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Campbell Creek Salmon Returns Draw Brown Bears

Anchorage — An unusually strong return of sockeye salmon to Campbell Creek this summer is drawing hungry brown bears and prompting strong warnings from biologists for cyclists, runners, dog walkers and others to avoid Rover’s Run and other streamside trails in Far North Bicentennial Park.

“Our fish counting crew ran into four different brown bears on upper Campbell last week,” said Area Sport Fish Biologist Jay Baumer. “They saw a big boar on the North Fork, and a sow with two nearly grown cubs on the South Fork. That’s more than we normally actually see.”

Those reports underscore warnings by Anchorage Area Wildlife Biologist Dave Battle that people stay off Rover’s Run until mid-October when salmon runs fade and bears begin to enter hibernation. A popular trail with a history of brown bear attacks, Rover’s Run closely parallels salmon spawning waters in South Fork Campbell Creek.

“It’s a particularly dangerous time to be on trails in that area,” said Battle. “There is always a high concentration of brown bears near Rover’s Run this time of year, and more salmon this summer could mean increased bear activity.”

Natural runs of Chinook and sockeye salmon annually attract brown bears to upper Campbell Creek. Division of Sport Fish survey crews last week counted more than 1,700 sockeye, a number more than five times greater than the 10-year average of 317. Coho runs follow, arriving in August and remaining in the creek through October. Brown bears feeding on salmon frequently travel Rover’s Run and other area trails and close-range encounters — including attacks resulting in serious injuries — have occurred in the past.

To avoid dangerous bear encounters, Battle suggests recreationists not use Rover’s Run and other Far North Bicentennial Park trails that closely parallel the creek until at least mid-October.

“It’s a good idea right now to stay away from Rover’s Run especially, with its history of brown bear attacks and, really, all trails along Campbell Creek’s north and south forks,” said Battle.

A young mountain biker was badly injured in a brown bear attack on Rover’s Run in 2008. Six weeks later, a woman running the trail was also mauled. In 2010 another mountain biker was attacked. These incidents, along with other close calls since, led Travel & Leisure magazine in 2013 to list Rover’s Run among “The World’s Scariest Hikes.” For information about bear safety, visit www.alaskabears.alaska.gov.