Alaska troopers to cite bear watchers who stop on bridges

KODIAK, Alaska (AP) — Alaska troopers said they will begin issuing citations to people found stopping on bridges on Kodiak Island to watch bears.

Kodiak Post Alaska State Troopers and Wildlife Troopers have responded to multiple calls this summer about drivers and pedestrians stopping on bridges and roads to see the bears, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported Thursday.

People caught walking on highways, impeding traffic, or stopping and parking on bridges might be fined, troopers said. Fines range from $25 to $60.

“We’re lucky we haven’t had anybody hit or seriously injured standing on those bridges,” Lt. Cornelius Sims said. “If you step out in front of a car, it’s not going to be a good day for you.”

This kind of behavior happens every summer, Sims said, but this year was the first time the state Department of Transportation posted signs on Kodiak Island bridges warning people not to linger.

Kodiak is the second largest U.S. island after Hawaii Island and its brown bears, also known as grizzlies, grow huge by feeding on the abundant salmon.

Much of the island is covered by forest made lush by plentiful rain and a mild maritime climate. Fishing and hunting are draws for tourists. Kodiak also is home to the nation’s largest Coast Guard base by area. About 1,000 Coast Guard personnel are stationed there.

Bears are usually more active in the evenings, making it riskier for people who stop, Sims said. The chances of traffic collisions increase when visibility is poor, and troopers have less staffing at that time of day to respond, he said.

With the end of salmon season nearing, there will likely be more bears around, resulting in more people stopping, Sims said. Most of the time people will move to a safe area when they’re asked, he said.

“Ninety-nine percent of the people, as soon as they point out the danger of them standing on the bridge, they realize right away,” Sims said.

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Information from: Kodiak (Alaska) Daily Mirror, http://www.kodiakdailymirror.com

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