Impossibly large bird spotted in Mendenhall Valley (S.E. Alaska)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘JUNEAUEMPIRE.COM)

 

 


Impossibly large bird spotted in Mendenhall Valley

This is not the bird mentioned in this story. (123rf.com Stock Photo)

According to several eyewitness reports, a bird with a wingspan nearly the width of Mendenhall Loop Road has been spotted in the Mendenhall Valley.

The cryptozoological curiosity stems from a post in the popular Facebook page “Juneau Community Collective,” brought to the attention of the Empire by several readers. The Empire couldn’t track down a clear explanation of what the bird was, but we did talk to some bird experts and did a little digging on similar sightings from around Alaska.

Here’s the original post, from eyewitness Tabitha Bauer:

“Attn; I was just driving by the movie theater in the Valley and there was a huge black bird flying above the road. The wingspan had to be at-least 20 feet, it was almost as wide as the road. I have lived here all my life and have never seen anything like that, it freaked me out. It was not a raven or an eagle. This isn’t a joke. This thing was HUGE, almost the size of a small airplane. Did anyone else see it?”

The sighting was backed up by several others in a long comment thread on the post. Some were poking fun at the idea of a thunderbird or pterodactyl in the valley, but others weren’t so skeptical.

Bauer, recounting the sighting to the Empire a few days after spotting the bird, said it was “like an eagle, but five times as big.” She couldn’t think of any other way to describe the odd encounter.

She spotted it around 4 p.m. on Jan. 16, what would have been dusk. Bauer was driving to the bank, alone in her car.

“Right before the movie theater, I looked ahead of me and it was towards Superbear direction,” Bauer said, referencing the grocery store in the Mendenhall Mall and Gross Alaska Theatre’s Glacier Cinema.

There was rain on her windshield, so she turned on her wipers to clear the view.

That was when she saw a massive, jet-black bird with a short tail flying level with the treetops over Mendenhall Loop Road toward her. Bauer said the bird flapped its wings, soared a little higher, and flew at a fast clip over her car about 50 feet in the air.

“I looked up and right at that point, there was a gigantic, huge black bird flying right above my truck. It was basically following the roadway along the treetops.

“I slowed down to try to get a better look at it. It was heading toward the glacier, the wingspan was almost as wide as the road,” Bauer said, adding, “It was the biggest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. It was very concerning. I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Bauer said that it definitely had feathers, but she couldn’t make out a beak.

“The body of it itself had to have been six to eight feet,” Bauer said. “I know it sounds nuts — I’ve been getting a lot of crap on Facebook about it like I am crazy — but I wanted to post it in case anyone else had seen it.”

Another woman, who asked that the Empire use only her first name, Diane, said she saw something very similar — this time perched, or attempting to perch, in a tree near her house late at night a few years ago.

Diane went out to smoke a cigarette at her Lemon Creek home and noticed that all the birds in the area were excited.

“All you heard was the whooshing sound in my tree. I went inside and grabbed a flashlight. It was so large, I couldn’t even get an outline of what type of bird it was,” Diane said.

Diane noticed downed branches littered her yard in the morning.

“That sounds crazy, but it was huge,” she said. “I don’t even go camping anymore.”

Similar sightings

Both of these accounts sound similar to a national headline-making event in 2002, when a very large bird was spotted in Southcentral Alaska.

A heavy equipment operator from Togiak spotted the bird then.

“At first I thought it was one of those old-time Otter planes,” the Alaska Dispatch News (now the Anchorage Daily News) quoted Moses Coupchiak, 43, a heavy equipment operator from Togiak, as saying. “Instead of continuing toward me, it banked to the left, and that’s when I noticed it wasn’t a plane.”

So what could this be? It’s debatable what the biggest bird in Alaska is, but one candidate is the black-footed albatross, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service raptor biologist Steve Lewis said. They can have a wingspan of 6-8 feet.

But it’s highly unlikely an albatross would venture into the valley. Strong winds can sometimes blow an albatross inland, but they’re generally ocean-going birds that stick to the coast, Lewis said.

“Over the water there’s a potential to see something that may have wings like an albatross, but wouldn’t be jet black and wouldn’t be over the valley at all,” Lewis said.

The Stellar’s eagle is another candidate. Like the black-footed albatross, those can have a wingspan of 6-8 feet. They generally don’t venture as far north as Juneau, but as recently as the 1990s they were consistently spotted only a few miles from Juneau on the Taku River, near Canada.

