Alaska is fortunate to be home to these amazing creatures.
With this privilege comes the added responsibility for hikers and campers to
prevent conflicts with these animals. Often these conflicts are a result of
human carelessness, especially with food. Bears are opportunistic feeders,
which mean they will eat whatever they can find most easily. Bears have an
excellent memory, and once they identify a place where food can be found, they
will return to look for more. Therefore, it is important that they don't
consider campsites and other populated areas as a food source. Following bear
safety guidelines can prevent a dangerous situation for both humans and bears.
Avoiding a Bear Encounter
While out on the trail, it is important to make noise; sing,
talk loudly, or carry a bear bell; especially through areas with poor
visibility. If possible, walk with the wind at your back. This alerts bears to
your presence and gives them enough time to clear out. Bears are most likely to
charge when they feel threatened or when their "space" has been
invaded. Avoid areas where bears are likely to be looking for food, such as
streams containing spawning salmon and berry patches. If you come across an
animal carcass, leave the area. A bear will often attack if its food supply is
tampered with. If you notice fresh bear sign, such as scat or tracks, turn back
the way you came.
There are also special precautions to take while camping.
Camp at least 200 yards from trails. Bears use the same trails as people as
they move through their territories. As with hiking, avoid areas where bears
are most likely to feed. Choose a spot that offers good visibility of the area
around you. Cook food 200 yards downwind from your tent site; and avoid foods
with strong odors, such as fish and bacon. Wash all cooking and eating utensils
thoroughly. Food scraps should be saved and packed out. Store food and garbage
in air tight containers 200 yards from your tent (preferably hanging from a
If a Bear Encounter Happens...
When you encounter a bear, the way you react could determine
whether or not the bear will charge. Never run from a bear; the bear might
perceive you as prey and follow in pursuit. Instead, wave your arms, talk to
the bear and identify yourself as human. Slowly back off, and avoid eye contact
with the bear, which the bear may see as a challenge. If the bear should
approach you, stand still; a bear may often bluff charge and come to within ten
feet of a person and then back off. If the bear actually does attack you, curl
up in a ball with your hands clasped behind your neck. Leaving your backpack on
offers added protection for your back and neck.