Alaska Series: Bears

DSC02767 This article will slightly resemble a “did you know?” format, but hopefully you will learn some cool new things about bears. The three bear types found in Alaska are: 1) black bears, 2) grizzly or brown bears, & 3) polar bears. (You have to go a bit further North than we were to see the white fur guys, though.)

Mama bears keep their cubs with them for 2-4 years; basically, when she feels they’re mature & independent enough to fish/hunt on their own. Mama bears are particularly fierce in defending/protecting their baby bear cubs, but they can also get a little snippy & mean towards the cubs when it’s time for them to “leave home.” Female bears cannot mate while they have bear cubs; this means mama bear has to fight to protect cubs from males bears during that entire time period, since grown male bears will try to kill the cubs so they can mate with the female right then & there. :/

For all you pregnant ladies & mamas, here’s something interesting! Mama bears carry their baby bears for about 6 months of pregnancy on average & then give birth all at once. (The record in Hoonah, Alaska for bear cub births was 8! That’s enough to make any Mom swoon.) Bear cubs, like humans, are born hairless. They’re actually born blind as well, which is why the mama bear will keep them safe in a den until winter is over & they have gained vision ability.

Grizzly bears can stand anywhere from 6-9 feet tall & they can weigh as much as 1,500 pounds! Most bears eat berries, salmon (in Alaska, summer time is the best time to observe this since all the salmon are returning to their home streams & spawning), carrion, & vegetation. Sadly, they also eat moose & caribou calves.

While black bears are fun to observe & videotape from a distance, you never want to end up too close to one in the wild.  If that happens, your best options are: a) let the bear know you’re there by making a good deal of noise…it will be less likely to startle them & get them on the defensive, b) make yourself appear larger than you are by spreading open your arms wide & if you have a jacket, opening that up too, c) don’t attempt to run away from them. Stay put & show that you’re not afraid (even though you’d be dying inside.)  Note – this DOES NOT apply to Grizzly Bears which are really territorial and cannot be intimidated.  Your best bet is probably bear spray, so make sure you have some if you’re in grizzly territory.  – Katie

DSC03694#naptime #AlaskaWildlifeConservatory

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