A third, and more likely explanation is that the bird was an immature female bald eagle. Those are the largest birds that are frequently in the area, Lewis said. Young bald eagles have bigger feathers than older eagles, he explained, which aid them as they learn to fly and can make them look larger than they are.

Female bald eagles are generally larger than their male counterparts, Lewis added. Their job in a mating pair is to defend the nest, so it helps to be big and imposing to scare off potential nest robbers.

Bauer and Diane were both adamant about the size of the bird, so neither the albatross, Steller’s eagle or immature female bald eagle squares with their account. They’re both too small and the wrong colors.

The Federal Aviation Administration didn’t return calls to this story, but since both eyewitnesses described seeing this thing flap its wings, it’s unlikely it was a glider or a large drone, by their accounts.


• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 or[email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.

Tsunami Warning Canceled After 7.9 Earthquake Just Off Of Alaska

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Forecasters canceled tsunami warnings for Alaska and the US and Canadian west coasts Tuesday after an earthquake in the Gulf of Alaska stoked fears of damaging waves.

The tsunami alerts were canceled “because additional information and analysis have better defined the threat,” said the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska.
Small tsunami waves of less than 1 foot were reported in Alaska, the center said.
The minor tsunami was triggered by a magnitude-7.9 earthquake that struck the Gulf of Alaska shortly after midnight. It was centered about 175 miles southeast of Kodiak, Alaska, at a depth of 15 miles, the US Geological Survey said.
Although the tsunami warnings were canceled, San Francisco officials warned residents to stay away from coastlines for 12 hours.
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Shoreline areas, marinas and harbors may have “dangerous, strong & unpredictable currents,” the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management tweeted.

‘Whole town is evacuating’

Nathaniel Moore was on a commercial fishing boat in Kodiak when the quake hit. He said he felt it “shake really good for a minute.” He and others on the vessel quickly got to shore and headed for higher ground amid the tsunami warning.
“The whole town is evacuating,” he told CNN early Tuesday.
Tsunami sirens sounded in Kodiak, and police warned: “This is not a drill.”
Though the tsunami warnings were canceled, schools in Kodiak canceled classes Tuesday after campuses opened overnight as emergency shelters, the district announced via Facebook.
Wendy Bliss Snipes described the quake as “a slow roller, so it was felt for at least a minute before the real rolling started. Nothing fell off the walls, and I didn’t have to wake my kiddo.”
Heather Rand, who was in Anchorage, Alaska, told CNN that the earthquake felt like the longest she had ever experienced.
“It was a very long, slow build up. Creepy, more than anything. Definitely the longest, and I was born here,” Rand said. She reported no damage besides cracks in the drywall.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correctly attribute a quotation from an Alaska resident.

Alaska Publishes Proposed Rules for Cannabis Cafés

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF MPP)

 

Alaska Publishes Proposed Rules for Cannabis Cafés

 Aug 28, 2017  


The Alaska Marijuana Control Board published proposed rules for cannabis cafés. Please take a look and consider submitting written comments in support.

It’s important for the board to hear that the public wants adults to be allowed to consume cannabis at regulated establishments.

Comments are due by October 27 at 4:30 p.m., and they may be submitted by email to [email protected], or by regular mail. For more information on making submissions, please see the state’s public notice, available online here. While comments are not due until late October, we strongly encourage you to submit them early so that board members have time to review and consider submissions.

Under the current proposal, the state would allow cannabis flowers to be purchased and consumed on-site by vaporization or smoking, one gram at a time. Concentrates would not be available. Cannabis edibles and food that does not contain cannabis could also be available. A newly proposed addition to the rules would ensure cannabis café workers are not exposed to marijuana smoke while on duty.

The status quo is unworkable for the state’s tourists, and adult residents should not be relegated to private homes when alcohol consumers can choose from a variety of bars and restaurants. It is also important to ensure renters — whose leases may prohibit cannabis consumption — are not shut out of the freedoms Alaskan homeowners enjoy.


2 responses to “Alaska Publishes Proposed Rules for Cannabis Cafés”

  1. I am a retired law enforcement officer and I can tell you from experience that laws prohibiting marijuana are a waste of time when it is such a benign substance. Smoking marijuana is not worse than drinking an alcoholic beverage and should be treated the same under the law. In fact, many people become violent when they ingest alcoholic beverages but I have never heard of anyone becoming violent by using marijuana. Officers time would be better served out on the street looking for real crime and dangerous criminals. I am a member of LEAP which is a group of officers and retired or former officers who believe these same things. Marijuana is used for medical purpose and for pleasure to relax just like alcohol is.

