Hikers charged by bears are OK, Fish and Game says

Casey Grove

Two black bears reportedly charged three hikers Wednesday afternoon on a trail four to six miles from the Eagle River Nature Center.

There were no injuries reported in the initial call to 911, about 12:40 p.m.

The man told police dispatchers he was armed with a gun and had fired a shot to scare the bears, which had cubs, but they continued to stay near him and the two women with whom he was hiking, said Jennifer Castro, police spokeswoman.

The man was somewhere between a spot known as The Perch, about four miles from the Nature Center, and Heritage Falls, which is six miles out, said Asta Spurgis, the center's executive director.

The man said he could not return to the Nature Center, because the bears were blocking his way, Castro said. His brief phone call ended abruptly, and dispatchers were trying to reconnect with the man, Castro said. Police officers were headed to the area about 1 p.m., she said, but the case was eventually turned over to state Department of Fish and Game biologists.

Cellphone communication is difficult in the area, but a wildlife biologist had heard from runners coming off the trail that the group of hikers was OK, said Fish and Game spokesman Ken Marsh. It was unclear if the hikers were off the trail.

All trails out of the Nature Center remained open.

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.