Officials on Tuesday indefinitely closed the Canadian side of the Chilkoot Trail as they search for a black bear that apparently broke into a staff cook shelter and raided the refrigerator and cabinets, according to the National Park Service.
The 33-mile Chilkoot trail follows the route of Gold Rush miners from Dyea, near Skagway, to Bennett, British Columbia.
On Monday afternoon, Parks Canada staff returned to their Lindeman City camp, about 26 miles from the Alaska trailhead, only to find a bear had broken in through a window, a Tuesday statement from the Park Service said.
"The bear damaged a refrigerator and cupboards and obtained a significant food reward," said a Tuesday statement from Parks Canada.
Hair and prints were found suggesting the culprit was likely a black bear. A bear then returned to the patrol cabin around 6:45 p.m. Monday, the statement said.
In recent weeks, Parks Canada had received additional reports of a similar "habituated and food-conditioned bear," said the Park Service. Parks
Canada said in a statement it had evacuated all hikers from the Canadian side of the trail.
Because it appeared the bear was habituated to human food, Parks Canada decided to find and kill the bear, said Ben Hayes, chief of interpretation and education at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.
"This bear is exemplifying behavior that it's habituated to human interaction, associating humans with food, associating human structures with food sources," Hayes said. "That is why the bear is a threat, because it has been habituated and will actively approach people and tents and structures to search for easy access to food."
Tuesday's closure is only for the Canadian side of the trail. People can still use Bennett Lake on the Canadian side during the day, but they cannot camp there, Hayes said.
Hikers can continue to reserve hiking permits for the U.S. side of the trail, which stretches about 13 miles from the Dyea trailhead, Hayes. The Canadian side of the trail will be opened once the bear is killed.
An alert on the Park Service website says the trail will be closed for 24 to 48 hours.
Hayes said between 3,00 and 4,000 people typically hike the Chilkoot trail each year.
The Park Service said anyone scheduled to begin hiking the trail over the next few days should contact the trail center in Skagway at 907-983-9234 or the reservation desk at 800-661-0486.