Most people who see a bear in the wild consider it the highlight of their trip. However, food conditioned bears (bears that have become accustomed to human food and petroleum-based products, such as fuel and bug repellent in aerosol cans) can present a hazard to people traveling in the backcountry. If we all do our best to prevent negative interactions with bears and other wild animals, the backcountry will be a safer place for all, including the bear.
Avoiding Bear Encounters
If You Encounter a Bear
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.
A word about firearms and bear repellent sprays:
Firearms should never be used as an alternative to common sense and sound bear avoidance principle. They are to be used for protection only as a last resort when an attack is imminent. Bears will sometime approach to within 10 feet before turning and running away. It is legal to shoot a bear in defense of life or property in Alaska ONLY if you have made efforts to avoid problems in the first place. Note: In the event a bear is killed for self-protection, you are responsible for ending your planned itinerary and transporting the skull and properly skinned hide with claws attached to the proper authorities. Further information on these regulations are available from the Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game.
Defensive aerosol sprays which contain capsicum (red pepper extract) have been used as an alternative for protection against bear attacks. This spray, has proven effective in several situations. It is easy to carry and has a range of up to 6-8 yards. You must handle it carefully - if sprayed upwind, it may blow back into your face and disable you. Similarly, do not transport it in a vehicle or light plane unless it is in an air-tight container because accidental discharge could disable the driver or pilot. Check it frequently during your trip to be sure it hasn't accidentally discharged. If left to linger it may act as an attractant rather than repellent.
Did You Know?
Humans have lived on and off the land in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve for more than 12,500 years.