At Any Given Time There are 250 black bears, 65 grizzlies in

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Bear Paw Jack

Hawkeye
Joined
Dec 19, 2001
Messages
9,675
Location
Alaska, Idaho USA
Anchorage, Alaska. I've mentioned this guy before (but not by name) as someone who has shot a bear off of himself. He used a F/A 454 his gun tied up. He has done a LOT of study on people who have ended up around bears. I agree with much of this as there are just TOO MANY issues regarding bears to try to educated people. Add to that most people can't shoot nearly as well as they think they can under stress. This is an article he wrote after a lady was mauled last year. Please let's not turn this into a debate. It's an opinion piece that has a LOT of truth.
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Sometimes you have to wonder if the efforts that go into trying to teach people how to handle bear encounters in Alaska aren't largely a waste of time, given the amount of luck involved in these things.

Some people do everything wrong and never have a problem. Some do everything right and end up getting mauled or worse.

Joel Bennett, a former member of the Alaska Board of Game and a respected Juneau cameraman who specializes in wildlife films, once described the late Timothy Treadwell as the best he'd ever seen at reading the behavior of grizzly bears and knowing how to handle them.

Sadly, though, things did not work out well for the Californian who spent 13 summers in the wilderness of Katmai National Park and Preserve trying to make friends with the bears. Treadwell touched and petted massive grizzlies. He babysat the cubs of some sows. He obviously figured out which bears were approachable and which were not, or he never would have lasted so many summers.

In the end, of course, all that knowledge couldn't save him. Treadwell was killed and then eaten by a bear. His last words before his death on a fateful evening in October 2003 were a shout to companion Amie Huguenard to hit the bear with a pan. His voice was recorded on a video camera, which captured no video. The camera was apparently turned on with the lens cap still in place.

Would pepper spray have helped?

Treadwell's advice to Huguenard was good. The only thing you can hope to do to survive a predatory attack by a bear is fight back. In his case, it didn't work. The bear killed Treadwell and then Huguenard.

One has to wonder how things might have turned out if they'd had some pepper spray to use in their defense. The efficacy of pepper spray -- a non-lethal bear deterrent -- is well documented.

As Alaska Dispatch columnist Rick Sinnott noted after a group of teens were mauled by a grizzly in Alaska three years ago, "bear spray was effective in 92 percent of the 50 cases involving grizzlies in Alaska and 90 percent of the 20 cases involving black bears. No one who used bear spray was killed. In the nine instances where a grizzly charged a person, the bear broke off the encounter after it was sprayed, and only one person was injured. The injury was relatively minor: Deep scratches requiring stitches. Eventually, someone who uses bear spray will be severely injured or killed by the bear. But it seems clear that bear spray promises to be at least as effective at preventing maulings as a firearm."

Sinnott, former Anchorage-area wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, is a proponent of bear spray. So am I, though I do have a special place in my heart for firearms, having once shot a grizzly off my leg, thus stopping it from doing further damage. Guns are great if you know how to use them well.

Most people don't. Some are simply unfamiliar with firearms. Many others can't shoot for beans.

Thus pepper spray is much better for them than a bullet, which needs to hit a specific, not-very-big target in a very difficult shooting situation. But that's not why I'm a proponent of pepper spray.

I'm a proponent because a) it can stop bear attacks; and b) it largely makes people deal with bears in the proper way, though there really is no proper way.

Why aren't runners mauled?

As noted earlier, you can do everything wrong and never get touched by a bear. Despite the oft-repeated advice that you should never run from a bear, over the years I've talked to dozens, possibly hundreds, of people who've run from bears. None were victims of maulings.

And sometimes, counter-intuitive as this might seem, running from a bear or past a bear is the right thing to do.

Which brings us back to Jessica Gamboa, who was mauled while jogging on a trail at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson on May 18. She did nothing wrong. In fact, she did largely what people are taught to do when encountering a grizzly in Alaska.

She stayed calm. She turned and faced the bear. She tried to indicate she meant no harm. The bear responded by mauling her badly. She might have been a lot better off if she'd just kept running and pretended she'd never seen any bears.

