Inquisitive Bear Chases Family of Hikers, Ignores Warning Shots

   02.27.15

For Robert Hughes and his family, a routine hiking trip to Alaska’s Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Sunday took a turn for the worse when they found themselves followed by a bear in the dark. The bruin was so persistent that it ignored several warning shots from Hughes, instead shadowing the hikers at a distance of 15 to 30 feet all the way back to their car.

“We generally carry a shotgun as well as a .44 but… we weren’t really thinking that we were going to see something,” Hughes told the Peninsula Clarion.

With Hughes was his wife, his young son, and one of his son’s friends. Hughes said that he and the boys were on a ridge along the Upper Kenai River Trail searching for a wallet that he had dropped earlier. As evening approached, Hughes decided to call an end to the search and the trio began heading down to the bottom of the trail, where Hughes’ wife waited. Hughes added that he felt like he was being watched, and that later proved to be true when he heard branches breaking behind him.

“I turned around and there was that bear, just kind of 30 yards from us,” he said. “I told the boys to hurry up and get down the hill and I turned back and it was probably 15 feet closer and a little bit behind a tree. All I could see was the back half. It was pretty good sized.”

The three picked up the pace but the bear doggedly followed, even after Hughes emptied a .40 caliber handgun in an attempt to scare the beast off. It was too dark for the hikers to make out what species the bear was, but Hughes decided to reload his gun and fire off several more shots. It had little effect.

The inquisitive bear followed Hughes and his family all the way back to the parking lot, but seemed content to stay at a distance. Fortunately, the hikers were able to leave without incident, but officials are warning visitors to the area about increased bear activity.

“Warm winter weather means not hitting the snooze button again for bears…it means they are waking up,” said refuge officials on Kenai’s Facebook page. “Locals have been reporting seeing bears, their scat and their tracks on Kenai National Wildlife Refuge trails, specifically on the Upper Kenai River Trail and at the Russian River Ferry.”

Experts say it is likely that the bear had woken up early and may have been out looking for food. Since visitors to Kenai often bring snacks, pet food, birdseed, or other bear attractants into the refuge, the bear may have decided to follow the hikers, hoping that they would lead it to something tasty.

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