Bears on the BLM Campbell Tract

ADO manager Gary ReimerBears are fact of life in Anchorage's favorite backyard

A message from Anchorage District Manager Gary Reimer


Anchorage’s natural setting and abundant wildlife attract more than 140,000 visitors annually to the recreation trails and education facilities at the Bureau of Land Management’s Campbell Tract. This presents unique challenges to land managers and visitors to the Campbell Tract trail system. As manager of the 730-acre BLM Campbell Tract, this is a challenge I take seriously.

Tracking studies by the Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game confirm that Campbell Tract is home to more brown bears than previously thought. These are not transient bears; they are resident bears who depend on the king and silver salmon runs of Campbell Creek to survive.

Yearling black bear on Campbell TractAs a result, we're taking a critical look at our ongoing efforts to manage the risks associated with operating recreation trails in close proximity to known bear habitat. This annual review of our safety policies and protocols is now more important than ever.

The BLM has been an active participant on the interagency Anchorage Bear Committee since 2001. We use color-coded bear warnings developed by the bear committee to alert visitors to sightings or conditions that pose a potential threat to trail users. And we installed permanent bear safety/awareness signs at trailheads.

We also made changes in the outdoor education programs at the Campbell Creek Science Center to reinforce visitor safety during bear season. We expanded the safety training of our instructors and volunteers. We enforce strict minimum group size requirements. We improved field communications between instructors and the Science Center. We beefed up our ranger patrols during bear season. And we switched to a heavier, bear-resistant dumpster.

How YOU can help.

My biggest concern isn’t whether we’re doing enough to protect groups that visit the tract. Rather, my greatest concern is how to reach the solo trail user who jogs or bikes alone during bear season or runs silently with headphones and surprises a sow and her cubs on the trail.

I’m asking for your help to reach those most at risk on Campbell Tract during bear season. You can model effective bear awareness techniques and inform others who might benefit from what you know. Many of you have hiked, biked, or walked on Campbell Tract trails for years. You know the value of making noise to alert wildlife of your presence, keeping your pet on a leash, and staying on established trails.

We'll continue to do everything we can to make the Campbell Tract trail system as safe as possible for our visitors. But we also ask our visitors to be aware that anyone enjoying the outdoors during bear season is assuming a residual degree of risk. I encourage you to adopt behaviors that reduce your risk.

Visit www.alaskabears.alaska.gov to learn more about our resident bears and how to be safer in bear country.