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Hunters should be bear-aware when in the field

Posted: Friday, August 12, 2005

Alone, well-camouflaged and moving very quietly, hunters are always at risk of encountering a bear while in pursuit of other species of game on the Kenai Peninsula.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game encourages all hunters to take necessary precautions to avoid being injured or killed, or doing the same to bears.

“The most important thing is to be very alert,” said Alaska Department of Fish and Game area manager Jeff Selinger.

He said hunters should avoid tunnel vision — whether moving to the hunting site or are already there — and take frequent breaks from peering through binoculars or the scope of a rifle to look around and assess the surroundings.

“Look for signs of bears, such as trails, fresh tracks or droppings,” Selinger said.

He also suggested hunters go with partners or in groups, as opposed to being alone in the woods.

“The more eyes the better,” Selinger said. He added that two or more people are also a better deterrent to a bear should one be encountered.

If thinking about trying to call in a moose — whether with cow calls, raking trees and brush with a scapula to mimic a rutting bull, or by other means — Selinger said use caution.

“Hunters should be aware they can also call in predators, so, that animal rustling toward you through the brush could be a moose or it could be something else brown,” he said.

Once a moose or other animal is down and the kill has been made, Selinger recommends keeping bears in mind while gutting, quartering and packing the meat away from the site.

“As soon as possible you want to get that meat away from the gut pile — at least 100 yards away,” he said. Selinger added that meat should also be at least 100 yards away from a hunter’s campsite.

Meat also should be carried and never dragged, which could leave a scent trail for bears.

Ideally, this practice allows bears the opportunity to scavenge the gut pile, rather than pursuing a meal of the meat being carried away by the hunter.

“If your going to make repeated trips — which with a moose you pretty much have to — put the meat in game bags and get them hung at least 15 feet off the ground and away from where a bear could reach if they climb the tree.

“If there’s no place to hang them, try to put them someplace that is clear and open so you can see the area from a distance,” Selinger said.

He also recommends flagging or marking the locations in some way — if the meat requires more than one trip — so as to make the hunter’s return safer.

“Then you know when your getting close so you can look ahead. Always use caution when you approach,” Selinger said.

He also said if a hunter has a partner, the two should go together, keeping their firearms with them at all times.

Also, as with virtually everything that takes place after the kill, Selinger recommends being loud.

“Your hunt’s almost done, the animal is in the bag so to speak, so there’s no reason not to talk and make noise while packing out the meat and going to and from where the meat is,” he said.

This often will alert bruins to a hunter’s presence or approach so that a bear milling about in the area can move off on its own without any interaction.

However, Selinger said if for some reason a bear does find the meat, hunters should remember that the bruin cannot be killed in defense of life or property for claiming the hunter’s game.

“That’s not to say you can’t shoot a bear in a DLP situation if it comes barreling at you, but if it’s showing aggression defending the meat, just back off,” he said.

He added that if the bear is already on the meat, it is potentially ruined anyway, so there really is no sense risking life and limb.

Selinger also recommends hunters keep a clean camp.

“All food should be stored away from the main camp, either in bear resistant containers or by being hung 15 feet of the ground.

“Blood-soaked clothes and gear should also be stored away from camp, in plastic bags with the food or meat,” Selinger said.

He added that hunters also can put up string attached to a bell or noise maker around their camp, to alert them if a bear or other animal is approaching.

Also, Selinger said hunters — like anyone making a trip to the outdoors for a day or more than a day — should tell someone where they are going, how long they are going for and when they are coming back.

For more information on bears or bear safety, contact Fish and Game by calling 262-9368, or by going on the Internet to: www.alaskabears.alaska.gov.



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