Bears occur throughout Kenai Fjords National Park and are a focal attraction for park visitors. The opportunity to see a bear in its natural habitat contributes significantly to visitor experience. This experience, however, can increase the potential for conflict between humans and bears and alter normal bear behavior. These factors present a management challenge when striving to preserve bears as an integral component of the ecosystem while providing for public safety.
In 2009, the Park Superintendent approved an Interim Bear Management Plan to guide bear management in the park. The goals of the park bear management program are to:
1) Provide for visitor and staff safety by minimizing bear-human conflicts.
The program consists of proactive measures such as food storage and education, and management actions such as hazing and aversive conditioning of bears. Park visitors assist in bear management by being 'bear smart' which includes hiking with awareness, keeping a clean camp, and filling out Bear Encounter Report forms. Primary responsibility for bear management in the park lies with the Visitor and Resource Protection (VRP) and Resource Management (RM) Teams. The Bear Incident Response Team consists of RM and VRP staff trained to respond to bear incidents. They are the employees you are likely to see in the campground and along the trails monitoring bear activity and educating visitors.
Park staff and visitors submit Bear Encounter Reports which provide valuable information that is used to improve visitor safety and to protect bears within the park. The Resource Management Team uses this information to produce annual summaries of bear activity and regular web updates of bear activity throughout the summer.
Park staff and visitors can improve their understanding of bear behavior and minimize negative interactions by understanding the types of interactions that frequently occur. Documented types of encounters include:
1) Bears persistently approaching human use areas with humans present
2) Habituated bears encountered in their natural habitat
3) Surprise encounters of close proximity where the bear showed signs of stress
4) Chance encounters between curious bears and human property
5) Bears that damaged property
6) Bears that obtained human food
Some lessons learned from these interactions include:
-Properly store all food in Bear Resistant Food Containers
Andrew Clark Hecht Memorial Public Safety Achievement Award
Report Bear Encounters
Chief of Resource Management
Chief of Visitor and Resource Protection
Did You Know?
River otters defecate in certain spots to mark their territory. Researchers in Kenai Fjords National Park have discovered that these "latrine sites" enrich the soil, allowing plants to grow in those spots that aren't found anywhere else close by.