How can anyone say that, given all the good advice about not running from or around bears?

250 black bears, 65 grizzlies in Anchorage

Let's take a minute to look at this from the standpoint of the bear, in this case a sow with two small cubs near Anchorage. Most bears near Anchorage are habituated to runners, mountain bikers, dog walkers, cars and other human means of movement.

Radio-tracking studies done by biologist Sean Farley of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game found many bears live among us. As you read this, there are an estimated 250 to 350 black bears and 65 grizzlies roaming the city.

All parts of the city.

Farley's radio collars documented bears regularly using Anchorage trails. On-the-ground investigations found sign of bears sleeping alongside trails in Anchorage greenbelts. These bears know people. People run past them. The bears ignore the traffic.

Thankfully.

If bears made a practice of sometimes hunting people -- as lions and tigers are known to do -- we'd all be in a big trouble. But bears don't do that. They generally try to avoid us.

Enter Gamboa. She's jogging down a road on JBER somewhere out of sight of her husband, who has run ahead. She spies a grizzly bear cub. If she keeps running and pretends she hasn't seen anything, she might well be fine.

I've watched a small parade of runners go past a sow bear with cubs on the Anchorage Hillside without the bear paying them any attention. She was feeding and kept on feeding though the runners were sometimes within 100 feet or less.

I know at least three mountain bikers who have ridden between sow grizzlies and their cubs in Anchorage's Hillside Park. They got a big scare. But they were not attacked. The bears seem accustomed to our going past.

Gamboa, however, didn't keep going past the JBER bear. Startled by the cub encounter, she did a very normal thing. She stopped. It's pretty much what people are told to do if they meet a bear. But it's not necessarily what a grizzly sow wants to see.

She has likely seen runners on this or other trails. She has, quite possibly, watched people run past her cubs and concluded it's no big deal.

This one, however, doesn't run past. This human gets near the cub and stops. At that point, the mother can't help but be thinking, "Oh-oh. What's going on here?"

So she comes running. If you listen to Gamboa's videotaped account of what happened next, she's looking at the cub when she looks over her shoulder to see momma bear coming, not at a full run but more of a gallop. So, Gamboa partially turns to face the mother bear, which is again the thing to do. But then, as she describes it, "I put my back kind of maybe toward her.''

How does this look from the sow's perspective? All wrong.

What the sow sees is that the human has just turned her attention away from momma and back toward the cub. Momma is sure to take that as some sort of threat. So she flattens the threat and works Gamboa over.

Gamboa smartly and properly plays dead, and she comes out of the encounter beat up but alive. It is a testament to clear thinking and a strong resolve on her part.

And the rest of it? Well, someone who has spent a lot of time around Alaska grizzlies, or thought a lot about the behavior and adaptation of bears in Anchorage, might have handled the situation differently. But that's a pretty small group of people.

Bear spray makes a difference

Most people don't know enough about bears to begin to understand the nuances involved in any confrontation. And even if they do, it might not make any difference, as Treadwell's case proved.

Bear spray will make a difference. To use it, people need to turn and face the bear and act brave -- the mere display of which has been known to deter bears.

So maybe instead of trying to teach people how to deal with bears, we should just be telling them to go to the store, buy some bear spray, study how to use it -- practice would be a good idea -- and take the spray with you on Alaska trails.

Not that it hurts to study up on bears. Knowledge is a wonderful thing. But in this case, an 8.1-ounce can of prevention might be worth a lot more than any bear lecture.

Reach Craig Medred at [email protected]




By CRAIG MEDRED
[email protected]
 

Cooperhawk

Buckeye
Joined
Dec 29, 2008
Messages
1,508
Location
East Central Minnesota
Heard some good advice once. Always carry pepper spray and little bells to warn the bear of your coming. How do you know if a grizz is in the area. You will find scat full of pepper spray and little bells. :shock:
 

stevemb

Hunter
Joined
Aug 8, 2012
Messages
2,769
Over the past few yrs I've come to reverse my early negative opinions of spray. I do have two remaining concerns, weather and weight. By weather I'm talking either wind in the face or rain coming down. My mention of weight has to do with belt space and weight of gear that might already be on my person per the outdoor pursuit of the day. If on a multi-day type outing, or an outing that may require an unplanned for over night, I'm still gonna lean towards whichever handgun I have thats most suited to the tasks anticipated. To me at least, it remains a fact that you cannot signal or reply to a signal with bear spay, nor kill game if it becames necessary. Then there are threats other than bears. Choices to be made, for sure. As always, stay safe folks.
 

