Dangerous Bear Activity Shuts Down Portions of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve (Again)

by Jon D. B.

What do you get when you add a bear and a moose carcass to a Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve trail? Closures.

Mid-day Tuesday, September 13, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve announced their closing of the 12 and 13-mile sections of Nugget Creek Trail (off of McCarthy Rd) due to dangerous bear activity. Park officials cite a “bear-cached moose carcass” as the reason for closures.

Not only has a Wrangell-St. Elias bear killed a moose, but it is actively consuming the carcass on the Nugget Creek Trail. It is beyond-dangerous for any human activity to take place in this area as a result. Bear-caused fatalities happen on a yearly basis in the national park, and both black and brown bears can be extremely defensive of kills. While the park does not cite the bear species, it is likely a brown/grizzly bear, as they actively hunt moose.

These trail section closures will remain until the carcass has been consumed and the bear is no longer utilizing the area, the park explains in their media release.

If you are a federal subsistence user and need to go beyond this area, contact ARCC’s non-emergency number at 907-683-9555 for additional information. Visitor safety is of the utmost importance to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve; more information on backcountry safety can be found on the park website. 

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

“We thank visitors for their cooperation with these safety measures,” the park concludes their statement.

Always Be Bear Aware in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve

Both black and brown bears are abundant in the Alaskan national park. Any visit requires being highly “bear aware,” especially when camping and hiking.

Bear Safety brochure. (Photo: NPS)

As the park cites, it is best to always avoid seasonal bear foraging areas (sedge meadows, berry patches, etc.). And signs of bear activity can be easy to spot if you know what to look for.

Bear Signs to Watch for and Areas to Avoid:

  • Bear scat or tracks that seem very recent or are extremely abundant
  • Narrow beaches with steep cliffs or dense brush which do not allow a bear to pass safely
  • Trails are formed because of consistent use. Bears will often follow the path of least resistance, for example, lakeshores and ridgelines
  • A tree or log that has bear hair or claw marks may indicate that it is a repeatedly used bear rub-tree
  • Large dug up areas could be forage sites, day beds, or belly holes
  • Avoid salmon streams! Bears like fish. And a noisy stream may lessen your ability to hear a bear or for a bear to hear you
    • Remember that at high tide a bear will not have as much room to pass between your camp and the high water line
  • Neither you nor the bear want to be surprised by the other
    • Avoid areas with restricted visibility and make noise when exiting your tent.
  • Ask yourself: Can a bear walk by and pass my campsite and cooking area unhindered?

If camping in Wrangell-St. Elias, always select a campsite with the least amount of bear signs. Never camp near seasonal bear foraging areas.

For more information, see the park’s full Bear Aware Safety page. Stay safe out there, Outsiders!