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At the Russian River, watch out for the bears -- and the rangers

Craig Medred

If you go to the Russian River, don't go in the woods. There are bears in the woods, and even worse now there are rangers armed with tickets in the woods.

The latter announced Tuesday they would begin ticketing people who go in the woods.

Stephen Miller, deputy manager for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, said he has ordered this to make sure people stay out of the woods.

"A temporary closure of all public entry is in effect in the forested area on the north side of Kenai River near the Kenai-Russian River Ferry,'' he said in a press release. "The closure has been enacted due to heightened bear activity in the immediate area."

Anglers, who flock to the Kenai-Russian confluence to try to catch red salmon this time of year, will be allowed to continue fishing from the open shoreline below the woods. There is a 20- or 25-foot wide swath of beach between the spruce trees and the green water of the glacial river. Hopefully, the bears will stay in the woods.

According to the press release, "the closed area encompasses approximately 29 acres near the Russian River Ferry." Apparently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service believes the bears, which roam ranges that cover hundreds of acres, are only a threat when then are in the 29-acre box. The closed area is reportedly signed. The signs are for the people.

"The goals of this closure are to reduce human/bear conflict and minimize the risk of harm to people and bears,'' according to the press release. "Sows with cubs have been observed using the wooded area. Persons who enter the closed area are subject to apprehension and citations by refuge officers or other law enforcement personnel in the area.The closure will remain in effect until July 21, 2011, unless rescinded earlier or extended for cause."

The press release does not address the question of why the federal Fish and Wildlife Service would want to encourage a sow grizzly to teach her cubs that it is OK to hang out around people. That sort of cub training has led to problems on the Kenai in the past. The release says anyone with questions about this should direct them to Janet Schmidt, the supervisory park ranger at (907) 398-9616.