Marine Mammals Management
Alaska Region


Polar Bear

Deterrence Guidelines

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced final deterrence guidelines that may be safely used to deter a polar bear without seriously injuring or causing the death of the animal.  The deterrence guidelines, which take effect November 5, 2010, are voluntary and are intended to reduce occurrences of interactions between bears and humans in manners safe for both. They provide clear guidance for minimizing incidental encounters with polar bears, but will not change the legal status quo for any activities in Alaska.

The deterrence guidelines include 2 levels:

(1) Passive deterrence measures – these are measures intended to prevent polar bears from gaining access to property or people.  They include:

(i) Rigid fencing and other fixed barriers such as gates and fence skirting.
(ii) Bear exclusion cages, which provide a protective shelter for people. 
(iii) Bear-proof garbage containers to exclude bears from accessing garbage as a food. 

(2) Preventive deterrence measures – these are measures intended to dissuade a polar bear from initiating an interaction with property or people.  These include:

(i) Acoustic devices that create an auditory disturbance.
(ii) Vehicle or boat deterrence, e.g. patrolling the periphery of an area.

In finalizing these guidelines the Service is mindful of the inherent risks to humans associated with the act of deterring a large carnivore such as the polar bear, as well the Marine Mammal Protection Act’s (MMPA) intent that acceptable acts of deterrence are those that safely deter but do not result in death or serious injury.  Therefore, these guidelines are benign in nature.  While some parties may believe they do not go far enough, we do not believe more active deterrence measures are appropriate for these guidelines.

Independent of these deterrence guidelines, and under separate provisions of the MMPA, the Service does authorize active hazing measures that may be taken to stop bear activity patterns or to remove an individual animal from areas of human populations or work environs. In addition, the lethal taking of a polar bear in defense of life (but not property) is an exempted action under the MMPA. These deterrence guidelines serve to complement such authorized activities and not supersede them.

Last updated: March 2017