Discover Kodiak Blog

Bear Safety Tips

Written by: Posted on: December 31, 1969 at 7:00PMPosted in: Main Topic

Among the top attractions of Kodiak Island is the desire to see a Kodiak Brown Bear. While there are various ways to admire these powerful creatures at a safe distance, it is also possible to stumble upon one when you are not expecting it. Bears are curious creatures that can potentially be dangerous. Typically bears tend to avoid people. Bear sightings while enjoying the outdoors are uncommon—and bear attacks are even less common. If you plan on hiking, camping, or exploring the Alaskan wilderness, it is essential that you are adequately prepared for an encounter of this nature. Kodiak Island is bear country, there are approximately 3500 bears on the Kodiak Archipelago and this number is only increasing. Being “bear aware” and informed of proper behavior can help you avoid conflict while enjoying your stay in Kodiak.

Bear signs are easy to spot if you know what you are looking for. Being able to identify these signs will help you choose campsites and hiking trails that show the least amount of bear sign, as well as those farthest away from seasonal bear foraging areas. Making sure to cook, store, and dispose of food correctly is another important factor in avoiding an unwanted bear encounter.

While trekking the vast wilderness and recreational sites, always be alert and looking for signs that bears are in the area. Choose your campsite carefully; do not set up camp near trails, streams, or in the intertidal zone. Watch for bear scat or tracks, especially those that are fresh and/or abundant. Any large dug up holes may indicate foraging sites, day beds, or belly holes. Avoid any areas close to salmon streams or areas where the terrain/vegetation makes it hard to see. It is important to make noise (sing, clap, talk) while hiking or camping to make your presence known. Neither you nor the bear want to be surprised by each other!

Bears are always looking for food, as they only have a few months to build up their fat reserves for winter hibernation. There are a few things that you can do while cooking and storing food at your campsite to ensure that you will not attract bears. Keep your food and cosmetics in an airtight or BRFC (bear resistant food container) at all times when not in use. Prepare, consume, and store food at least 100 yards away from tent site. Keeping a clean campsite is also crucial, as bears are equally attracted to trash and food. Burn all trash items completely in your fire, wash dishes and avoid particularly smelly food.

If you do see a bear, stay calm and do not run. If the bear has not spotted you, back away slowly, keeping your eyes on the bear. If the bear does notice you, face it, wave your arms, and talk to it calmly. If a bear is surprised at a close distance, it may feel threatened and act defensively. If the bear strikes or bites you, lie on your front, protect your face and neck, and remain still. Fight back if the bear attack is prolonged.

All of the tips listed above will contribute immensely to your safety while exploring the outdoors. Some people choose to bring bear spray or firearms as protection. These methods can be effective in a close range, as long as you are fully informed on how to operate them.

 

 

Sources:

USDA & Alaska Department of Fish & Game “Alaska Wildlife Checklist”, “Know Your Bear Facts”

National Park Service “Bear Safety in Alaska’s National Parklands”

 

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