Evan's Eyes

Web Log Entry #0067, Monday, May 5, 2003: Day 168

Anchorage Sunrise: 5:40am Sunset: 10:12pm High Temp: 50° Low Temp: 32°

Cinco De Mayo came and went with little fanfare. Strangely enough, it's not a big holiday here in Alaska. Maybe it was because of the clouds and rain. It was drizzly all day, which isn't a big deal but I did notice that the mountains on Anchorage's east side were much whiter afterward. I don't think it put a deep layer of snow up there, but it's SNOWING in MAY! The locals take delight in pointing out that it can snow in July or August. In Alaska, it can be winter even during summer.

I celebrated the holiday by going to "How To Not Be Eaten By Bears" class. That wasn't its official title, in typical Alaskan understatement, they called it something like "Bear Awareness." Almost anywhere else in the country, a "wildlife awareness" class would focus on telling the difference between chipmunks, ground squirrels, and pika. Here, it's about survival. Sure, nobody know how many people are eaten each year by pika (the "Piranha of the Prairie"), but they pose much less of a threat than the bears up here.

Like most scheduled events I've attended here in Anchorage, Bear Class was disappointing. Ranger Mike was nice enough, and probably a rippin' good ranger, but that doesn't make one a good public speaker. Most of the class got eaten up (by bears! Ha ha ha! No, not really) by bear-encounter stories. Now, I have nothing against three hours of good bear stories. Ranger Mike's stories started well enough, but tended to wander off onto another topic near the end, and what should have been an exciting, educational conclusion became a tangential side note in the subsequent discussion of, for example, how rangers deal with a moose carcass. If I wanted a rambling, aimless evening filled with parenthetical interjections barely connected to the topic, I could have just stayed home and read my own journal.

So what did I learn? If you encounter a bear, DON'T RUN! Bears are not the brightest bulb in the toolbox, and if they see you running, they figure they're supposed to be chasing. So, when facing a half-ton predator with teeth and claws as long as your fingers, don't do what you're primordial hard-wired instincts tell you to do. You should... well, I don't know what you're supposed to do. We didn't get to that. I had hoped that he'd bring in a bear for us to practice encountering so we'd know what to do. He didn't. He didn't even bring a guy in a bear suit. He had a 30-minute video of supposedly excellent information on surviving bear encounters, but we didn't have time for it. However, I do know what do to about a moose carcass. They put up signs.

We did learn from the a State Biologist that bears are frequently sighted in Anchorage, even DOWNTOWN. So until I get to see the video, I'll either be inside a building or my car. And I'll keep a school of pika handy for emergencies.

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© 2003 Evan M. Nichols