Coming close to a bear sow with cubs is dangerous, but doing so while wearing a bear costume could end very badly. Alaskan wildlife officials say they are now searching for a man who showed up to Chilkoot River near Haines in a bear suit and started harassing the bears there.
According to UPI, a sow and two cubs, along with other bears, were feeding in the river when the man approached them. In the presence of a crowd that had gathered to watch the bears catch salmon, the costumed man started jumping and waving his hands, and got as close as five feet of the animals before wildlife officials drove the bears away for his own protection.
The Associated Press reported that witnesses described the man’s costume as “realistic,” although it is unlikely that any suit will fool a real bear for long.
Alaska Fish and Game technician Lou Cenicola was at the weir counting fish at the time when the man started approaching the bears. Fearing that the man will get himself in trouble, Cenicola scared away the bears and confronted the costumed visitor. When Cenicola informed him that he was harassing wildlife, the man refused to identify himself and instead dared officials to track him down.
“You have the license plate number. You figure it out,” he said before driving off.
Cenicola reported the incident to state troopers, who are now investigating and say the man could face wildlife harassment charges. It is uncertain what the man’s purpose in approaching the bears was.
Bears are magnificent animals, and there are few better times to see them at their prime than during a salmon run. However, officials urge people to stay a respectable distance away from the animals—at least 300 feet—and to avoid pressuring the bears with excessive noise. Bear viewers are advised to say in groups, minimize movement, and avoiding getting between sows and their cubs. Remember, if a bear changes behavior due to your presence, you are much too close for comfort.