Tag Archives: Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Lingering among the brown bears of Pack Creek

With a reputation steeped in lore and a history spotted with imperfections, Admiralty Island bruins find refuge, harmony

This article appeared in the August 12 issue of The Juneau Empire

Photo by Amy Condra, A brown bear sow and two cubs find repose on the banks of Pack Creek on Admiralty Island in July. “We manage Pack Creek so that our human presence is as benign as possible,” said Harry Tullis, U.S. Forest Service Lead Wilderness Ranger for Pack Creek. “We’re just a background to their normal activities.”

by Amy Condra

Raindrops drum on the Cessna’s aluminum floats, adding an urgent rhythm to our mission as one by one we ease ourselves out of the plane and into the shallows.

Clad in waterproof jackets and rubber boots we splash to shore, but reaching land doesn’t improve anything as far as the rain goes; there is no shelter as we stand on a gravel bar beneath a lowering sky.

Nobody is complaining, because our attention has been caught by something more compelling than the weather: Someone has spotted a bear.

“Oh my God!” exclaims a young woman in our group, as the rest of us squint and strain to make sense of a blurry shape far ahead of us.

I fumble for my binoculars, scanning the mud flat at Pack Creek.

And there it is: A brown bear walking along the stream’s rocky banks.

The animal moves in a way that seems almost casual. Then suddenly, swiftly, it plunges its paw into the creek; water flies in all directions as the bear pulls out a wriggling pink salmon.
Continue reading Lingering among the brown bears of Pack Creek

Uncover mysteries of region’s bat species

Local biologist hopes to engage community in citizen science

This article first appeared in The Juneau Empire on March 19, 2011

Courtesy of the National Park Service, California Myotis is one of the five species of bats found in Alaska.

by Amy Condra

Fruits and flowers ripen into lush, succulent shades, bodies of water, gleaming and still, trees swaying rhythmically across a sultry twilight — such images are the stuff of holiday brochures and postcards.

These scenes also depict an environment in which most of the world’s 1,000 species of bats live and thrive, where they have everything they need: seeds, insects and a variety of places to roost.

Although 70 percent of bat species choose to live in tropical climates, there are five species that call Southeast home: Keen’s long-eared bat, long-legged myotis, California bat, the silver-haired bat and the little brown bat.

The most common of these is the little brown bat, Myotis lucifugus, which is the only bat species that not only resides here, but also ventures up to Southcentral and Interior Alaska. The little brown bat is about nine centimeters long, with fur ranging from cinnamon to dark brown and ears that, when laid forward, nearly reach the tip of the creature’s nose.

“It’s definitely a stretch for bats to survive and reproduce in this climate,” said Karen Blejwas, a regional biologist based in Juneau. “But obviously, some bat populations have done it.”

Blejwas, who works with the Wildlife Diversity Program at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, will be presenting “Bats in the Backyard: Flyers in the Forest” this Friday as part of the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center’s Fireside Lecture Series.

Continue reading Uncover mysteries of region’s bat species

Coats of many colors: Woodford to speak about Alaska’s bears

Courtesy of Terry Tollefsbol / USFWS, A grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park. Grizzly bears are called brown bears in SE Alaska, but are the same animal.

This article first appeared in the January 27, 2011 issue of The Juneau Empire

by Amy Condra

How do you coax out the crowds on a chilly Friday evening in Juneau?

Laurie Craig, an interpreter at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, cites one topic that tends to pack the house: Animals.

“I call it ‘charismatic fauna,’” said Craig, who has been organizing the center’s Fireside Lectures for seven years. “Furry animals bring in more visitors than anything else!”

This week’s scheduled presentation, “Alaskan Bears: Coats of Many Colors,” is aimed at easing the curiosity of those among us, and there are clearly many, who want to know more about these animals that share our world.

In Juneau we are surrounded by bears, says Riley Woodford, a writer and editor for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Wildlife Conservation.

“We live in one of the best places in the worlds for bears,” said Woodford, who will be speaking on the topic Friday night.

Woodford says his interest in the coats and colors of local bears was sparked by a comment from a researcher.

“It was really casual,” said Woodford. “A biologist, Kevin White, was doing some work with bears north of town, and said to me, ‘Hey, check out these white cubs! There’s a black mother bear with three cubs, and two of them are white!’”

Woodford, who worked as a field biologist before becoming a writer, said he started looking into the topic after White sent him some photographs of the bears.

Most black bears are black, says Woodford, and most brown bears are brown. Those are the classic colors, he adds.

“But in Southeast Alaska we have rules — and then we have the exception to the rules,” he said.

Continue reading Coats of many colors: Woodford to speak about Alaska’s bears