Celebrating Bears, and Learning About Them Too
SourDough News | August 12, 2014
Forest Service employee MiKayla Stokes and three friends celebrated the Wrangell Bear Fest by making their own bear masks. Photo by Corree Delabrue.
Children enjoy spending time with Smokey Bear and Forest Service employee MiKayla Stokes during the “Read with a Ranger & Smokey” at the Irene Ingle Public Library. Photo by Corree Delabrue.
Who doesn’t love a festival? It’s a chance to promote and celebrate what makes a place special, and Wrangell has a very unique place on its District-the Anan Wildlife Observatory. The bears that gather to feast on the large pink salmon run at Anan Creek inspired Sylvia Ettefagh, a permitted Anan guide, to create the annual BearFest celebration held in late July.
Wrangell’s BearFest has been gaining more attention every year, seeing the fifth annual festival bring in renowned Ketchikan artist Ray Troll, a band all the way from Savannah, Georgia, and plenty of visitors from out of town excited to see Anan’s bears. Being a festival, of course there was a lot of fun-including a salmon bake, kid’s games, photography workshops, and running races-but a large part of BearFest is about educating the public about bears, from bear safety workshops to a multi-day symposium designed to share the latest bear research. This year’s symposium theme was “Bears and People,” with lectures on bears and climate change, how bears and people can cohabit better, and a discussion on managing bear viewing sites, which Anan managers participated in. The fact that the festival brings in bear researchers from around the world and wildlife viewing site managers from around Alaska also gives Anan’s managers a change to discuss management and bear behavior with other experts.
Matt Jurak, Anan site manager, noted that “It’s incredible that so many bear experts gather each year in Wrangell for Bearfest. It really is a unique opportunity to share information and learn from each other. Being able to host many of the presenters and experts on site at Anan was a highlight for me. They were all really excited to see the bears and had many positive things to say. It just reaffirms how special of a place Anan is.”
District employees also got in on the BearFest fun by introducing a showing of the new wilderness documentary The Meaning of Wild, giving bear safety presentations, and hosting children’s events. Smokey Bear even made an appearance at the public library to help read books about bears. BearFest has also received assistance from the Forest Service through Secure Rural Schools (SRS) funding in the past, and earlier this year, the Petersburg-Wrangell Resource Advisory Committee approved SRS funds to support the festival again, helping ensure the fun and learning will continue on in future years.
By Corree Seward Delabrue, District Interpreter, Tongass NF-Wrangell Ranger District