Know before you go: Experts share bear safety awareness tips

Published: May. 14, 2017 at 4:46 PM AKDT
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As Alaskans see more signs of spring just about everywhere, experts are urging everyone to take extra care as some bears have been showing signs of aggression.

An aggressive bear was put down on Saturday after it got into garbage in an East Anchorage neighborhood.

Thomas Griffin, a fish and wildlife technician, said it's a situation that happens when bears become habituated to eating trash.

"It's unfortunately a reoccurring story in our community and that's because bears are all about food and if there's food in our yards, garbage dog food cat food greasy grills or in one of our neighbors yards that can attract a bear into our neighborhood and that can become a safety issue," Griffin said.

The Alaska Zoo holds an annual demonstration each year depicting how to best keep your trash secure.

Stephanie Hartman, an education director at The Alaska Zoo said typically around 2,000 visitors go to the zoo to get educated on bear safety.

"We demonstrate to people the difference between bears getting into non-bear resistant containers and the harder and more difficult time they have getting into the bear resistant containers," Hartman said.

The Zoo also demonstrates with backpack caches for hiking and camping in bear areas.

"It's important to keep track and be responsible with your attractants out in bear country," Hartman said.

Steve Blanchett said he learned just how fast bears can be when he encountered a black bear on Black Bear Trail two days ago.

"I was coming across this corner and there was a black bear I would say about 50, 60 feet and it was already in a full charge," Blanchett said.

That's when Blanchett jumped into a dead tree as a barrier.

"I turned around, it was right there it was just right behind me," Blanchett said. "I was reaching for my bear mace, I had a really hard time getting it out, so I would definitely suggest to anybody running to just keep it in your hand."

It's a lesson Blanchett said he'll carry with him into the future.

Griffin said for those planning to recreate in bear country should remember some key safety tips.

"Travel in a group when you're in the woods, in the thicket you clap and make noise, no fast movements, group up and if the bear doesn't come near you you back away and if the bear does come up close you stand the ground and look big," Griffin said.

Griffin said if a bear begins to approach, don't lay down and play dead.

"That refers to if the bear's attacking you, so some people are confused about that," Griffin said. "If a bear's coming toward me, I don't want to lay down, I want to look big and hold the ground."

It's getting educated before venturing into the great outdoors, experts hope will keep everyone safe.