University of Washington fisheries students got a bonus course before heading out for a summer of research in the Bristol Bay area of Alaska this year.
“We have about 20 students up there doing field work every summer,” said Dr. Ray Hilborn, director of the school’s Fisheries Research Institute. “And, for some reason, the last couple of summers, the abundance of bears has been much greater than before.”
The students do all sorts of biological field work, Hilborn said, “but the place we run into bears is when we’re walking down the streams counting the number of spawning fish.”
Things started to get a little dicey a couple of years ago.
“We had one student who unloaded a can of pepper spray in a bear’s face from three feet away,” he said. “We just decided we’d better get a little bit more formal in our approach to this.”
The school has had shotguns available to the students in Alaska for years, Hilborn said. But administrators realized recently that a lot of the people in the program had had no firearms-safety training.
So, the school contacted the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, which provided the students with about three hours of training.
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