Travel Risk northern Alaska

A camp in northern Alaska
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Fast Facts for the Field

  • Make noise so you don't surprise a bear. Stay alert and look for signs of bears.
  • Never approach or crowd bears; respect their "personal space."
  • Keep food, garbage and other attractants out of reach of bears.
  • Stay calm during a bear encounter, talk and wave your arms. Don't run!

Alaska is bear country and one of the few places in the world where all three species of North American bears live. You may have a chance to see a bear in Alaska. But even if you don’t you will never be far from one.

Brown bears, also called grizzly bears, are found nearly everywhere in Alaska. Black bears inhabit most of Alaska’s forests. Polar bears frequent the sea ice and tundra of extreme northern and western Alaska.

Bears are curious, intelligent and tend to avoid or ignore people, but can be dangerous. Many bears live in Alaska and many people enjoy the outdoors, but surprisingly few people see bears and only a few of those are ever threatened by a bear.

Respecting bears and learning proper behavior can help you avoid conflict—and help you know how to react if you do see a bear.

Avoiding Problems

It's best to understand what bears need and avoid bears whenever possible. You can do this by keeping a clean camp and home, and by following bear safety advice when recreating or working in bear country.

Never Approach Bears—Give Them Space

  • Every bear has a “personal space”– the distance within which the bear feels threatened. If you enter that space, the bear may become aggressive.
  • Give female bears extra space. Female bears are especially fierce defenders of their young and may respond aggressively if they perceive a threat to their cubs.
  • When photographing bears, use your zoom; getting close could put you in danger.
  • Bears, like humans, use trails and roads. Don’t set up camp close to a trail they might use.
  • Avoid areas where you see or smell carcasses of fish or other animals, or see scavengers congregated. A bear’s food may be near. If the bear is around, it may defend its cache aggressively.

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