Racer9

Single-Sixer
Joined
Nov 27, 2011
Messages
179
Location
Erie Pa
Thanks for the info. We are planning an RV trip in Alaska later this summer, and will be sure to get some spray.
I'll also be carrying my 1911, almost as much to defend from 2 legged predators as 4, and hoping like heck, it can stay in it's holster.
 

Bear Paw Jack

Hawkeye
Joined
Dec 19, 2001
Messages
9,675
Location
Alaska, Idaho USA
Racer9, I assume you know you can NOT travel through Canada with a handgun. Not can you bring bear spray in. They apparently want you buying theirs. You also can not bring your bear spray bought in Canada into the US. What you can do is mail (ship) your gun to someone you know and have them hold it for you. DO NOT ship it to an FFL as you won't have an Alaska drivers license to pick it up. Be sure and pick up a copy of the Mile Post. Very handy book for the trip.
 

Bear Paw Jack

Hawkeye
Joined
Dec 19, 2001
Messages
9,675
Location
Alaska, Idaho USA
stevemb said:
Over the past few yrs I've come to reverse my early negative opinions of spray. I do have two remaining concerns, weather and weight. By weather I'm talking either wind in the face or rain coming down. My mention of weight has to do with belt space and weight of gear that might already be on my person per the outdoor pursuit of the day. If on a multi-day type outing, or an outing that may require an unplanned for over night, I'm still gonna lean towards whichever handgun I have thats most suited to the tasks anticipated. To me at least, it remains a fact that you cannot signal or reply to a signal with bear spay, nor kill game if it becames necessary. Then there are threats other than bears. Choices to be made, for sure. As always, stay safe folks.

Steve, Please note {"bear spray was effective in 92 percent of the 50 cases involving grizzlies in Alaska and 90 percent of the 20 cases involving black bears. No one who used bear spray was killed. In the nine instances where a grizzly charged a person, the bear broke off the encounter after it was sprayed, and only one person was injured. The injury was relatively minor: Deep scratches requiring stitches. Eventually, someone who uses bear spray will be severely injured or killed by the bear. But it seems clear that bear spray promises to be at least as effective at preventing maulings as a firearm."}

IMO, bear spray depends on the bear. Bears Should run when they see you or at least when they see you from a reasonable distance. SOMETIMES this doesn't happen. Bears like people have many motives. I think bear spray is most effective on "curious" bears. And I suspect less effective on agressive and even less on predatory bears. Depending on a persons skill level with a firearm they should be effective. My comments are simplified but you get the idea. Bear spray while easier to accurately place your spray, doesn't take into consideration wind which can always be a factor. When Adrenalin flows it's even more difficult to tell. If you find it necessary to spray a bear, it's a good idea to leave the area as some will return. Just some thoughts and obviously bears moods are much like people and I think sometimes they don't even know why they do what they do.
 

stevemb

Hunter
Joined
Aug 8, 2012
Messages
2,769
Yup, bears like people, are of vastly different dispositions, and have good days and bad days. If you are limited by the legal system as to what you can carry in the way of deterrents, make your own informed choice.
 

Bear Paw Jack

Hawkeye
Joined
Dec 19, 2001
Messages
9,675
Location
Alaska, Idaho USA
Good point. I've been lucky enough most of my life to live where, if a bear puts you in danger you shoot them and won't be in trouble. I think that's probably true in Idaho as well. Not so sure about a LOT of places.
 

Salmoneye

Single-Sixer
Joined
Mar 19, 2012
Messages
479
Location
Vermont
Treadwell was an accident waiting to happen...

He was continually cited for breaking park rules and regs...

