Bear Safety Tips for Alaskans Protecting Yourself in the Wild
by pedro graterol
Bears are essential to the experience of living in this state. It’s impossible to imagine Alaska without bears, from the brown and grizzly bears that can be found in parks and green areas to the polar bears that live in the northern areas of the state. However, recent events have highlighted the importance of bear safety in the state. In January, a polar bear attack in the small coastal community of Wales tragically resulted in the deaths of a mother and her 1-year-old son. This heartbreaking incident serves as a reminder that understanding bear safety is crucial for everyone in Alaska.
As climate change impacts the state, bears are starting to come out of hibernation earlier, making it even more essential to take bear safety seriously. The National Parks Safety has a useful resource guide about how to be #BearAware. They recommend that the first step in avoiding an encounter with a bear that could escalate into an attack is to follow viewing etiquette. Keeping your distance and being aware of your surroundings is critical. If you’re in an area with known bear activity or a good food source, such as berry bushes, make a special effort to be noticeable.
If you do come across a bear, the most important thing is to stay calm. Remember that most bears are not interested in attacking humans. Speak calmly and wave your arms slowly to let the bear know you’re a human. If the bear is stationary, you can move away slowly and sideways while keeping an eye on it. Never run, as this can trigger a chase response. If the bear starts to approach you, make yourself look as large as possible, pick-up small children immediately, and slowly wave your arms above your head to tell the bear to back off. If the bear charges at you, do not play dead if it’s a black bear (which has pointy ears). Instead, try to fight back using any object available. But if it’s a brown/grizzly bear (which has round ears), leave your pack on and play dead by lying flat on your stomach with your hands clasped behind your neck until the bear leaves.
Taking precautions at home can also help prevent bear encounters. Colorado Parks and Wildlife, who also has ample experience with bears, has issued some recommendations.
-Make sure all your doors and windows are locked when you’re not at home or sleeping at night. If you must leave windows open in an area downstairs, consider installing sturdy grates or bars to keep bears from getting in. - Keep your garage doors closed and locked, especially if you have any food or attractions in there. Bears have an incredible sense of smell and will follow their noses to anything that smells like food. - It’s crucial to keep your trash in a bear-proof container and not leave it outside overnight. - If you feed birds, be sure to do it only when bears are hibernating.
Living in Alaska means being prepared to deal with our wild bear neighbors. This is why bear safety is essential for everyone in Alaska. By following viewing etiquette, staying calm during bear encounters, and taking precautions at home, we can minimize the risk of dangerous encounters with bears. Remember, bears are wild animals, and it’s up to us to respect their space and ensure our safety and a healthy co-existence.
PROUDLY POWERED BY SOL DE MEDIANOCHE NEWS, LLC. Sol de Medianoche is a monthly publication of the Latino community in Anchorage, Alaska