Bear Activity on Oak Island Causes Restricted Access

Bayfield, WI (National Park Service News Release) – All public uses on Oak Island within Apostle Islands National Lakeshore are temporarily restricted to trained park staff due to unusual bear behaviors. This restriction is in effect beginning 8:00 am on August 28, 2020 until the bear no longer exhibits these behaviors. Public uses on Oak island are temporarily closed however public access to the rest of the park’s 20 islands remains open. 

“Multiple reports were received this month of a bear following researchers, park staff, and visitors and ignoring attempts to scare it away,” said park superintendent Lynne Dominy. “For public and employee safety, we have restricted access to Oak Island to only park staff who are trained in bear deterrence techniques.”   

Oak Island, one of the largest and closest islands to the mainland, has a very high density of bears. This time of year, bears are in-between food sources.  The berry season has ended and acorns and other nuts are not yet available, causing a reduction in their food supply and changes to their feeding behaviors. This happens annually, although most black bears avoid human interaction, run from noise, and respond to human attempts to scare them away.  

“Trained staff haze bears with a variety of techniques, including those that make noise, have a flash of light, and rubber bullets to discourage their presence in visitor use areas and from approaching people,” said park Chief of Resource Management Julie Van Stappen. “Learning this behavior then enables the bears and the people to both use these islands without negative interactions.” 

Remember, the park is bear country and bears can occur anywhere within the park:  

🐻 Remain at least 50 feet from a bear.   

🐻 If you encounter a bear on the trail, let it know you are there and back away slowly. If it follows you or doesn’t back away, make yourself big (raise your arms), and yell, until it leaves the area.  

🐻 If a bear approaches you near a dock, campsite, or picnic area, make yourself big (raise your arms), and yell, until it leaves the area.   

🐻 Be sure to keep your food and other smelly items locked on a boat or in a bear resistant food locker when not in use.   

Thanks for your help staying safe and keeping our bears wild!  

For your safety, we ask that you enjoy another island or mainland location within the park.  The many trails and beaches within the rest of the park remain open.  The closure will be re-evaluated weekly.  As soon as it appears the bear will stay away from visitor use areas, the public access to Oak Island will be restored. Trails on Oak were the hardest hit by recent storms and sections are currently impassable. Those trails will remain closed until trail crews can remove hazard and downed trees. 

If contemplating a visit to a national park during this pandemic, the NPS asks visitors to adhere to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local public health authorities to protect visitors and employees.  This includes staying at home, with limited exceptions and, if using shared or outdoor space, maintaining social distancing of at least six feet.  As of September 3rd, community spread of the virus continues and forty-seven cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Bayfield County, and the county is asking all seasonal residents to stay in their winter homes due to limited health services and supplies in this area.  A high percentage of the local population is over 65 so COVID-19 exposure could have devastating consequences to this at-risk community. 

The NPS encourages you to take advantage of the many digital tools already available to explore Apostle Islands National Lakeshore from home, including the lakeshore website and Facebook page. Teleworking park educators are creating fun learning tools for kids. Parents and teachers can find resources at, with more resources added every week. 

Updates about NPS operations will be posted on Please check with individual parks for specific details about park operationsFor more information about Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, visit or call (715) 779-3338. Virtual park visitor centers are open with hours and services shown on the park website and Facebook.

(Editor’s note: The bear image is a file photo)