WRANGELL – At approximately 3:00 a.m. Sunday, May 26, a member of the SEARHC Alaska Crossings guide staff encountered an adolescent brown bear at an active expedition program’s campsite, located northwest of Berg Bay. The staff member was awakened by a bear slowly dragging them by the sleeping bag from under their tarp shelter. Upon awakening and realizing the situation, the staff member shouted and the bear let go of the sleeping bag and walked away from the area.
The guide immediately alerted the remaining expedition staff and contacted the supervisor on call to report the incident and ask for assistance, explaining the bear had gotten into the food supply and damaged some equipment. Through standard bear-encounter protocols and deterrents, the bear was kept at a safe distance from the campsite until after 5:00 a.m. at which time the group was transported by boat to a campsite that had no reported bear encounters during previous Crossings expeditions.
Per requirements outlined in the Crossings United States Forest Service (USFS) permit, the USFS was alerted of the incident and, along with Alaska State Troopers, traveled to the location and put down the bear suspected of the encounter.
“Alaska Crossings is a wilderness based program operating in bear habitat,” said Steve Helgeson, SEARHC Senior Manager of Adolescent Programs. “It’s not unusual to be in close proximity to bears, however, it’s unusual to have a significant bear encounter like this.”
All Crossings guides are trained in industry standard bear-safety and deterrent practices, and are obligated to follow protocols designed to minimize encounters. Guides are required to carry bear spray and signal flairs. Expedition clients also are trained in basic bear safety and trained to follow protocols to minimize encounters.
Crossings avoids locations where significant bear encounters occur and where evidence of significant bear activity exists. The campsite near Berg Bay will be disassembled in the coming weeks and relocated to an alternate location in the general area.
Now in its 19th year of operation, Alaska Crossings is a behavioral health program which combines therapeutic interventions with outdoor and expeditionary activities in the greater Wrangell area for youth ages 12 to 18.