Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bears and Other Encounters


So the number one question I get from truckers, tourists, friends is “aren’t you scared of the bears?”.

No I am not. Bears and wolves aren’t a problem. They are wild up here, and although I had a few close-encounters with both, I survived to tell the tale, although one overly-curious grizz needed an air horn warning to stay back. Moose are more dangerous than bears.
I’m comfortable solo-hiking up here because there are no people. People scare me much more than any animal. Animals behave a certain way that’s fairly predictable and precautions can be taken, people on the other hand… well, lets say that I’d rather not meet anyone in the backcountry of Alaska.

This summer, while he was hiking, a coworker was stopped by a police chopper and swat team, because he looked like a fugitive from Fairbanks that killed 3 women and fled into the wild. If you accidentally venture onto a miner’s claim, you will be shot at. You never know who you might meet, so its best to steer clear.
The wildlife in the Brook’s Mountain Range is diverse and plentiful. I would often see a moose mother and calf hanging around by the river during my runs, and sometimes they'd wander into camp.
  


I did meet several grizzlies and wolves while out running, but they lumbered off as soon as they caught my scent. 


Truckers call pepper spray "seasoning" for the bears. I agree. Air horns are the way to go.


Dall sheep are everywhere–smaller than mountain goats, they prefer steep, rocky terrain. Chances are, if you look up a slope you'll see white dots moving like ants along the ridges. 

I stalked these sheep up 1000 feet army-style before getting close enough for a photo. Will told me I looked ridiculous.





If you venture north onto the tundra or ANWR you will encounter herds of caribou. I once saw a grizzly chasing down a calf—but it escaped.
Foxes appear everywhere, especially red ones. They behave like curious dogs and are not shy about hanging around humans.

I encountered quite a few porcupines on my runs. They're just giant rodents with quills and are not too bright.

 
They say the mosquito is Alaska’s state bird, and it’s true. June and July they terrorized us. You either bathed in DEET or wore a full-body mesh net. Caribou have been killed by these bugs: the caribou run to get away from the swarms during the summer and die of heat exhaustion. The mosquito pictured below soon met its end after this photo was taken. 
The dogs are especially miserable. Poor Shaggy. 


Come July wild, succulent blueberries and lingonberries (wild cranberry) covered the forest floor and mountain slopes. I could walk 5 feet from my tent and pick a bucket-full.


Lots of edible mushrooms and unintelligent spruce grouse. You can only eat them during the summer when they eat bugs and grass, because during the winter they feed on spruce needles, and the meat develops a bitter taste. 

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