Be bear aware

Posted: Friday, April 19, 2002

Warmer weather in Alaska and more sunlight means people will begin spending more time outdoors. Enjoying Alaska's wilderness, however, means coexisting with Alaska's wildlife. And that includes brown and black bears.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife technician Larry Lewis suggests some ways to stay safe around bears, both in the wilderness and around home.

Never take it for granted that there aren't bears around -- even in town.

Keep a clean camp site. Keep food up high or locked in a safe place. Cook away from your camp site. Keep food out of your tent. Keep food odor to a minimum.

If you're hiking, you're always safer to hike with group or partner. Keep up some conversation, or make some noise to let them know you're around. Avoid surprising them.

If you're in an area where you're unable to see due to brush, that is the time to make noise to let them know you're there.

Avoid hiking near salmon streams unless fishing.

Avoid jogging alone in outlying areas.

If you see a bear before it sees you, try to move out of its path.

Stay away from cubs.

If you encounter a bear, you should stand your ground, identify yourself by talking loudly and waving your hands over your head. Upon initial encounter, try to appear as big as possible. Watch the bear, and watch its body language. Back slowly away from the bear while being as non-threatening as possible. If possible, give the animal space.

If you think the bear is going to make contact, hit the dirt, play dead. Brown bears rarely eat people, they generally want to eliminate the threat. With black bears, you have to be aggressive. If a black bear attacks, you definitely want to fight back.

Only carry a firearm if you feel capable and confident with a weapon.

Never run from a bear. It triggers instinctive behavior: food runs.

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