Bear Facts Bear Facts

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Bear Facts

It is very important for your safety that you read this!!!!
Print a copy here.

Kodiak bears are the largest bears in the world. A large male can stand over 10' tall when on his hind legs, and 5' when on all four legs. They weigh up to 1,500 pounds. Females are about 20% smaller, and 30% lighter than males. The Kodiak Island bear population is around 3,500 Kodiak bears; a density of about 0.7 bears per square mile.

Bears are curious, intelligent and potentially dangerous animals, but undue fear of bears can endanger both bears and people. Many bears are killed each year by people who are afraid of them. Respecting bears and learning proper behavior in their territory will help so that if you encounter a bear, neither of you will suffer needlessly from the experience.

Most bears tend to avoid people. In most cases, if you give a bear the opportunity to do the right thing, it will. Surprisingly few people see bears and only a tiny percentage of those few are ever threatened by a bear. Most people who see a bear consider it the highlight of their trip. The presence of these majestic creatures is a reminder of how privileged we are to share some of the country's dwindling wilderness.

Bears and People

Bears Don't Like Surprises! If you are hiking through bear country, make your presence known-especially where the terrain or vegetation makes it hard to see. Make noise, sing, talk loudly or tie a bell to your pack. If possible, travel with a group. Groups are noisier and easier for bears to detect. Avoid thick brush. If you can't try to walk with the wind at your back so your scent will warn bears of your presence. Contrary to popular belief, bears can see almost as well as people, but they trust their noses much more than their eyes or ears. Always let bears know you are there.

Bears, like humans, use trails and roads. Don't sit up camp close to a trail they might use. Detour around areas where you see or smell carcasses of fish or animals, or see scavengers congregated. A bearís food may be there and if the bear is nearby, it may defend the cache aggressively.

Don't Crowd Bears!
Give bears plenty of room. Some bears are more tolerant than other, but every bear has a "personal space"-the distance within which a bear feels threatened. If you stray within that zone, a bear may react aggressively. When photographing bears, use long lenses; getting close for a great shot could put you inside the danger zone.

Bears Are Always Looking For Something To Eat!
Bears have only about six months to build up fat reserves for their long winter hibernation. Don't let them learn human food or garbage is an easy meal. It is both foolish and illegal to feed bears, either on purpose or by leaving food or garbage that attracts them.

Cook away from your tent
. Store all food away from your campsite. Hang food out of reach of bears if possible. If no trees are available, store your food in airtight or specially designed bear-proof containers. Remember, pets and their food may also attract bears.

Keep a clean camp.
Wash your dishes. Avoid smelly food like bacon and smoked fish. Keep food smells off your clothing. Burn garbage completely in a hot fire and pack out the remains. Food and garbage are equally attractive to a bear so treat them with equal care. Burying garbage is a waste of time. Bears have keen noses and are great diggers.

If a bear approaches while you are fishing, stop fishing
. If you have a fish on your line, don't let it splash. If that's not possible, cut your line. If a bear learns to can obtain fish just by approaching fishermen, it will return for more.

Close Encounters: What To Do

If you see a bear, avoid it if you can. Give the bear every opportunity to avoid you. If you encounter a bear at close distance, remain calm. Attacks are rare. Chances are, you are not in danger. Most bears are interested in protecting food, cubs or their "personal space." Once the threat is removed, they will move on. Remember the following:

Identify Yourself
Let the bear know you are human. Talk to the bear in a normal voice. Wave your arms. Help the bear recognize you. If a bear cannot tell what you are, it may come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better look or smell. A standing bear is usually curious, not threatening. You may try to back away slowly diagonally, but if the bear follows, stop and hold your ground.

Don't Run
You can't outrun a bear. They have been clocked at speeds up to 35 mph, and like dogs, they will chase fleeing animals. Bears often make bluff charges, sometimes to within 10 feet of their adversary, without making contact. Continue waving your arms and talking to the bear. If the bear gets too close, raise your voice and be more aggressive. Bang pots and pans. Use noisemakers. Never imitate bear sounds or make a high-pitched squeal.

If Attacked
If a bear actually makes contact, surrender! Fall to the ground and play dead. Lie flat on your stomach, or curl up in a ball with your hands behind your neck. Typically, a bear will break off its attack once it feel the threat has been eliminated. Remain motionless for as long as possible. If you move, and the bear sees or hears you, it may return and renew its attack. In rare instances, particularly with black bears, and attacking bear may perceive a person as food. If the bear continues biting you long after you assume a defensive posture, it likely is a predatory attack. Fight back vigorously.

Protection

Firearms should never be used as an alternative to common-sense approaches to bear encounters. If you are inexperienced with a firearm in emergency situations, you are more likely to be injured by a gun than a bear. It is illegal to carry firearms in some of Alaska's national parks, so check before you go.

A .300-Magnum rifle or a 12-guage shotgun with rifled slugs are appropriate weapons if you have to shoot a bear. Heavy handguns such as a .44-Magnum may be inadequate in emergency situations, especially in untrained hands.

State law allows a bear to be shot in self-defense if you did not provoke the attack and if there is no alternative, but the hide and skull must be salvages and turned over to the authorities.

Defensive aerosol sprays which contain capsicum (red pepper extract) have been used with some success for protection against bears. These sprays may be effective at a range of 6-8 yards. If discharged upwind or in a vehicle, they can disable the user. Take appropriate precautions. If you carry a spray can, keep it handy and know how to use it.

In Summary

Avoid surprising bears at close distance; look for signs of bears and make plenty of noise.
Avoid crowding bears; respect their "personal space."
Avoid attracting bears through improper handling of food or garbage.
Plan ahead, stay calm, identify yourself, don't run.

For additional information about traveling in bear country, please contact one of the following agencies which participated in publication of this brochure:

Alaska Department of Fish and Game
Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Divisions of Forestry and Parks and Outdoor Recreation
Alaska Department of Public Safety, Division of Fish & Wildlife Protection
Alaska Natural History Association
U.S. Bureau of Land Management
National Park Service
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
U.S.D.A. Forest Service

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