Identifying Alaskan Bears: Make the Most of Your Visit to Alaska
Are you planning to visit Alaska? Do you want to make the most of your trip? If so, use this guide on how to identify Alaskan bears.
Alaska is one of the most unique states in the entire country. It's home to beautiful mountain ranges, tundras, and unique wildlife.
Among the Alaskan wildlife are bears, which many tourists and photographers seek out during their visit to the state.
If you're looking for help in identifying the many types of bears Alaska is home to, we've got you covered.
Let's take a look at how you can tell Alaskan bears apart from each other.
A Word of CautionWhile it may be tempting to get close to the bears you encounter, it's important to remember that bears are wild animals and could potentially pose a threat to individuals who encroach on their territory. This is especially true if you get too close to a mother bear and her cubs.
Also, don't be fooled by their large size: grizzly bears can reach top speeds of approximately 35 mph. Therefore, if you put yourself in danger, there's a good chance you're not getting back out of it.
Thus, guided tours conducted by professionals are the best option for viewing bears during your visit.
Now that that's settled, we can move on to...
During your trip to Alaska, you're almost guaranteed to see a few Grizzlies along your journey. Also known simply as "brown bears," Grizzly bears are easily recognizable by their large size and brown coat of fur. But, it's best to use more than fur as an identifying factor, since some grizzly bears can be black, and some black bears can be brown. Grizzly bears have a large hump on their back of their neck that black bears do not. There are also differences in toes and claws between the two. But, it's not safe to get close enough to see which is which.
If you're looking to make a bear sighting on your own, rivers and streams give you the highest chance of catching them in their natural habitat. In fact, if you stumble upon one of these locations while bears are hunting for salmon, there's a solid chance you'll get to witness a large congregation of them as they feed. Rivers aren't the only place you'll find Grizzlies, though. If you improperly store food while camping or cook too close to your camp, you may encounter unwelcome guests in the form of scavenging grizzly bears.
Grizzly bears also have a tendency to get into trash, so it's important to store your garbage in bear-proof garbage cans or dumpsters to prevent them from becoming a nuisance.
As previously mentioned, there are occasionally black bears with brown coats. Thus, the absence of the telltale hump on the back of their neck can allow you to quickly discern between the two. These bears are often seen searching for or eating fruit. They also have a strong affinity for honey, a trait which inspired character Winnie The Pooh's love for it. As you may be able to tell from their less-imposing appearance, black bears are less likely to be aggressive than grizzly bears, and often immediately retreat when they encounter danger. That being said, bears, in general, are often shy and will not attack humans.
Like grizzly bears, black bears are notorious for rummaging through trash and following scents back to a campsite. To eliminate this issue entirely, you should store your food in a scent-proof container at least 100 feet from your campsite. If you have the opportunity, you can also hang your food from a tree using a food bag to prevent bears from getting into your belongings. You can encounter a black bear at any hour of the day. But, they tend to be most active at night, so be wary of where you're traveling after dark since they can be difficult to see.
If you're staying in a cabin, you may also find that curious black bears occasionally approach your doorstep. Making loud noises to scare them or simply leaving them alone until they lose interest are options to handle this situation.
As their name suggests, polar bears live and hunt on ice, particularly by the shore. Thus, you're highly unlikely to see them near black bears or grizzly bears. You won't see them on a GMX Tour! If you're fishing at sea, there's even a chance you may find them on sea ice located miles and miles from the shore.
Regardless of their location, polar bears are immediately recognizable by their snow-white fur coat. If you happen to encounter one, chances are you'll find it hunting for (or already consuming) seals, their main choice of meal. Since polar bears are the largest bears on Earth, they're very difficult to scare off if you happen to scare or anger one. A guided tour is once again the safest option for seeing one in the wild. You should exercise extreme caution when camping or fishing in or near their habitat, especially since there aren't many places to hide in those areas. If you do find yourself in a situation where a polar bear is showing aggression toward you, bear spray is your best option due to its ability ward off an angry bear.
Alaskan Bears Are Unique Wildlife ExperiencesBut, they're still wildlife, so it's important to exercise caution.
With the right safety measures taken, viewing Alaskan bears can be a rewarding experience that you won't find anywhere else.
Interested in going on a tour to make the most out of your trip to Alaska? Feel free to get in touch with us and see what we can do for you.