We are very excited to announce that Pacific Catalyst was selected by the US Forest Service to have high-season access to Pack Creek Zoological Area on Admiralty Island during high season. Pack Creek is home to one of the largest gatherings of Brown Bears in the world, and has the smallest allowed number of daily visitors of any bear observatory in Alaska. We have set aside several weeks during this time to take our guest ashore at pack creek during high season in July and August. We are allowed only eleven guests plus our guide ashore during that time. In June we also go ashore when bears are around, and in July/August when we don’t have permits we often go to the area and paddle or hike in other areas nearby.
Pack Creek drains a watershed of Admiralty Island into Seymour Canal. Admiralty is part of the Tongass National Forest (1907), is also a national monument (1978) and most of the island is known as the Kootznoowoo Wilderness (1980). Kootznoowoo is the original name assigned the island by the Tlingit people, and it means fortress or den of the bear. In 1990 the Alaska State Legislature created the Stan Price Wildlife Sanctuary to include the intertidal area at Pack Creek.
Protection of the brown bears who use Pack Creek began in 1934 with the Territorial Game Commission’s closure of the area to bear hunting. The closed area consisted of about 20 square miles.
In 1935, the Forest Service selected Pack Creek as a brown bear viewing area and the Civilian Conservation Corps built a trail and tree stand along the creek. The original stand was replaced by the current tower in 1990.
To further protect Pack Creek bears, in 1984 the Alaska State Game Board approved an expansion of the area closed to bear hunting to include Swan Cove, Swan Island and Windfall Harbor – a total area of about 94 square miles. Only this area and Mitchell Bay near Angoon are closed to bear hunting on Admiralty. The remaining 1,480 square miles remain open.
Arthur Pack was a Washington, DC, conservationist, and advocate for the protection of Admiralty Island bears. A liberalization of bear hunting in 1930 followed the fatal mauling of a Forest Service timber cruiser named Jack Thayer. Pack and others supported a “Save the Bear Campaign” and worked to promote protection for bears. He was guided on a least one visit to Seymour Canal by Alan Hasselborg, the famous bear man of Admiralty who homesteaded in Mole Harbor to the south.
Stan Price, electrical engineer, fisherman, logger, miner and fox farmer, moved to Pack Creek in the mid – 1950s. He maintained a residence until his death in 1989, though he wintered in Juneau in his later years. Stan played a large role in habituating Pack Creek bears. He and his wife raised several orphaned cubs who stayed in the area to raise cubs or their own, comfortable with the presence of people. Today you can see the remnants of the Price home from the viewing area and walk past the flowers, raspberries and rhubarb of two old gardens.