I wish longtime Anchorage wildlife biologist Rick Sinnott had never retired, because when he was dealing with troublesome bears and moose, he was too busy to dabble in writing columns for a local news website.
As a writer, Sinnott makes a good biologist.
His anti-bike diatribe on the Alaska Dispatch site this week was a sorry piece of work. If you want to read it, you’ll have to look it up, because I won’t be linking to that lame little manifesto. It was an ineloquent rant by a guy who enjoys birding in his spare time and thinks anyone who rides a mountain bike on singletrack is a gonzo-crazed adrenalin junkie who doesn’t really value the outdoors. (We can’t all spend our weekends stalking yellow warblers.)
The column drips with sarcasm, and blames recent moose encounters on Singletrack Advocates for building a new Kincaid Park trail network that Sinnott describes as “a race track in the woods. A moose-begotten motocross.”
Sinnott can be forgiven for having a soft spot for big critters. In his old job, the guy killed enough bears and moose to get damn sick and tired of having to do it. Unfortunately, his usual response to any human/animal conflict became a predictable call for humans to stay away from wildlife habitat.
Sinnott’s advice always reminds me of the joke about the old man who went to the clinic and said, “Doc, it hurts when I do this,” so his doctor simply replied, “Well, stop doing that.”
Staying out of wildlife habitat isn’t always practical for anyone who lives in Alaska and wants to hike, run or pedal a bike during our extremely short summers. Besides, moose encounters are nothing new at Kincaid. They didn’t start because Singletrack Advocates built some new trails. Ask any runner, Nordic skier or mountain biker who has used the park for a few years, and you’ll get an earful of stories about close calls
Thanks for your heartfelt criticism of our sport, Mr. Sinnott. And for the touching advice to make sure we have good health insurance policies.
Some of us will no doubt choose to avoid the park during certain parts of the season, while others of us will just keep taking our chances and being as careful as we can. We accept a certain amount of risk with animals just like we accept the risk of falling off our bikes, and the danger of car accidents while driving across town to the trailhead.
We’ll try to avoid trouble, but we won’t cower from it. If we wanted to do that, we’d sell our bikes and take up birding.