Take the time to learn the basics of bear behavior so you can act responsibly in bear country. Remember, your safety (and the safety of the bear) depends on you!
Kenai Fjords is home to both brown and black bears, although black bears are far more common. Black bears are generally timid and will usually leave an area to avoid a threat. Brown bears are more likely to defend their food and/or their “personal space.” Since bears have only about six months to build up fat reserves to maintain them through the long winter – their main interest is getting food. However protecting cubs is also a high priority of mothers with young. Both species tend to ignore or avoid people BUT if they learn to associate humans with food, they may lose their natural avoidance of humans and aggressively seek out further food rewards. Bears that become conditioned to human food are likely to be killed by humans in defense of life or property inside the park or on adjacent lands. It is illegal to feed bears, either on purpose or by leaving food or garbage that attracts them. Remember, a fed bear is a dead bear.
Precautions for traveling in Bear Country: The precautions to take while traveling in bear country are the same for both brown and black bears but there are some important differences to be aware of in the unlikely event of an attack.
If you do encounter a bear…
Remain calm and don’t run. Like dogs, bears will often chase fleeing animals. You can't outrun a bear. They have been clocked at speeds up to 35 mph!
Let the bear know you are human. Talk to it in a normal voice and wave your arms. 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.
Move away slowly, but don’t turn your back. If the bear follows, stop and hold your ground. If the bear gets too close, raise your voice and be more aggressive. Make louder noise by banging pots and pans or using other noisemakers, but never imitate bear sounds or make a high-pitched squeal.
If a bear charges… Don’t run! If a bear charges stand your ground. Most non-defensive charges do not end in contact.
Use bear pepper spray. Spray when the bear is within 30 to 40 feet. Remember a bear can run up to 35 miles per hour. When spraying the bear, aim for the face but slightly downward - the spray will billow upwards a bit. Use a 1 to 2 second blast. If the first shot doesn’t immediately stop the bear’s charge give a second shot. If the bear continues to charge, empty the can. Leave the area immediately after shooting the spray.
If a bear actually makes contact…
The text of this document was excerpted and adapted from a brochure, Bear Facts, produced in cooperation by the National Park Service and other state and federal agencies.
Did You Know?
The Hoary Marmot is the largest member of the ground squirrels. These guys hibernate half or more of their life away. They have very thick fur and a substantial fat layer that protects them from the cold. You are not as likely to see them on hot days as they hide in the shade to keep cool.