Second bear killed on the Chilkoot trail after showing signs of habituation

A second black bear has been killed by Parks Canada staff at the Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site.

A second black bear has been killed by Parks Canada staff at the Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site.

The trail is now open, but camping is still prohibited at Lindeman City.

Some travel restrictions remain in place: between Happy Camp and Bennett Lake, hikers must travel in groups of at least four and carry bear spray. Dogs are not allowed on the trail.

Parks Canada staff are on site at all campgrounds along the trail.

The Chilkoot Trail, which begins in Dyea, Alaska, and stretches to Bennett, B.C., closed down on the Canadian side of the border on June 20, after a black bear broke into a patrol cabin at Lindeman and accessed food in the cupboards and refrigerator.

Twenty hikers were evacuated while Parks Canada staff and Yukon conservation officers searched for the bear. On June 22, they shot a black bear believed to be the one that raided the cabin.

“The necropsy results showed no evidence of food from the cabin in the digestive system of the bear; however, further tests and evaluation will determine if bite marks and paw prints at the cabin are connected to that bear,” Parks Canada spokeswoman Elise Maltin said in an email.

The trail reopened June 26, but Parks Canada warned of another bear in the area that was demonstrating habituated behaviour.

That bear was killed June 26, after staff consulted with wildlife-behaviour experts.

“This was a very difficult decision for park managers who work hard to protect these animals, but in the end, it was considered the appropriate management action to ensure visitor safety,” Maltin said.

“This wildlife management approach is only employed in situations of absolute necessity where visitor safety is deemed at risk.”

A necropsy was conducted on the second bear, but results showed no human food in its stomach. However, because several days had passed since the cabin break-in, it’s possible any food would have passed through its digestive system, Maltin said.

According to Parks Canada, there has been no bear activity in the area over the last 48 hours. Three remote wildlife cameras have been set up, along with sand traps so any tracks will be visible.

In an interview last week, acting site superintendent Jeni Rudisill told the News that she had heard about food-conditioned and habituated bears along the South Klondike Highway in the last few weeks.

The highway doesn’t fall within the national historic site, but it runs parallel to it, more than 10 kilometres away – within the natural travel distance of a bear, Rudisill said.

It’s unusual for bears to be exhibiting signs of human habituation along the trail. Prior to this, no concerning bear activity had been reported at the national historic site this year.

Campgrounds have bear-safe lockers for food.

For as long as Parks Canada has operated the site – since 1974 – there have been no bear attacks, Rudisill said.

For more information, visit pc.gc.ca/chilkoot, or call Parks Canada in Whitehorse at 667-3910 or the Trail Center in Skagway at 907-983-9234.

Contact Rhiannon Russell at

rhiannon.russell@yukon-news.com

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