Bear, Wildlife and Marine Mammal FAQ

How can I avoid bears while out hiking?

  • The best thing you can do while out hiking in bear country is make noise. Whether this be talking, singing, wearing bells, clapping your hands, playing music (without earbuds or headphones) or anything else to make noise and let the bear know there is a human in the area. Most bear attacks occur due to a bear being surprised.

Can I kill a bear in defense of life or property?

  • A bear may be killed in defense of your life or property. Here is the Alaska State Statute that authorizes it, along with what must be done after it is killed, and what is considered property (5 AAC 92.410). If you do kill a bear in defense of life or property you must report it. Here is a link to the report that must be filled out and sent in when any game animal is killed in defense of life or property. .

How can I protect chickens, ducks, bee hives, etc from bears?

  • The best way to protect small animals like chickens, ducks or even bee hives from bears is with an electric fence.

How can I safely camp in bear country?

  • Thousands of people a year camp in bear country safely. However, several things need to be considered when camping in bear country. Where to store any food, deodorant, toothpaste, gum, or smelly things like clothes you have been wearing while fishing or skinning an animal? Bears have a powerful sense of smell and are very inquisitive creatures. If you have smelly things in your tent, they will come. If they smell something that smells like food to them, they are omnivores, and they live for two things: food and reproduction, they will come. Keep food and other smelly things in a vehicle, a bearproof food container suspended from a tree by a rope (at least 10 feet off the ground), or inside an electric fence (at least three feet away from the edge of the fence). Ensure it is 100 yards from the sleeping and cooking areas. Keep the food out of the kitchen area unless you are actively cooking it. Once a meal has been cooked and eaten, clean the dishes immediately; if a grill is used, clean it. It is a wise idea to wash/rinse dishes using bleach water to neutralize the smell of food on them. The kitchen area should never be close to the sleeping area as the odors will penetrate the fabrics of the tent, sleeping bag, and clothing they will come. Once again, keeping at least 100 yards between the sleeping area, cooking area, and food storage area is a good idea. Store all trash in a bear-resistant container or at least 10 feet off the ground suspended from a tree. To accomplish the distance, it is best to set up the camping area in a triangle shape with the cooking area at one point, the food storage at another, and the sleeping area at the final point. When choosing a campsite, choose a location that is relatively clear of brush, trees, etc, for several hundred feet in all directions. Bears like to move through brush and tall grass and do so very quietly. The last thing anyone wants is a bear to come into camp and not see it coming. Finally, set up an electric fence around the entire campsite or separate electric fences around the food storage, kitchen, and sleeping areas.

How to use bear spray

First, remember that using your spray should be a last resort. If you meet a bear in the wild, first try to back away slowly while talking to the bear in a calm, loud, and consistent voice, avoiding making eye contact while making yourself big. If the bear doesn’t approach or charge, continue backing away, and leave the area.  If the bear approaches:
  • Remove your bear spray from the holster or belt and release the safety clip.
  • If possible, take up a position whereby the bear is downwind to avoid the spray blowing back toward you when discharged.
  • Hold the spray in front of you with two hands, one on the can and the other on the trigger.
  • Wait until the bear is within ten yards (30 feet), aim slightly downward to allow for recoil, then discharge a 2-3 second burst.  Do not discharge the entire can in case you miss, the bear reengages or there might be another bear.
  • Spray side to side to put a cloud of spray between yourself and the bear.
  • If the bear doesn’t stop, aim directly at the bear’s face. This is the reason to not empty the entire can.
  • When the bear halts its charge or changes direction, leave the area promptly.

How fast can bears run?

  • Both black bears and brown bears can run about 35 mph. The fastest human can run 27mph, but the average human can only run 15 mph.  Therefore, bears are over twice as fast as most humans.

If I see a bear should I run?

  • NEVER run from a bear. There are two reasons you never want to run from a bear. The first is a bear can run 35 mph and the fastest human being, Usan Bolt, can only run at 27 mph. The average human being can run at approximately sprint a shot distance at up to 15 mph. So if you were following the safe viewing distance of 100 yards and you ran from a bear that charged you the bear would catch you in approximately 160 yards.

Is a bear standing on it's hind legs about to attack?

Is a gun or bear spray better for bear self defense?

  • There have been at least two studies done to determine whether a gun or bear spray is better for self defense. Both studies determined bear spray was more effective in stopping a bear. The study also determined even if the bear was not stopped by the spray the person was less likely to receive severe injuries if they used the bear spray versus if they shot the bear.

What are signs of a bear attack?

  • A bear that is growling, popping its jaw, or has its ears laid back is warning you that you’re too close. Bears will often bluff charge, stopping short of actual contact. As hard as it sounds, don’t panic; running, waving your arms, or attacking the bear will only provoke it.