Just sad he took someone with him...

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/a-bearfaced-liar-521919.html
 
Joined
Oct 26, 2006
Messages
9,534
Location
Woodbury, Tn
I lived/worked in Anchorage for 9 months. No car, so I walked or biked everywhere. I carried concealed a .44 mag Redhawk. I never saw a bear, but did see many moose! Does bear spray work on them? While in Anchorage a pharmacist was biking to work and was mauled by a grizzly bear. He left the ER and worked. I was in Kotzebue and Barrow, Ak 3 months each. Carried the same Redhawk. It worked great as a talisman, no bears were seen
gramps
 

Rumrunner

Hunter
Joined
Jun 19, 2006
Messages
4,129
Location
Midwest Illinois
Good post. If I get back to Alaska I will have both spray and a gun with me. I heard that some have sprayed the pepper spray around their camp sites thinking it would work to deter bears from coming in, but that after it "settles" it can actually attract them. Anyone no for sure if that is true.
 

BearBio

Buckeye
Joined
Oct 22, 2009
Messages
1,826
Location
Eastern Washington
There is some evidence that spray will attract black bears in SoCal. People sprayed their trashcans. They had a thing called "Bear-Be-Gone" that was a blue plastic drum with a can of spray attached to the lid. Bear opened it and "poof". Some bears appeared to be repeat offenders. We joked it was all the spicy food in the trash there and the bears were "chili-heads". depends on what rewards they get in response for their experience.

Bears have a fantastic sense of smell and strange odors would attract them. If you "relocate" a bear, they will find their way back up to at least 250 miles by smelling the streams. That was our record for a "put-back". I've heard of over 300 mile returns.
 

Racer9

Single-Sixer
Joined
Nov 27, 2011
Messages
179
Location
Erie Pa
Bear Paw Jack said:
Racer9, I assume you know you can NOT travel through Canada with a handgun. Not can you bring bear spray in. They apparently want you buying theirs. You also can not bring your bear spray bought in Canada into the US. What you can do is mail (ship) your gun to someone you know and have them hold it for you. DO NOT ship it to an FFL as you won't have an Alaska drivers license to pick it up. Be sure and pick up a copy of the Mile Post. Very handy book for the trip.

I'm aware of that. We're flying in to Anchorage, renting RV. Pistol will be in luggage, yes it's legal, but you must "declare" it, follow a couple other regulations, and hope the thieves at TSA don't steal it.
Have Milepost, and several other mags.
Will NOT be traveling in Canada at all.
 

GunnyGene

Hawkeye
Joined
Nov 23, 2013
Messages
7,327
Location
Monroe County, MS
This may sound odd, but I suspect that a 6 or 7 ft long spear might be a better deterrent than a gun or a can of spray. People hunted bear for thousands of years with such things, so I'd think bears would know what they are, and they can see them. Probably looks like a giant claw they don't want to mess with. Not so with a tiny little thing like a handgun or can of spray, both of which are fairly recent inventions in the grand scheme of things, and don't look like something they should be afraid of.
 

ChiefMuzz

Blackhawk
Joined
Apr 5, 2010
Messages
989
Location
SW Pennsylvania
GunnyGene said:
This may sound odd, but I suspect that a 6 or 7 ft long spear might be a better deterrent than a gun or a can of spray. People hunted bear for thousands of years with such things, so I'd think bears would know what they are, and they can see them. Probably looks like a giant claw they don't want to mess with. Not so with a tiny little thing like a handgun or can of spray, both of which are fairly recent inventions in the grand scheme of things, and don't look like something they should be afraid of.

Seeing as it's probably been quite sometime since a bear has been hunted regularly with a spear, I doubt there would be any fear involved - or that they would even flinch at the sight of one.
 

Racer9

Single-Sixer
Joined
Nov 27, 2011
Messages
179
Location
Erie Pa
Bear Paw Jack said:
Racer9, sounds like you have it under control. What gun are you taking? Still probably doesn't hurt to have the bear spray.
1911/.45, and will purchase bear spray there.
And as said before, I hope I won't need either!
 

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