Denali National Park and Preserve is home to both black bears and grizzly bears. Black bears inhabit the forested areas of the park, while grizzly bears mainly live on the open tundra. Almost all bears seen by visitors along the Park Road are grizzlies. The bears of Denali are wild creatures, free to behave as they wish. If annoyed, these solitary animals can be very dangerous to intruders. For your own protection, and to keep Denali bears healthy and wild, please carefully read and abide by these rules.
If You Encounter a Bear
- Do not run
Running may elicit a chase response. Bears can run faster than 30 mph (50 km/hr). You cannot outrun them. If the bear is unaware of you, detour quickly and quietly away. Give the bear plenty of room, allowing it to continue its activities undisturbed. Back away slowly if the bear is aware of you. Speak in a low, calm voice while waving your arms slowly above your head. Bears that stand up on their hind legs are not threatening you, but merely trying to identify you.
- Hold your ground
Should a bear approach or charge you, do not run, do not drop to your pack. Bears sometimes charge, coming within ten feet of a person before stopping or veering off. Dropping a pack may encourage the bear to approach people for food. STAND STILL until the bear moves away, then slowly back off.
- Play dead if contacted by a grizzly
If a grizzly makes contact with you, play dead. Curl up into a ball with your knees tucked into your stomach and your hands laced around the back of your neck. Leave your pack on to protect your back. Statistically, most grizzly bear attacks are short, defensive reactions by grizzlies feeling threatened by you. However, if the attack is prolonged, fight back vigorously.
- Fight back against black bears
If a black bear makes contact with you, fight back. Their charges are less likely to be a bluff.
Report all bear incidents and encounters to a ranger. Park rangers and biologists need this information to document bear behavior for research and management purposes.
Denali is home to sheep, caribou, wolves, foxes, bears, moose, eagles, ptarmigan, and other wildlife that you are very likely to encounter in the backcountry. Please keep Denali’s animals wild by following these guidelines when encountering wildlife:
- Do not feed or allow wildlife to obtain human foods.
- Maintain a minimum 300 yards (meters) distance from bears.
- Do not approach or follow wildlife. Maintain a minimum 25 yards distance from all other animals, dens, and nests.
- If your presence alters an animal’s behavior, you are too close.