What is a safe distance to view a bear?

  • The recommended distance for viewing a bear safely is a minimum of 100 yards/meters. Even at 100 yards/meters it may not be a safe.

What is the difference between a defensive and offensive bear?

  • Defensive bears are usually the result of a sudden encounter at close range, at a food cache or a bear with young. Defensive confrontations seldom lead to contact. In defensive confrontations, the bear is threatening you because it feels threatened. Offensive bears are extremely rare. A bear that continues to approach, follow, disappear and reappear, or displays other stalking behaviors is possibly considering you as prey. Bears that attack you in your tent or confront you aggressively in your campsite or cooking area should also be considered a predatory bear.

What to do if attacked by a bear?

  • If the bear attacking you is a defensive bear do the following: If the bear attacks, play dead lay face down on the ground and spread your legs apart placing the insteps of your feet flat on the ground, and protect your neck by interlacing your fingers behind your neck. If you have a backpack on keep it on. If the bear happens to roll you over from this position continue the roll and get back in the face down position. If you remain still the bear may no longer view you as a threat and it will most likely leave the area. If you play dead, stay dead! Avoid the temptation to get up immediately. The bear may be watching you to see if you are still a threat. Stay down. 
  • If the bear attacking you is a predatory bear do the following: Fight the bear for all you are worth. The bear is trying to kill you for a meal. This means use whatever you have at your disposal such as sticks, rocks, shovel, axe, knife, bear spray, gun, etc. Areas that are particularly vulnerable to attack are the eyes and mouth.

What to do if you see a bear while you are out?

If the bear is being aggressive call 911 to report it to Valdez Animal Control.
  • If the bear has not seen you back away slowly while maintaining a visual of the bear.
  • If the bear has seen you make yourself big (stretch your arms out and wave them slowly up and down) and talk to the bear in a calm slow voice. Say something along the lines of "Hey bear. I'm leaving bear. The reason to talk is to let the bear know you are a human and not a prey animal.
  • Never turn your back on a bear. This could initiate the bears prey drive and cause it to attack.
  • Slowly back away from the bear making yourself big and talking to the bear the entire time.
  • Have your bear spray out and ready to deploy if it is needed.

Why does Valdez have so many bears?

  • Bears live for two things, food and reproduction, we have one in abundance here in Valdez. We have a smorgasbord of food for bears to eat. Valdez is a rain forest so there is plenty of vegetation for the bears to forage on. Further, there are large amounts of berries. Finally, and probably the most important, there is a large amount of fish here. Specifically salmon, these fish are high in fat content and help the bears put on the fat they need to survive the winter.

Marine Mammal Protection Act

  • The Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits harassing any marine mammal.  This includes sea lions, seals, otters, and any other marine mammal.
  • Marine Mammal Protection Act defines harassment as: Any activity that has the potential to disturb or injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by disrupting behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering.
  • Violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act can result in civil penalties up to $11,000, up to 1 year in prison, and criminal fines.

Are Marine Mammals Dangerous?

  • Sea lions are not typically dangerous but they might attack if they are ill, feel threatened, during breeding season, if they are desensitized to humans or if they are harassed.
  • Generally, seals are not dangerous to humans, so there is no reason to worry about seals attacking you and hurting you out of nowhere. However, behind their sweet and cuddly facade, you still can't touch or feed them in the wild because they may bite.
  • Sea otters, like almost any animal that is exposed to frequent human disturbance, can become habituated to humans. Habituation results in a loss of fear of humans, increased boldness and in some cases aggression towards humans and pets. Habituated sea otters may try to interact with humans by climbing on kayaks.

Are Moose Dangerous?

  • More people are killed per year by moose than are bears in the State of Alaska.

What to do if you are hiking and run into a moose?

  • Always give the moose a lot of space and watch its behavior
  • Keep dogs leashed and under control at all times. It is against Utah law to allow dogs to chase or harass protected hoofed wildlife, like moose
  • Stay calm and do not run away. Talk, make your presence known and slowly back away in the direction you came.
  • If a moose charges you or chases you, hide behind something solid (like a tree) or try to get inside a vehicle or building.  Moose cannot turn quickly so if you can keep moving around the tree, car, etc you should be safe.
  • If a moose knocks you down, curl into a ball, protect your head and lie still until the moose retreats.
  • If you have bear spray use it on the moose.  It will work just as well on a moose as it does a bear.

How fast do moose run?

  • Moose can run up to 35 mph and swim up to 6 mph for up to 2 hours.

What are signs a moose is stressed and may attack?

  • The moose's hackles (hair on it's shoulder and up it's neck and the hair on top of rear hip) are up
  • The moose's ears are laid back
  • The moose is drooling or licking it's lips