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Wildlife, outdoor safety: How to prevent danger
A female moose and her two calves run away as a vehicle approaches at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Wildlife can be interesting to look at; however can be very dangerous when approached. Natural resources advisors say to keep a safe distance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)
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Wildlife, outdoor safety: How to prevent danger

Posted 7/8/2013   Updated 7/8/2013 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

7/8/2013 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska  -- Summer means tons of outdoor fun in Alaska. It also means those choosing to venture into the wild should know how to approach it and its residence safely.

The 354th Civil Engineer Squadron Natural Resources Office advises all Eielson residents to exercise caution while undergoing any activities which require them to enter into the great outdoors.

"Military members on the base are living in a shared environment with the wildlife around them," said Tom Slater, 354th CES natural resource advisor. "Everywhere you go in Alaska can be a wild adventure whether it be wildlife or the expanse of outdoor activities available."

Slater gives a few simple tips to stay safe around wildlife, such as bears and moose, and while conducting common outdoor activities like hiking, swimming, fishing and hunting.

"We don't have bears behind every tree on base, but it's important to keep safe nonetheless," he said. "Keep trash inside or in a designated trash dispenser and keep food scraps along with coolers inside or clean."

The longtime Alaska resident also mentioned that moose can look cute, but are dangerous.

"If you get in their personal space, they may violate your personal space," Slater said. "Keep a large distance and never come between a mother and her calf. Most importantly, teach children these rules."

With the vast fishing potential in the 49th state, every Airman is sure to fish or be around a fisherman at one point or another.

Slater said to always use common sense when around water. Temperatures can be extremely cold, causing hypothermia. A personal flotation device is not just recommended but is the law when on waterways using a watercraft.

"Lakes on base and in the local area are often abandoned gravel pits," he said. "The depths can change rapidly. One step can mean your life."

Along with fishing, Alaska offers a unique hunting experience. It is available on base and many places around the state for several different types of game. A hunter's safety briefing is mandatory on base. Always check local regulations and safety requirements.

Before fishing or hunting on base, obtain the proper licenses and attend a briefing at the Natural Resource Office.

Hiking is almost limitless, yet can also be dangerous.

Ron Gunderson, 354th CES natural resource advisor and avid Alaskan hiker, said to follow the same rule for fishing and wildlife while being extremely vigilant of surroundings.

"Always have a plan," he said. "Never go anywhere alone and always let a third party know where you are going. It's important to have an emergency kit with you at all times."

Gunderson recommends a minimum of a fire source, water, food, first aid kit, and a simple shelter. A personal locator beacon is also recommended.

A PLB is a device activated by the user which sets off a signal that is located by GPS. It provides a pinpoint location of the user anywhere in the world. These devices are available to be checked out from the 354th Fighter Wing safety office free of charge.

"Even a ten minute hike takes preparedness," he reminds.

Swimming can be one of the only reliefs from heat in this rapidly changing climate, but should be done with caution and in the right locations.

There is no swimming in base waterways and should never be done alone when off base. A personal flotation device is recommended.

"Airmen are always encouraged to call or come into our office," said Gunderson. "We not only have hunting and fishing information, but hiking, biking and boating facts also."

For more information on wildlife safety laws and regulations, contact the 354th CES Natural Resources Office at 377-5182.

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