Visiting the Bears at Anan Creek

 

The bears have always come to Anan Creek to enjoy the salmon runs.  More recently wildlife biologists have come to track their behavior and after a number of years they have a good idea of who’s who. Now the US Fish and Wildlife Service calls place the Anan Creek Wildlife Observatory and welcomes a maximum of sixty visitors a day.  
We read about it in our cruising guide so after a night at anchor in Frosty Bay, head that way en route to Petersburg.  While Jack stays on Aurora – the anchorage is so poor you must leave someone on the boat – Piers and I dinghy ashore and successfully beg and bag a couple of the day’s permits.  
At the foot of the trail to the observatory, Shannon the ranger greets us.  We fill out the paperwork and pay ten bucks at the little lean to shelter near where we’ve tied the dinghy for a rising tide.  Shannon gives us our briefing and instructions:
The path to the observatory is half a mile long.
If you have any food, candy or gum, we need to lock it up in my bear-proof licker. (As she says this she points to the bear claw marks on the metal strong box built into the lean to.)
We have both black bears and brown bears. 
On your way up look for bears both down near the water and up on the hillside.
Talk loudly or make noise so you don’t surprise a bear.
Bears sometimes use the boardwalk path.  If you encounter one, stop, wave your hands, tell the bear not to worry, and slowly walk backwards.  Stand close together so you look bigger.
We have a young brown bear we call Curious George because he’s very interested in visitors.  This morning he was sitting on that rock over there at the edge the bay.  We want to make sure he learns the rules and doesn’t take advantage of visitors.  
There’s an outhouse near the observation platform.  If you need to use it, inform a ranger.  You’ll notice that the outhouse had a hole in the door.  When you’re done, before exiting, stick your finger through the hole.  The ranger will call out to let you know if it’s okay to come out.  Sometimes you have to wait for bears.
We get some questions answered:
Shannon’s from Massachusetts, this is her third summer at Anan Creek and she’s a  graduate student at the University of Montana.
She has a gun but it’s locked in the bear proof locker.  Suspended from her belt is an 8 inch can of bear spray.  Research is coming in showing bear spray to be a safer, more effective deterrent.  
The outhouse is not composting.  It’s cleaned out and the contents burned.  
Yes, bears can climb trees so check the trees as you’re walking up.
Yes, bears can swim.
When you think you’ll see a bear around the next bend in the trail the adrenalin flows and you’re super alert even if you don’t see one and we don’t.  But bears – and bald eagles – are all around the observatory.  A couple of them fish from among the creek-side boulders, their heads sticking out like moray eels out of a coral reef.   A mother bear marches up the hillside a big salmon in her mouth, he cub frolicking behind her.  One of them climbs up under the platform, emerging inches from us.

bear fishingThe bears have always come to Anan Creek to enjoy the salmon runs.  More recently wildlife biologists have come to track their behavior and after a number of years they have a good idea of who’s who. Now the US Fish and Wildlife Service calls place the Anan Creek Wildlife Observatory and welcomes a maximum of sixty visitors a day.  

We read about it in our cruising guide so after a night at anchor in Frosty Bay, head that way en route to Petersburg.  While Jack stays on Aurora – the anchorage is so poor you must leave someone on the boat – Piers and I dinghy ashore and successfully beg and bag a couple of the day’s permits.  

At the foot of the trail to the observatory, Shannon the ranger greets us.  We fill out the paperwork and pay ten bucks at the little lean to shelter near where we’ve tied the dinghy for a rising tide.  Shannon gives us our briefing and instructions:

  • The path to the observatory is half a mile long.
  • If you have any food, candy or gum, we need to lock it up in my bear-proof licker. (As she says this she points to the bear claw marks on the metal strong box built into the lean to.)
  • We have both black bears and brown bears. 
  • On your way up look for bears both down near the water and up on the hillside.
  • Talk loudly or make noise so you don’t surprise a bear.
  • Bears sometimes use the boardwalk path.  If you encounter one, stop, wave your hands, tell the bear not to worry, and slowly walk backwards.  Stand close together so you look bigger.
  • We have a young brown bear we call Curious George because he’s very interested in visitors.  This morning he was sitting on that rock over there at the edge the bay.  We want to make sure he learns the rules and doesn’t take advantage of visitors.  bear close
  • There’s an outhouse near the observation platform.  If you need to use it, inform a ranger.  You’ll notice that the outhouse had a hole in the door.  When you’re done, before exiting, stick your finger through the hole.  The ranger will call out to let you know if it’s okay to come out.  Sometimes you have to wait for bears.

We get some questions answered:

  • Shannon’s from Massachusetts, this is her third summer at Anan Creek and she’s a  graduate student at the University of Montana.
  • She has a gun but it’s locked in the bear proof locker.  Suspended from her belt is an 8 inch can of bear spray.  Research is coming in showing bear spray to be a safer, more effective deterrent.  
  • The outhouse is not composting.  It’s cleaned out and the contents burned.  
  • Yes, bears can climb trees so check the trees as you’re walking up.
  • Yes, bears can swim.

Piers bear

When you think you’ll see a bear around the next bend in the trail the adrenalin flows and you’re super alert even if you don’t see one and we don’t.  But bears – and bald eagles – are all around the observatory.  A couple of them fish from among the creek-side boulders, their heads sticking out like moray eels out of a coral reef.   A mother bear marches up the hillside a big salmon in her mouth, he cub frolicking behind her.  One of them climbs up under the observatory’s  open railed platform, emerging inches from us!

The night before we went to Anan, Piers was out exploring Frosty Bay in the dinghy when he ran into a bear.  He rowed back to Aurora pretty quick.   Since then I’ve gotten more invitations from him to visit the shore.  

When you’re looking out for bears, your eyes start playing tricks on you.  The moss that grows six or eight cushiony spaghnum inches thick on everything in Sourtheastern Alaska creates some very weird and creepy shapes.  

Here’s Piers with another “bear” encountered on the trail.

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1 Response to “Visiting the Bears at Anan Creek”



  1. 1 Days 9 & 10 « The Grand Maritime Adventure Trackback on July 28, 2009 at 9:14 pm

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