Bear Basics

December 19, 2016

Over the years, I have divided my guiding/outdoor education time between the Adirondacks of New York and Alaska.  Both are areas in which bear encounters are common, but with different species and potential outcomes.

The concern in the Adirondacks is with black bear.  Poor human hygiene habits, both in camping areas and in rural communities, has led these animals to become human habituated and, unfortunately, “pests”.  They hardly ever are a threat to human life.

Although black bear also are found in Alaska, the concern among backcountry users is with grizzly.  Most Alaskan grizzlies are not yet human habituated, but encounters with them can result in serious injury.

Regardless of species, the most common result of an encounter with a bear, in the Adirondacks or in Alaska, is the ultimate death of the bear.  When bear have an encounter with a human which results in a food “reward”, they are on the pathway to becoming “problem” bear.  This most often results in their death, either at the hand of regulatory authorities or hunters.

Thus, my mantra around bear has been to do everything possible to avoid contact in order to prevent injury to them.  I discussed this at a recent wilderness medicine conference, and was then invited to do a podcast on the topic.  Here is a link to the podcast: