Bear Facts: Six Things to Know About Brown Bears

Where the bears are

Katmai National Park is home to approximately 4,000 Alaskan brown bears (grizzly bears). Bordered on the south by Shelikof Straits and the north by the treeless tundra region of Lake Illiamna, Katmai NP stretches from Cook Inlet westward to Becherof Lake on the Alaska Peninsula.


Bears don’t like surprises

Since we will be hiking as a group through bear country, make noise or sing. Bears are much more interested in catching and eating fish than worrying about you. Talk loudly — groups are noisier and are easier for bears to detect. Avoid thick brush. If you can't avoid thick brush, try to walk with the wind at your back so your scent will warn bears of your presence. Contrary to popular belief, bears can see almost as well as people, but rely heavily on their sense of smell. Always let bears know you are there.


Bears are extremely fast ... never try to outrun them

Bears have been clocked at speeds up to 35 mph, and like dogs, they will chase anything that runs. Bears often make bluff charges, sometimes to within 10 feet of their adversary, without making contact. Continue waving your arms and talking…raise your voice and be more aggressive. Never imitate bear sounds or make a high pitched squeal.

Camera Shy
Photo by Ben Larson
Chasing down a salmon
Photo by Ben Larson

Bears need a lot of room

Give bears plenty of room. Some bears are more tolerant than others, but every bear has a "personal space" — the distance within which a bear feels threatened. If you stray within that zone, a bear may react aggressively. When photographing bears, use long lenses; getting close for a great shot could put you inside the danger zone.


Identify yourself ... let bears know you are human

Talk to the bear in a normal voice. Wave your arms, help the bear recognize you. If a bear cannot tell what you are, it may come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better look or smell. A standing bear is usually curious and is not threatening. You may try to back away slowly diagonally, but if the bear follows stop and hold your ground.


Bears are always looking for something to eat!

Bears have only about six months to build up fat reserves for winter hibernation. Don't let them learn human food or garbage is an easy meal. It is both foolish and illegal to feed bears, either on purpose or by leaving food or garbage that attracts them.