  2. I am a retired law enforcement officer and I can tell you from experience that laws prohibiting marijuana are a waste of time when it is such a benign substance. Smoking marijuana is not worse than drinking an alcoholic beverage and should be treated the same under the law. In fact, many people become violent when they ingest alcoholic beverages but I have never heard of anyone becoming violent by using marijuana. Officers time would be better served out on the street looking for real crime and dangerous criminals. I am a member of LEAP which is a group of officers and retired or former officers who believe these same things.

Magnitude 7.8 quake between Russia and Alaska

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNBC AND REUTERS)

Magnitude 7.8 quake between Russia and Alaska to cause tsunami waves: US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center

2 Hours Ago

A view of the southern part of the Kamchatka Peninsula.

Yuri Smityuk | TASS | Getty Images
A view of the southern part of the Kamchatka Peninsula.

The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said Monday evening that a magnitude 7.8 earthquake had occurred off the coast of Russia’sKamchatka Peninsula.

“Based on preliminary earthquake parameters… hazardous tsunami waves are possible for coasts located within 300 km (186 miles) of the earthquake epicenter,” the center wrote in an official message.

Tsunami waves, however, were unlikely to reach Kamchatka’s eastern coast, some 500 km (310 miles) away.

The quake was followed by several aftershocks, including a couple above magnitude 5.0.

The earthquake was originally reported as a 7.4 magnitude, but it was subsequently upgraded to 7.8.

On Twitter, the center confirmed that it was not expecting tsunami conditions to impact North American coasts.

Tsunami Info Stmt: M7.4 140mi SE Bering I., Komandorski 1634PDT Jul 17: Tsunami NOT expected; CA,OR,WA,BC,and AK

7:43 PM – 17 Jul 2017

This is a breaking news story. Check back for updates.

—Reuters contributed to this report.

North Korea: Missile soared 1,741 miles high, marking successful test of ICBM  

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

North Korea: Missile soared 1,741 miles high, marking successful test of ICBM

North Korea fires ballistic missile ahead of G-20 summit
Days before world leaders are set to meet for the Group of 20 summit, North Korea claims it successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile. (Reuters)
 July 4 at 11:13 AM
 North Korea on Tuesday claimed it had successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile, a potential milestone in its campaign to develop a nuclear-tipped weapon capable of hitting the mainland United States.In a special announcement on state television, North Korea said it launched a Hwasong-14 missile that flew about 579 miles, reaching an altitude of 1,741 miles. The U.S. military said it was in the air for 37 minutes, a duration that signals a significant improvement in North Korea’s technology, experts said.
South Korean and Japanese authorities are now looking into whether it was indeed an ICBM; U.S. Pacific Command’s first statement on the test called it an intermediate range missile.Whatever the missile’s classification, Tuesday’s news will renew questions about the development of weapons that Trump, as president-elect, vowed to stop. It also looks set to put North Korea back at the top of the president’s agenda, most immediately at Group of 20 meetings in Germany this week. Continue reading North Korea: Missile soared 1,741 miles high, marking successful test of ICBM  

Teenager dies after being mauled by bear during race in Alaska

 

Teenager dies after being mauled by bear during race in Alaska

Authorities say a black bear killed a 16-year-old runner while he was competing in a race near Anchorage, Alaska, on Sunday.

Anchorage television station KTUU reports that the teenager, whose identity has not been released, was a participant in the juniors division of the Robert Spurr Memorial Hill Climb three-mile race between Anchorage and Girdwood.

Race director Brad Precosky said the runner had apparently made it to the halfway-point turnaround for juniors on steep Bird Ridge trail and was on his way down when he texted a family member that he was being chased by a bear.

Officials from a number of agencies responded up the mountain to locate the boy, whose body was found about a mile up the path, at about 1,500 vertical feet.

“This is the worst thing that could happen,” Precosky said.

Alaska State Troopers released a statement Sunday saying the boy’s remains were transported from the scene and his next of kin was notified.

A park ranger shot the 250-pound bear in the face, but it ran away.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Highest aviation alert level issued after Alaskan volcano erupts

(I PULLED THIS ARTICLE FROM TV CHANNEL 3 AND CNN)

Highest aviation alert level issued after Alaskan volcano erupts

A volcanic eruption Sunday prompted the temporary raising of the highest aviation alert, the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) said Sunday.

