The best way to protect bears and other iconic Alaska wildlife is if we keep their habitat wild and intact. However, if wild Alaska happens to be right outside your door, getting too friendly can pose threats to humans and wildlife alike. So here are two basic rules to help keep everybody safe!
Rule #1: Do not feed wildlife!
Bears can detect food from up to 20 miles away, so it is EXTREMELY important to keep your edibles locked up and out of reach of our furry friends. A fed bear could mean a dead bear, because once conditioned to accept food from people, bears can become aggressive with humans. And aggressive behavior usually results in the elimination of the bear.
With that in mind, here’s how to keep bears away from your food:
– Do not leave your food unattended, and if camping, keep it stored well away from your campsite. Keep food locked in bear-proof containers or locked cars. Or, create a food cache by hanging food from two trees, as shown below.
– Pack out all trash and take it with you. DO NOT BURY IT. Bears have excellent noses and will find it.
NOTE: Bears are not the only animals that become aggressive when fed by humans. Moose are also dangerous and are more likely to charge if they have become accustomed to being fed.
Rule #2: Do not approach wildlife!
This includes bears, musk oxen, moose – you name it. In fact, you may not know it but moose injure more people each year in Alaska than bears do. Most moose are not aggressive, but if possible, you should take an alternate path rather than approach one. And, if a moose (or musk oxen) charges, try and find cover behind a solid object like a tree.
This is different from a bear confrontation, in which one should never run. If you do come across a bear, STAY CALM. Bears are generally curious and rarely attack. If it is at a distance or hasn’t seen you, slowly turn and back away, and make a wide arc around it. If that option isn’t available, make yourself as large as possible and speak loudly. Begin to back away in a diagonal direction, however, if the bear follows, STOP. If a bear does advance, then curl up to protect yourself. Carrying bear spray is also an option.
For more tips on wildlife encounters, click below!
The Alaska Department of Natural Resources has a variety of tips specifically about bear encounters that you can review here.
For more information about how to protect yourself and wildlife, check out this guide from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.