was eating bits of foil and trash other campers had left in a fire ring.
"It hit all the high spots for a food-conditioned bear," he said.
Rangers will hike out to the trail again this week to search for bears fitting the description of the nuisance bears, and shoot them if they find them. Thomas said he wasn't sure when the trail will reopen.