Grizzly bears are moving through town.

th-1Some observations about the town of Valdez, Alaska, where the 24th annual Last Frontier Theatre Conference is winding up:

Coming into town were greeted by one of those temporary electronic signs, the kind that road crews put up. However, it wasn’t advising us of “ROAD WORK NEXT FEW MILES” or “ABRUPT EDGE MOTORCYCLES USE EXTREME CAUTION,” however.

No, this warning included the phrase “GRIZZLY BEARS MOVING THROUGH TOWN.”

Sad to say, I have not seen ursus arctos horribilis myself. Kind of hoped to do so, from within a vehicle moving past said critter. But I did hear about someone whose yard was monopolized by a mama grizz and three cubs for several days.

Finally she called Fish and Game to beanbag ’em out of there. She was tired of not letting her own kids go outside to play, lest they become Scooby snacks for the charismatic megafauna next to the swing set.


Speaking of the great outdoors: We’ve been treated to pretty much nonstop sun since we got here. Thanks, El Niño!

It’s been so bright and so hot that a small pond near the conference center has seen nonstop action. The aquatic plant life had been dredged out and a truckload of sand dumped at one end. That plus a lifeguard stand have equaled amazing amounts of fun for the children of the city.

Those of us seeking non-rarefied air have had fun watching the kids frolic. They were having such a good time yesterday that I hated to think about the sunburn pain they’d be feeling that night.

Another conference-goer suggested we inaugurate a new tradition: the Last Frontier Theatre Conference Get-To-Know-You-Skinny-Dipping-Evening.

Pass. Not my idea of a good time, especially when bears are moving around. All I could think of was a Gary Larson cartoon: “Look, dude, these ones are pre-peeled!


Few cars, much snow

Other notable things about Valdez:

The pronunciation. It’s Val-DEEZ, thankyouverymuch.

The drop-dead beauty. Gorgeous mountains (some glaciated, some deep green with growth), sunlight glinting on Prince William Sound, eagles floating on the thermals – it’s like Hollywood’s dream of what the wilderness would look like, only with charter fishing and espresso stands.

The snow signs. Certain buildings have signs warning visitors where not to park, so that snow sliding off roofs won’t damage their vehicles. This is not a joke: Valdez gets an average of more than 25 feet of snow each winter; the record is 46 feet. (Boats sometimes sink because their owners don’t shovel them off.)

The lack of traffic. Like the rural township of my youth, its streets are often devoid of vehicles despite this being the high season for tourists. When I walk back and forth to the conference center I have hardly ever had to wait for a car to pass before I can cross a street.

The seagull buffet. Down by the docks is a trough where fisherfolk clean their catches. The guts and skin and heads are like a smorgasbord for seafowl. If you want to get a close look at gulls – and I can’t imagine why you would – this is the place.


Crime in the city

The police blotter. Of course. As with many towns, the infractions can be as amusing to us as they were annoying to the complainants.

The following excerpts are reproduced as published in The Valdez Star, except for the addition of italic type:

Bear Incident: Dispatch received reports of vehicles parked on both sides of the highway while people bear watched. Bears left the area and the vehicles moved on.

Disturbance-Noise: Complainant reports someone is setting off fireworks. Officers contacted the individuals who agreed to be done for the night.

Civil Problem/Dispute: Complainant reported that a friend of a previous tenant entered the residence and removed a television. The individual was contacted and agreed to contact the property owner to work it out.

Fish & Game: Caller reported a dead swan at the 9 mile pond. Information was passed on to the Fish & Wildlife Trooper.

Bear Incident: A bear was reported to be in the area of Salmon Turnaround.

Disturbance-Bar: Complainant reported a drunk and belligerent male was refusing to leave the establishment. Subject was contacted by officers and given a disorderly conduct warning and was trespassed for the evening.

Fish & Game: Caller reported a mama with ducklings was trying to cross the road near Salmon Turnaround, worried they might get hit by morning traffic. All ducks were gone upon officer arrival.

Bear Incident: Caller reported their dog had just chased off a bear on dump road. The bear was no longer in the area.

Stolen Property: Complainant reported a 19 year old blond male “punk” stole their bike. Complainant didn’t want the person arrested, stated the individual has been allowed to borrow the bike in the past but didn’t have permission this time, they just want the bike returned.

Disturbance-Other: Complainant called to report a female inside a local business seemed “out there” and “out of it” as though on drugs. The individual then tried to put air in the vehicle tire causing the tire to blow up. Caller was concerned because there were children in the car. An officer contacted the individual, they were deemed not to be impaired. The officer helped them change their tire so they could continue on.

Camping Prohibited: Individuals were advised they were camping in a no camping area.

Problems With Neighbors: Complainant called to report a verbal altercation with neighbors. Complainant was mowing their lawn, the neighbors weren’t amused with the noise and threatened to damage their property when the complainant leaves. Officers arrived on scene and advised the individuals that 8:00 p.m. is not too late to be mowing a lawn according to the Municipal Noise Ordinance.

Traffic Complaint: Complainant reported an individual was waving a flag/stick at their vehicle. An officer contacted the individual and told them to knock it off.

Harassment: Complainant called to report they had been harassed the day before by an employee at a local restaurant and that the same employee had harassed them at a different business later on in the day. Dispatch advised the complainant to call when the harassment is happening versus waiting until the next day.

Open Door: Caller reported the front door of a local business was unlocked. Officers walked through the building, everything appeared normal, door was secured.

Traffic Complaint: Caller reported an individual is again shaking their walking stick at vehicles. Individual was contacted and told to knock it off.

Citizen Contact: An officer spoke with some individuals who had questions about Valdez.

Bear Incident: While on patrol, the CSO came upon a brown bear sow and cubs, also with 2 individuals. The bears left the area along with the people.


Related reading:

468 ad


  1. cathy Eller

    Sounds like our local paper. We don’t have bears it’s raccoons that give us problems. The mama brought her four babies onto the back porch to eat the cat food. She even opened the screen door to let them in the kitchen. I’ll keep my raccoons, bears scare me.

    • Donna Freedman

      Raccoons can be nasty little things, though. Persistent, too: Once they figure out food sources they’ll keep coming back.

  2. Cathy in NJ

    Oh my, “knock if off”. That’s the best. Love the police blotter:)

  3. HAHAHAHAHA! These two had me rolling!!!

    “Traffic Complaint: Complainant reported an individual was waving a flag/stick at their vehicle. An officer contacted the individual and told them to knock it off.”

    “Traffic Complaint: Caller reported an individual is again shaking their walking stick at vehicles. Individual was contacted and told to knock it off.”

    Sounds like the individual calling and the guy with the walking stick had traffic complaints. HAHAHAHAHA

    • Donna Freedman

      Those are some mean streets, all right.

      The local paper used to run excerpts from the police blotter in Dutch Harbor (I think). Some of those were truly bizarre. Stuff like, “Caller reported a large man in a tutu walking along the water’s edge. Officers made contact with the man, who told them he was intoxicated and felt like dancing. They advised him to go home and sleep it off.”

  4. Amanda

    “…lest they become Scooby snacks for the charismatic megafauna next to the swing set.” Love it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *