Bear Sighting & Bear Trouble in Skagway AlaskaJune 27, 2016
Our drive to Skagway, Alaska from Carcross, Yukon was one of the most scenic drives I’ve ever done in my life. There were beautiful mountains, lakes and waterfalls to soak in. In some ways it was also unexpected because the north west corner of British Columbia was spectacular but the tourist map we had didn’t show any water much less lake after lake after lake.
We were going to take a few days to get to Skagway but we decided that since it wasn’t really that far we would go and see about changing our train reservation so we could start our canoe trip on Friday rather than next Tuesday.
We were disappointed to learn that a bear had broken into the Parks Canada building at Lindeman, on the historic Chilkoot Trail causing Parks Canada to close down the whole park! We learnt at the information centre in Skagway that Parks Canada had flown people off the trail the day before by helicopter because they were so worried about this problem bear.
Bears are always a concern and everyone using the backcountry takes great care in keeping their food out of the reach of bears. Unfortunately Parks Canada had either left a building unsecured or this bear had successfully broken into a locked building and eaten a lot of food stores. Like problem bears at a town dump the concern is that once a bear learns to get food from humans it will be a danger to people. The Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site is now closed indefinitely until that bear is found and killed.
Over the next couple of days we decided to stay in Skagway. We camped at Dyea State Park on the Taiya River. It is a quiet campsite full of campers (rather than RVers). There are no amenities except composting toilets and garbage cans. Our distress in realizing there was no water to wash our dishes except by hiking down to the river was short lived when we hiked down to a lovely spot on the river were we actually enjoyed washing our dishes and laundry while the kids played.
The day after arriving in Skagway we learnt that a bear had been killed and in 48 hours the DNA and gut contents should be complete to confirm if it was the bear they were looking for. It is an unfortunately chain of events that leads up to the death of a wild animal. I think we are all responsible for doing everything we can to prevent this from happening.
I do believe in allowing people access to the backcountry. I strongly believe that most people who experience the true beauty of the wilderness will want to protect it. Conversely I feel keeping people out of wilderness areas does not give them the motivation they need to advocate for environmental conservation.
We have now seen two bears with our kids. We saw a black bear from the car while driving the highway to Skagway. We also saw a grizzly bear on the other side of the Dyea tidal flats from where we here hiking one evening. I had been concerned about how the kids would react to a bear sighting. Before coming there had been a lot of talk about lions, tigers and bears as well as monsters, dragons and witches. I was worried they would be scared, but wildlife of sighting are more exciting than scary. The kids were thrilled to see a real life bear and I was happy that it was a safe distance away in both cases.