The event, which took place on Alaska’s Bogoslof Island, part of the Aleutian island chain, caused the issuance of a code “red” aviation alert, which was subsequently downgraded to “orange.”

The cloud from the eruption reached at least 35,000 ft., and possibly as high as 45,000 ft., the Observatory said.

“We actually went to color code red this afternoon because of numerous lightning detections and increased seismic signals,” Jeffrey Freymueller of the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks tells CNN.

“Lightning in the Aleutians is mostly due to volcanic plumes, as the meteorological conditions for lightning are not common,” Freymueller said.

“The combination of lightning and seismic data allowed us to go to red within about half an hour of the start of the eruption.”

The eruption lasted for about 50 minutes, the AVO said.

Flight path concern

The volcano sits under the flight path of many flights from Asia to North America and its ash cloud could adversely affect aircraft. “Ash and aircraft do not mix, as volcanic ash is abrasive, melts at jet engine temperatures, and can cause engine failure,” according to the United States Geological Survey.

Aircraft are often instructed to fly around or over ash clouds, although in some circumstances air traffic has been grounded due to the hazards from airborne ash. In 2010 the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland caused the cancellation of flights around Europe for six days.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last week said that flights were being rerouted around a similar ash cloud when the volcano previously erupted, according to CNN partner CBC.

‘Heightened state of unrest’

An image taken by AVO scientists around 14 minutes after the start of the eruption, from nearby Unalaska Island, showed a large white-gray mushroom cloud form over the site. Ash fallout was occurring to the west of the site, according to AVO.

Bogoslof volcano remains at a heightened state of unrest and in an unpredictable condition,” according to a report issued by the Observatory, which added that “additional explosions producing high-altitude volcanic clouds could occur at any time.”

It warns that continuing low-level activity could “pose a hazard in the immediate vicinity of the volcano.”

Previous volcanic activity earlier in 2017 “significantly changed the shape and coastline of the island” and the land mass tripled in size between early 2015 and January of this year.

There have been eight documented eruption events at Bogoslof, the most recent one in 1992. Previous eruption events have lasted weeks to months, according to the AVO. This current eruption sequence started in December, 2016.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Introduces Bill to Legalize Marijuana in Canada

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME)

 

Justin Trudeau Introduces Bill to Legalize Marijuana in Canada

3:51 PM ET

(TORONTO) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government introduced legislation Thursday to let adults possess 30 grams of marijuana in public — a measure that would make Canada the largest developed country to end a nationwide prohibition on recreational marijuana.

Trudeau has long promised to legalize recreational pot use and sales. U.S voters in California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada voted last year to approve the use of recreational marijuana, joining Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska.

The South American nation of Uruguay is the only nation to legalize recreational pot.

The proposed law allows four plants to be grown at home. Those under 18 found with less than five grams of marijuana would not face criminal charges but those who sell it or give to youth could face up to 14 years in jail.

“It’s too easy for our kids to get marijuana. We’re going to change that,” Trudeau said.

Officials said Canadians should be able to smoke marijuana legally by July 1, 2018. The federal government set the age at 18, but is allowing each of Canada’s provinces to determine if it should be higher. The provinces will also decide how the drug will be distributed and sold. The law also defines the amount of THC in a driver’s blood, as detected by a roadside saliva test, that would be illegal. Marijuana taxes will be announced at a later date.

The Canadian government closely followed the advice of a marijuana task force headed by former Liberal Health Minister Anne McLellan. That panel’s report noted public health experts tend to favor a minimum age of 21 as the brain continues to develop to about 25, but said setting the minimum age too high would preserve the illicit market.

Canadian youth have higher rates of cannabis use than their peers worldwide.

“If your objective is to protect public health and safety and keep cannabis out of the hands of minors, and stop the flow of profits to organized crime, then the law as it stands today has been an abject failure,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told a news conference. “Police forces spend between $2 billion and $3 billion every year trying to deal with cannabis, and yet Canadian teenagers are among the heaviest users in the western world … We simply have to do better.”

Goodale said they’ve been close touch with the U.S. government on the proposed law and noted exporting and importing marijuana will continue to be illegal.

“The regime we are setting up in Canada will protect our kids better and stop the flow of illegal dollars to organized crime. Our system will actually be the better one,” Goodale said.

But Christina Grant, a professor of pediatrics at McMaster University in Ontario, worries the government is conveying the message that marijuana is not harmful. She fears usage will go up because concerns about its safety will dissipate.

