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Alaska Bear Safety

When enjoying the natural environment in Alaska, it is important to note that not all of the cuddly-looking animals you can see in this state are as cuddly as you may think. By in large, Alaska's big game animals can be extremely dangerous in the wild. Bears are of a special concern, and if you plan to camp in bear country, make sure you learn a few safety tips first.

Alaska is home to three different species of bears - the Black bear, the Brown bear (AKA Grizzly bear) and the Polar bear. In most cases, you will only see polar bears from afar, if you go on a sightseeing cruise or airplane ride. However, many of the RV parks where you stay are within black and grizzly bear country. Stay safe while you are in these areas.

First, remember that bears are most attracted to food supplies. This starts with your garbage. When you are camping, make sure that your garbage, including food scraps, are secure inside of bear-proof containers. Although many campsites in other places may instruct you to bury perishable scraps, like fish bones, this is not a good idea in Alaska.

Remember that small animals and children are also "food" for bears. Bears like the easiest food source possible, so if your pet or child is a better target than a wild animal, the bears may attack. Do not keep your pets penned up or tied outside, especially at night. It is also important to monitor your children. Keep everyone inside at night to be on the safe side!

Fishing in bear country can be especially dangerous. Because fish are a bear's natural food, you are a threat on their hunting ground. Because many tourists and local residents fish, some bears associate humans with food and will linger near fishing areas to wait for an easy meal. Splashing fish can attract a bear to charge, and if this happens, quickly cut your line and allow the bear to take the fish. If he is eating the fish, he is not eating you!

No matter how careful you are, you may still come face-to-face with a bear. If you can, get to a safe place immediately, like a car or your RV. However, this may not be possible. Trying to outrun a bear or climbing a tree is a bad idea. The bear will win. Instead, if the bear is not threatening you, back away slowly. If he is showing interest in you, you can also try making noise and making yourself as big as possible by reaching out with your arms. This may scare the bear.

If you have a weapon on you, you can shoot a bear that is attacking you or your property. The only acception to this rule is if the bear is not attacking you and is only destroying your property because you've attracted it with improperly stored food or garbage. Be responsible in the woods! If you do shoot at a bear, however, try to kill it. A wounded bear will fight through its pain to attack you, which is even more dangerous. Shooting a bear should be your very last option. If you do shoot a bear or a bear is attacking and you are in a safe place (like your RV), call 911 immediately, or, if you know the number, call the Alaska Department of Fish and Game or the area's state troopers.

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