Outdoors

Alaska Highway cyclists lauded for packing bear spray

Biker wannabe: This June 8 image provided by Tim Bartlett shows a wolf chasing Bartlett’s motorcycle down Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park highway in British Columbia. Bartlett, of Banff, reported the wolf darted onto the road and began chasing him as he was riding through the Canadian Rockies. The animal got within several feet of him before Bartlett accelerated. After Bartlett put some distance between himself and the wolf, he stopped to take some photos, capturing it in full pursuit. He says he could hear the wolf’s feet on the road. He says he believes the wolf was after his bike. The wolf eventually stopped and slipped back into the woods. (Associated Press)
Biker wannabe: This June 8 image provided by Tim Bartlett shows a wolf chasing Bartlett’s motorcycle down Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park highway in British Columbia. Bartlett, of Banff, reported the wolf darted onto the road and began chasing him as he was riding through the Canadian Rockies. The animal got within several feet of him before Bartlett accelerated. After Bartlett put some distance between himself and the wolf, he stopped to take some photos, capturing it in full pursuit. He says he could hear the wolf’s feet on the road. He says he believes the wolf was after his bike. The wolf eventually stopped and slipped back into the woods. (Associated Press)

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — “Credit them for having bear spray,” said Nancy Campbell, Environment Yukon spokeswoman in Whitehorse, referring to a Sandpoint bicycle tourist who, while separated from his companions, was chased on the Alaska Highway by a wolf.

As today's Outdoors column points out, short bursts of bear spray bought Mac Hollan time to be rescued by motorists even though the relentless wolf kept coming back to nip and rip his paniers and tent bag as they raced down the highway.

“We tell everyone to have bear spray with them and in a holster ready to use any time they go into the backcountry, which can be a few steps off your back porch in the Yukon,” Campbell said.

Hollan said he and his friends had fully prepared for encounters with bears by having bear-proof food canisters, keeping clean camps and keeping bear spray readily available clipped to their handlebar bags.

“I never dreamed I'd need it for a wolf,” he said.

WOLF OR DOG?

Some readers are pointing out that chasing a bicycle or motorcycle is abnormal behavior for a wolf but normal behavior for a dog, such as a husky or wolf hybrid that may look like a wolf.   

Indeed, no one, including a biologist, could verify this was a wolf involved in this incident or the June 8 incident with a motorcyclist in Kootenay National Park (photo above) without getting DNA documentation. That could be done from saliva on the packs, I suppose, but no one is likely to fund that effort.

The lesson, regardless of the animal's species, is that having bear spray readily available is a wise prepareation for muscle-powered travelers.




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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.


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