Saturday, July 01, 2006

Crazy Days Ahead!

July starts tomorrow and is the busiest month for us here at Brooks Camp. The Sockeye Salmon are running in increasing numbers and the bears are starting to fish at the Falls. Besides an increase in the number of bears, the population of people will double to 300 plus people a day. Let’s just say that it will be interesting trying to manage hundreds of people and over thirty bears.
Typically a day for me can involve staffing the Visitor Center, the corner, the lower platform, the falls platform, or giving a cultural walk. The Visitor Center is a combination of NPS store, information, and bear orientation for incoming visitors. The lower platform is often referred to as the "bear traffic control tower" since the position watches bears to avoid bad situations along with opening/closing the bridge. On the falls platform a ranger cycles people in and out while keeping the number of people on the platform to 40. The cultural walk is an interpretive stroll to the cultural site giving information about the area, its early inhabitants, and the areas cultural importance to the Americas (Bering Land Bridge people). Last, but not least and my personal favorite is dubbed the corner. The corner is all about fun, excitement, something new, and an adrenaline rush. Not all feel this way about the corner, but I do....and will until a bear scares the crap out of me by rushing me. :) The corner stops visitors when the bridge is closed b/c of bear traffic jams aka a bear is on the trail. What makes this interesting is that sometimes bears come from all directions to trap you and/or force you to move to a new location. Interesting enough 3 days ago when working the corner I was watching one bear blocking our path back to camp when a sow with her cub (403 nicknamed Eggberta) stepped from the brush 8 yards away. I was able to safely get everyone back up to the platform on the other side of the bridge. I enjoy the challenge that is presented by managing the bears and people, but my job is more about managing people. Let it be said that bears may look like cute animals that remind people of a dog with human qualities, but they can be extremely dangerous. Many people seem to forget that distinction. Point in case: We ask people to not carry food around with them. The other day (before the salmon run started) a bear seemed to be particularly interested in one gentleman.
Ranger: Sir, That bear seems mighty interested in you. Do you have any food on you?
Visitor: No.
Ranger: Sir, are you sure you don't have any food on you.
Visitor: Well... I only have a little smoke salmon and some tuna.
Ranger: You do understand that IS food, sir.
Visitor: But it’s only a little.
Also the bug population of the park is starting to increase. Namely the mosquito population. Fun fact: Alaska is home to 27 species of mosquito. Once, in a highly infested mosquito area of Alaska, a scientist slapped another scientist on the back and counted over 270 mosquitoes from the single swat. As for myself, I have come to identify 5 separate species by sight and movement alone. For these reasons I pray to have a slight breeze to keep the mosquitoes away.

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