Despite signs telling them not to disturb the fish, some visitors last Sunday took off their shoes and waded into the new Pullen Pond stream to grab spawning salmon. A man above was actually applauded for his “catch,” which he did let go. Below a brother and sister try to grab one. There has been a successful egg take at the weir this year with DIPAC recording about 60 matching pairs through Aug. 15, according to the borough, but there has been little enforcement beyond there. The area was still closed to fishing this week, but reopened on Aug. 25. - Jeff Brady

Bears, bears everywheres
State gives ‘spirit bear’ protection from hunting this fall

Recent close encounters with bears in Skagway prompted a series of meetings designed to protect humans from bears and protect bears from humans. Of greatest concern to many locals is the fate of the so-called “spirit” bear that has been seen around Skagway for the last two summers.
The white-phased black bear has been a frequent visitor to homes and open spaces along the Dyea Road and north of Skagway. Police Chief Ray Leggett describes it as one of the “good bears,” as it has not become a nuisance or threat to public safety.
Sightings of the bear have brought a great deal of enjoyment to those who have witnessed its antics, and many locals wanted to see the rare bear protected from hunters who may seek out the animal as a special trophy. Because the bear is genetically a black bear, there is nothing in current hunting regulations to protect it, even though it carries the unique gene that makes its hair white.
The Alaska Board of Game met on Thursday August 9, and unanimously implemented an emergency closure on hunting season for Skagway’s white-phased black bear, or “spirit bear.” While public testimony was not allowed during the meeting, interested parties listened in via teleconference in the assembly chambers.
Ryan Scott of the ABG, said it was an allocation issue between users and non-users. Discussion of those in attendance locally, not a part of public record, agreed the rights of non-hunters to witness and enjoy the beauty of the bear, should supersede the rights of one hunter seeking a trophy. Hunters are still permitted to take all other bears.
The closure will be in effect for 120 days. The final decision regarding the fate of the bear will be decided at ABG’s November meeting. Public comment will be accepted before that time.
Locally, close encounters with bears have become more common. Skagway’s Public Safety Committee met Aug. 13 to discuss how to protect humans from bears without destroying the animals.
Much of the discussion focused around the proper disposal of garbage. Bears are attracted to the scent emanating from garbage cans and dumpsters, and it was decided the city would look into purchasing bear-proof garbage receptacles.
Still much of the onus falls on individuals who should be sure to dispose of trash properly, and keep their garbage cans closed with lids firmly attached. Leggett said people need to be reminded never to feed the bears.
Education in this matter was considered to be essential. Leggett said that next season the borough will work with the National Park Service and other agencies to implement an education campaign designed to inform people about bear safety.
Meanwhile, Leggett said the police department is doing everything in its power to keep from destroying any of the animals. He said over $300 has been spent on non-lethal ammunition, such as rubber bullets and bean bags, to discourage bears from searching for food in populated areas.
“We’re trying to encourage them to go somewhere else,” he said.
He said they have seen less problem bear situations in the last couple weeks and is hopeful increased awareness of the issue combined with the department’s overall efforts will continue to have positive results.
“The bears are playing nice right now,” he said.

Skagway High School cross-country season begins this weekend

The Skagway cross-country running team will be in Juneau this weekend for the first meet of the season.
“It’s too early for a prediction on Skagway-Haines,” said coach Kent Fielding. “We should have a strong team, probably the best girl’s team in many years. We’ll see what happens in Juneau.”
Running for the Panther boys this year are: Mickey Wilson, Quinn Weber, Logan Weber, Nate Herbig, Lachlan Dennis, Jake Henricksen, Brent Beckner, Tom Kirko, and Josh Cotton.
The girls team consists of: Paige Hahn, Cierra Hahn, Emily Herbig, Amanda Jensen, Kaitlin Surdyk, Kaylie O’Daniel, and Kayla Henricksen.
After the Juneau meet, the team travels to Wrangell for a race on Aug. 31.
It’s Skagway’s turn to host the upper Lynn Canal meet this year. It will be held on Friday, Sept. 7 in advance of the Klondike Road Relay. Watch for details in the next issue which comes out that morning.