Alaska’s summer has arrived and its extended hours of daylight provide ample opportunity for recreation.
Besides the hundreds of airmen who have anxiously waited for a chance to sample the outdoors, Eielson Air Force Base’s other tenants – its wildlife – venture out, sometimes crossing paths with members of the Iceman Team.
Ron Gunderson, 354th Civil Engineer Squadron natural resources office chief of natural and cultural resources, said Eielson’s airmen and their families should appreciate Alaska’s wildlife from a distance.
“I can’t recall any camera today that doesn’t have a zoom lens,” said Gunderson. “View from afar. Use the zoom lens.”
While Eielson does not have incidents to report concerning local wildlife, it is not by accident that the installation manages to keep mishaps to a minimum, he said.
Gunderson said those who live and work at the base have come to understand the importance of safety when it comes to wildlife. This general approach to appreciating nature led to a mutual understanding between Eielson’s population and its wildlife.
No wildlife conflict exists at the installation, although animal sightings do occur from time to time. Some of the more the common are moose, which appear docile in nature and generally avoid human interaction.
However, one of the more dangerous situations to avoid takes place during the calving season when female moose or cows can be seen with their offspring. Cows can become protective over their young and act aggressively toward people if they feel threatened.
Gunderson recommends running if possible, using trees, cars and any other type of obstacle to help create some distance between oneself and an angry moose.
In addition to moose, larger predators such as bears, wolves, bobcats and coyotes roam the densely wooded areas of the base. The likelihood of ever encountering a large predator, especially bear, remains very low as they tend to avoid humans and look only for food.
Airmen and families looking to enjoy Alaska should always be prepared for an animal encounter. Not because an encounter will occur, but because having a plan could save your life, said Gunderson.
Also, something to keep on hand is bear spray, which works like pepper spray, deterring bears, moose, wolves, dogs and people, he said.
“I carry a .454 Casull, a large caliber sidearm, just in case, but I’ve never drawn a weapon,” Gunderson said. “I’ve been charged [by bear] and bear spray is what I used. It’s more effective than a weapon.”
According to Natural Resources, Eielson is “bear country,” with sightings of black bear and grizzly. With this in mind, campers need to make sure they are aware of their surroundings.
Remaining vigilant not only keeps you safe, but can also reveal things you may only experience in Alaska. Airmen and their families are encouraged to enjoy the great outdoors and have a plan when faced with a wildlife encounter.
Story by Yash Rojas
354th Fighter Wing
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