Folks won’t like this idea. But if the State of Alaska is unwilling or unable to adopt and staff a sensible management plan to enforce our wildlife laws along the Chilkoot River, then an emergency closure of the corridor should be ordered now. The current situation is extremely dangerous. This is a public safety as well as wildlife conservation issue.

Everyone loves to glimpse Speedy and her two cubs of the year, the most people-tolerant and visible of the Chilkoot bears. But we are loving them to death. Should Speedy just touch someone to protect her cubs, the state would not hesitate to destroy them. No matter if it was natural for the sow to defend her cubs from idiots. And not a few tourists, including locals, have behaved unlawfully: approaching too close and harassing the animals (e.g. the incredibly stupid bear impersonator); picnicking next to the river and leaving food or salmon catch attractants unsecured; creating traffic jams even inside the bear safety zone, displacing bears to make their exit to the woods between cars and people. It is madness to ignore this situation.

I don’t like to call for closure. But, the status quo will result in the bears not putting on the weight needed to survive the winter, or someone getting hurt and the bears being destroyed. Absent a staffed management plan, the Chilkoot corridor must be closed now so the bears can make the living they richly deserve.

Merrill Lowden