‘Bear Incident’ Causes Complete Shutdown of Foot Traffic in Glacier Bay National Park’s West Arm

by Jon D. B.

Glacier Bay National Park is closing down the Scidmore Cut area for the remainder of August 2022 to avoid any further bear incidents.

On July 30, a coastal brown bear sought out and obtained food from campers in the park’s Scidmore Cut area. Thankfully, no injuries have been reported, but the behavior shows signs of possible habituation for Glacier Bay brown bears. This can be extremely dangerous for visitors to the national park.

As a result, Glacier Bay National Park is enacting a closure of all foot traffic immediately. This will restrict non-vehicle access to the Scidmore Cut area of the park’s West Arm until August 30, 2022. Specifically, the closure includes the western half of the Scidmore Cut area from the Scidmore tidal cut west to the Scidmore camper drop-off (see map below). The closure extends from the intertidal zone to ¼ mile inland, the park cites.

Glacier Bay National Park West Arm closures. (Photo courtesy of NPS, Glacier Bay media release)

According to park officials, “The goal of this 30-day closure at the Scidmore Cut is to prevent bears from further associating people with food rewards. Because bears travel long distances, camping is not recommended in the entire Scidmore Cut area, both on the West Arm side as well as within Scidmore Bay.”

Glacier Bay National Park Moves to Protect Wildlife & Visitors

Associating people with food rewards is habituation, a dangerous scenario for both visitors and the bears themselves. Bear that associate people with food can become aggressive, and will seek out human activity (and people directly) in order to obtain a meal. Fatalities occur every year due to habituation, so Glacier Bay National Park is doing everything they can to prevent this from happening.

Moreover, habituated wildlife are often euthanized in order to prevent further human injuries, death, and property damage. Removing scenarios that allow for habituation not only save human lives, but that of wildlife, as well.

If a bear approaches while you are eating:

  • Pack up all food into Bear Resistant Canisters
  • Group together and stand your ground
  • Bear pepper spray is an excellent deterrent to use if a bear approaches within 20-30 feet

If visiting Glacier Bay National Park, remember that both brown and black bears range widely throughout the park. In Alaska, human-bear conflicts can occur anywhere. Three important keys to minimizing the potential for conflicts are:

  • Storing food and attractants properly
  • Keeping control of gear and property at all times
  • Proper preparation for bear encounters

Please contact the Park’s Visitor Information Station (9-6-697-2627 or 907-697-2495) for the most current information regarding bear incidents. The park asks that visitors report all bruin encounters. This helps keep your visit a safe one and also keeps park wildlife safe.

For more on bear/habituation safety, please see our National Parks Journal: How to Be BearWise with Great Smoky Mountains’ Lead Wildlife Biologist next.