“One in seven youths who have used cannabis will develop an addiction to cannabis and that impacts your life, schooling, job prospects, social and emotional relationships,” she said. “And there is the risk of developing psychosis if you start using cannabis as a teenager. The more you use and the younger you start, you have up to four times the risk of developing some kind of psychotic illness.”

Former Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, who is the parliamentary secretary to the justice minister, said officials learned from the experiences from other jurisdictions like Colorado and Washington state.

While the government moves to legalize marijuana, retail outlets selling pot for recreational use have already been set up. Trudeau has emphasized current laws should be respected. Police in Toronto, Vancouver and other cities raided stores earlier last month and made arrests.

The news that Canada was soon going to announce the law was noticed online last month by Snoop Dogg , who tweeted “Oh Canada!” Canadian folk singer Pat Robitaille released a “Weed song” to coincide with the government’s announcement.

Study: States with medical marijuana have lower prescription drug use—Plus Fewer Drug Overdoses And Deaths

 

Study: States with medical marijuana have lower prescription drug use—This Causes Fewer Drug Overdoses And Fewer Drug Related Deaths As It Is Impossible To Overdose (Die) From Marijuana Usage!

Prescription drug prices are up, making policy experts increasingly anxious. But relief could come from a surprising source. Just ask Cheech and Chong.

New research found that states that legalized medical marijuana — which is sometimes recommended for symptoms like chronic pain, anxiety or depression — saw declines in the number of Medicare prescriptions for drugs used to treat those conditions and a dip in spending by Medicare Part D, which covers the cost on prescription medications.

The study, which appears in Health Affairs, examined data from Medicare Part D from 2010 to 2013. It is the first study to examine whether legalization changes doctors’ clinical practice and whether it could curb public health costs.

The findings add context to the debate as more lawmakers express interest in medical marijuana. Ohio and Pennsylvania have this year passed laws allowing the drug for therapeutic purposes, making the practice legal in 25 states, plus Washington D.C. The question could also come to a vote in Florida and Missouri this November. A federal agency is considering reclassifying it under national drug policy to make medical marijuana more readily available.

Medical marijuana saved Medicare about $165 million in 2013, the researchers concluded. They estimated that, if the policy were nationalized, Medicare Part D spending would have declined in the same year by about $470 million. That’s about half a percent of the program’s total expenditures.

That is an admittedly small proportion of the multi-billion dollar program. But the figure is nothing to sneeze at, said W. David Bradford, a professor of public policy at the University of Georgia and one of the study’s authors.

“We wouldn’t say that saving money is the reason to adopt this. But it should be part of the discussion,” he added. “We think it’s pretty good indirect evidence that people are using this as medication.”

The researchers found that in states with medical marijuana laws on the books, the number of drug prescriptions dropped for treating anxiety, depression, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders and spasticity. Those are all conditions for which marijuana is sometimes recommended. Prescriptions for other drugs treating other conditions, meanwhile, did not decline.

The study’s authors are separately investigating the impact medical marijuana could have on prescriptions covered by Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for low-income people. Though this research is still being finalized, they found a greater drop in prescription drug payments there, Bradford said.

If the trend bears out, it could have meaningful public health ramifications. As doctors and public health experts grapple with the consequences of excessive prescription painkiller use, medical marijuana could provide an alternate path. Experts say abuse of prescription painkillers — known as opioids — is in part driven by high prescribing. In states that legalized medical uses of marijuana, painkiller prescriptions dropped — on average, the study found, by about 1,800 daily doses filled each year per doctor. That tracks with other research on the subject.

Questions exist, though, about the possible health harms or issues that could result from regular use.

It’s unlike other drugs, such as opioids, in which overdoses are fatal, said Deepak D’Souza, a professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, who has researched the drug.

“That doesn’t happen with marijuana,” he added. “But there are whole other side effects and safety issues we need to be aware of.”

“A lot of people also worry that marijuana is a drug that can be abused,” agreed Bradford. “Just because it’s not as dangerous as some other dangerous things, it doesn’t mean you want to necessarily promote it. There’s a lot of unanswered questions.”

Meanwhile, it is difficult to predict how many people will opt for this choice instead of meds like antidepressants or opioids.

Because the federal government labels marijuana as a Schedule I drug, doctors can’t technically prescribe it. In states that have legalized medical marijuana, they can only write patients a note sending them to a dispensary. Insurance plans don’t cover it, so patients using marijuana pay out-of-pocket. Prices vary based on geography, but a patient’s recommended regimen can be as much as $400 per month. The federal Drug Enforcement Agency is considering changing that classification — a decision is expected sometime this summer. If the DEA made marijuana a Schedule II drug, that would put it in the company of drugs such as morphine and oxycodone, making it easier for doctors to prescribe and more likely that insurance would cover it.

