Friday, April 18, 2014

Living in Alaska: Bears

Black Bear
*The pictures in this post were all taken by me or friends/family.

I get a lot of questions about living in Alaska, and people always want to know about the bears.

Well, the bears are waking up! The brown bears (aka Grizzly bears) were the first to come out of hibernation, but the black bears are right behind them. The picture above is a black bear. Did you know that brown bears aren't always brown? They can also be black and black bears can be brown, so don't judge a bear by it's color!

The best way to tell a black bear from a brown bear is by the size of the shoulders, the facial features, and the size of the claws (not like I would ever want to get close enough to see them!). Brown bears have a shoulder hump, a dish-shaped facial profile (black bears have a straight profile), and longer claws. If you see a bear print, the brown bear's toes are close together and not as arced as the black bears. 

Brown Bear
Do you know what to do if you encounter a bear? Please check out the following websites from the State of Alaska for more information: 

Brown Bear - (notice the facial profile) 
I'll admit that I was terrified of encountering a bear when I first moved here. And most people who come to visit us in the summer have the same fear. We were wary about hiking and camping with our kids. We didn't know how to protect ourselves. 

Brown Bear
We still have a deep respect for the bears but no longer have the same fear. We absolutely love camping, fishing, and hiking here!! I suggest checking out the websites listed above for information on bear safety while enjoying the great outdoors. 

And you know the funny thing...we were so worried about encountering a bear while enjoying the outdoors, when little did we know that our only bear encounter would be in our front yard.

Juvenile Brown Bear 
My dad was out getting the boat ready for halibut fishing around 5:00am. When he looked up, he saw a brown bear about 8 feet away. The bear just stood there, staring at him. They continued to stare at each other until the bear eventually started walking away and my dad slowly eased back into the garage.   

You know what my dad said when it was all over..."He was so cute!" (I'm serious. Not "Holy sh*t, I could have been eaten by a bear. Not "That scared the living crap out of me". No, he said, "He was so cute." Really Dad? It was a freaking GRIZZLY bear, not a teddy bear!)

Brown Bear - (notice the shoulder hump)
Anyways, we thought he was long gone, until a few hours later when we noticed our garbage can had been tipped over and trash was everywhere. The bear had also gotten into all of our neighbor's garbage cans too. We do have rules about trash around here (you can only put your garbage cans out the morning of trash day, they have to be brought back into your garage as soon as possible, etc.), but it didn't matter. Our neighbor sent us this lovely photo of the bear going through our trash. I called Department of Fish and Game to report it and they said that they would keep an eye on him. 

My husband has also seen bears on the side of the road eating berries. A friend up the street saw a brown bear running up the middle of the street. And another friend had a 20 minute stand-off with a brown bear while she was walking with a friend along a river.  The bear eventually wandered off to look for salmon. I guess if you talk to enough people around here, everyone has a bear story or two. 

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