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Wildlife

Bird Ridge trailhead closed after discovery of 300 pounds of illegally dumped fish waste

  • Author: Laurel Andrews
  • Updated: July 21, 2017
  • Published July 20, 2017

A sign warns of illegally dumped fish and bear danger at the Bird Ridge trailhead in Chugach State Park. July 19, 2017. (Laurel Andrews / Alaska Dispatch News)

Update, Friday July 21, 2:45 p.m.:

The Bird Ridge Trailhead has been reopened, Chugach State Park officials said.

Original story:

The Bird Ridge trailhead on Turnagain Arm was closed Tuesday after the discovery of 300 pounds of illegally dumped fish waste, which could attract bears, Chugach State Park officials said.

Rangers closed the gates to the parking lot, where the waste was found, and posted a sign warning people about the illegally dumped waste, Chugach park ranger Tom Crockett said.

Kurt Hensel, chief ranger for the park, responded to the call from a park user who reported the waste. He described it as a pile about 20 feet long and 10 feet across.

"It was essentially about 300 pounds worth of filleted-out fish carcasses, consisting of halibut, red snapper and sockeye," Hensel said.

"The fillet job was horrible," Hensel said. "There was a lot of meat left on the fish."

Hensel said he used about 10 50-gallon trash bags to clean up the mess.

"I have never seen that much fish waste dumped in a park blatantly out in the open like that, and that's 22 years of working in the park system," Hensel said.

"This would be someone who had been fishing in the saltwater, and for whatever reason, decided to dump it there … I don't know what their thought process was but it certainly did create a potential hazard," Crockett said.

After surveying the area Thursday morning, Crockett said the trailhead would remain closed, likely for a few more days.

"It is very, very fishy-stinky and there's fresh bear trails all over the place," Crockett said.

Crockett planned to post an additional warning sign on the latrines on the ridge, so people hiking from the Bird Creek access side would be aware of bear danger.

The Bird Ridge trailhead is located at roughly Mile 102 of the Seward Highway. While the trailhead was closed, the trail itself remained open, with access from a larger parking lot near Bird Creek, wrote Elizabeth Bluemink, spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

On Wednesday morning, two young brown bears were shot around 9 a.m. at the nearby Bird Creek Motel, said Ken Marsh, spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Erik Lambertsen, co-owner of the motel, said Thursday that he shot one of the bears after it had tried to get into his home and then charged him.

The two young brown bears had destroyed a garbage container, Lambertsen said. Then the bears tried to enter the house through the back door and a side window.

Lambertsen guesses that the bears were curious and hungry. But he has six children.

"I just can't have the bears trying to get into the house," he said.

Lambertsen said one bear ran into the woods when he fired a shot into the air. The second bear ran around a corner, charging Lambertsen, and he fired at the animal.

Light birdshot was used, Marsh said — a nonlethal tactic Fish and Game doesn't recommend. The bears were likely wounded, but state biologists couldn't find them, Marsh said.

Lambertsen said he regrets using the lighter ammunition, and should have killed the bear instead of injuring it.

Lambertsen called the illegal dumping of fish waste "absolutely asinine and criminal," exacerbating a problem during a year in which he's had far more bear encounters than usual.

Since July 1, eight black bears and one brown bear have been killed in the Anchorage area, according to Marsh.

That includes a black bear sow with three cubs that were killed on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Most of the bear killings were trash-related, he said.

Fines for dumping the fish range from around $300 for illegal feeding of wildlife, to $1,000 for littering, Marsh said.

Hensel asked anyone who sees illegal dumping to call it in. License plate numbers and descriptions of the vehicles and people are particularly helpful.

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