The number of National Park Service staff in Kotzebue is small and the acreage of the park is large. Visitors may not be able to contact a ranger if they have an emergency. Backcountry experience and self-sufficiency are vital. Your safety is your responsibility. Along with this come tremendous opportunities for peace and solitude on a vast landscape. Visitors are not required to check in with staff at the headquarters office in Kotzebue or get a permit before starting a trip in the park. Cell phones do not work in the backcountry. Satellite phones do work, though, and many travelers choose to carry them for added safety. Carrying a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) adds another layer of safety.
Kobuk Valley National Park is good habitat for both brown (grizzly) and black bears. Give these animals your respect and keep your distance. Cow moose with calves also need us to respect their space. It is important to keep food and scented items away from bears or any wild animals. Food containers are strongly recommended for backcountry trips - do not count on finding trees large or strong enough to hang food bags. Look for bear resistant food containers certified by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee.
Defensive aerosol sprays with capsaicin (bear spray) is another line of defense that some people choose to carry. Make sure it is close at hand for unexpected encounters and know how to use it safely. Bear spray is sometimes available at stores in Kotzebue, or travelers can have it shipped as hazardous material cargo to Kotzebue. Firearms are permissible in the backcountry. Travelers should be very proficient with their firearms before arriving.
The best first defense is always respect wildlife: Be aware of animals in your vicinity, maintain a safe distance, and don't attract animals into your camp. Practice Leave No Trace principals to maintain the healthy and wild nature of the park and avoid dangerous encounters with any wildlife. Learn more about staying safe in bear country