To some, the idea that medical marijuana triggers costs savings is hollow. Instead, they say it is cost shifting. “Even if Medicare may be saving money, medical marijuana doesn’t come for free,” D’Souza said. “I have some trouble with the idea that this is a source of savings.”

Still, Bradford maintains that if the industry expanded and medical marijuana became a regular part of patient care nationally, the cost curve would bend because marijuana is cheaper than other drugs.

Lester Grinspoon, an associate professor emeritus of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, who has written two books on the subject, echoed that possibility. Unlike with many drugs, he argued, “There’s a limit to how high a price cannabis can be sold at as a medicine.” He is not associated with the study.

And, in the midst of the debate about its economics, medical marijuana still sometimes triggers questions within the practice of medicine.

“As physicians, we are used to prescribing a dose. We don’t have good information about what is a good dose for the treatment for, say pain,” D’Souza said. “Do you say, ‘Take two hits and call me in the morning?’ I have no idea.”

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Anchorage Alaska: 9 Murders: No Answers Yet

(This article is courtesy of the Seattle PI News and the Associated Press)

Rash of unsolved homicides puts people on edge in Anchorage

Updated 12:32 am, Saturday, September 3, 2016

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A rash of unsolved outdoor homicides in Alaska’s largest city is putting residents on edge.

Altogether, the deaths of nine people who were killed on Anchorage trails, parks and isolated streets since January remain unsolved — among them three cases involving two victims each.

“It’s terrifying,” said Jennifer Hazen, a longtime resident who lives near Valley of the Moon Park, where two people were found dead early Sunday, one of them on a park bike trail. Hazen walks in the park regularly, and finds some comfort in knowing the unsolved homicides occurred in the middle of the night when she wouldn’t be out there anyway.

“I’m just really shocked about all this happening,” said another resident, Yegor Christman as he walked his dog on the bike trail. “I thought I lived in a pretty safe area.”

Adding to the feeling of vulnerability, Anchorage has had 25 homicides this year. That’s the same number the city had for the entire year in 2015. Even though the number is high, police point out that 1995, with 29 homicides, had the highest numbers in the last two decades.

With 15 homicides since late June, police issued an unusual public advisory this week urging residents to be “extra aware” of their surroundings, noting that crimes often increase at night and early in the morning.

“APD wants to remind our citizens to be cautious when they are out during these hours, especially if they are in isolated areas like our parks, bike trails or unoccupied streets,” the police department wrote. “If you plan to be out late at night, make sure you travel with several friends and not alone.”

Police Chief Chris Tolley downplayed the significance of the advisory, saying police often remind the public to be safe, sometimes through a text messaging system. Earlier this year, police issued a similar safety alert after a series of car break-ins and thefts, Tolley said. The goal was the same in this week’s advisory, to inform the public.

“This is no different,” he said. “We want our public to be proactive. So this is really a plea to them in their personal safety.”

Three of the victims were found alone. Two of those victims had been shot, according to police, who will not say how the other seven died. They won’t say what details have been shared with the families of the victims. Relatives could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.

Police have released few details on any of the cases, saying investigators haven’t made any clear connections between the victims. Asked if police believe a serial killer could be on the loose, police spokeswoman Jennifer Castro said police always try to determine if unsolved crimes are related.

The only common denominators found among the victims are that the deaths occurred outdoors, in the early hours and in isolated places such as trails and unoccupied streets.

John McCleary is a longtime volunteer with the city’s Trail Watch program, which was started in 2006 after a string of assaults, mostly against women, on local trails. Trail Watch volunteers serve two purposes, to be the eyes for the police department, reporting any problems, and to create safer conditions on 300 miles of trails with such efforts as cutting down vegetation.

But McCleary, the former director of the program for the city, said he’s never seen a situation with so many unsolved killings — and he’s been connected with city trails since the late 1970’s. He says he feels angry and frustrated that people can’t enjoy the trails like they could a decade ago.

“This is … so abnormal,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like I’m in the same city.”

Randall Alcala walks almost daily along the downtown Ship Creek Trail, where two homicide victims were found dead in July. But those deaths, even though unsolved, don’t make him feel unsafe.

He just saw a black bear on the trail about a week ago, and is more leery of run-ins with one of the city’s hundreds of bears.

___

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