Welcome to the Kenai Peninsula! It’s the home of an incredible array of fauna including giant fish, mega moose and big bears. Wildlife is synonymous with Alaska. It is held in high regard for it’s intrinsic value and considered very important by many Alaskans and visitors for various ecological and economic reasons as well. For example; hunting and viewing are two wildlife-related activities that help support local businesses, wildlife management and other important infrastructure. Wildlife is a Public Trust Resource. That means it’s owned by the public, managed by the government for the public, and is a renewable resource that can be enjoyed by all of us in various, responsible ways. Therefore, we all have a duty to help conserve wildlife for the benefit of future generations of wildlife and people. You have a role to play in all of this.
How you chose to interact with wildlife in any given situation can affect not only an animal’s direct behavior during your experience, but possibly how that animal will behave in future encounters with other people, what it may teach it’s offspring and possibly what habits other people may develop from listening to you and/or observing your actions. There is always some level of risk in any wildlife/human encounter. By our actions we can help to reduce that risk for ourselves and others. The animals have no responsibility for our safety and well-being whatsoever. The Kenai Peninsula is coastal Alaska and coastal Alaska is bear country. The Kenai (locals drop the “Peninsula”) is home to Black Bear (Ursus Americanus) and Brown/ Grizzly Bears (Ursus Arctos). If you want to sound more like “a local”, just refer to coastal area grizzly bears as Brown Bears. No matter whom you are or what you’re doing, you are responsible for your own safety while in bear country. Therefore it is important to learn as much as possible about bears and to follow a few basic wildlife-related rules. These rules can apply to just about any species of animal.
1. Distance is good: Getting so close that you trigger a “fight or flight” response in a bear by surprising or startling it, approaching it’s food source, young or “personal space”, by trying to get just a little bit closer to get that “once in a lifetime” picture or even to touch the animals is foolish! Don’t laugh. People have actually tried to get their picture taken touching a brown bear. As so often happens, the foolish behavior of the human ended in the death of the bear. Bears are wild, potentially dangerous creatures. Try to maintain a safe, respectable distance at all times.
2. Noise is good: Most bears just want to avoid you. Help bears to know you are in an area and avoid you. Help to reduce the risk of surprise encounter by making lots of noise as you travel, work or play in bear country. Use your best judgment. If visibility is limited, increase the amount of noise you make. Work to reduce your level of risk.
3. Maintaining a high level of observation is good: Daydreaming, getting too focused on the task at hand and developing tunnel vision is not good. Scan, look around, take a break. Use all of your senses to recognize anything that may clue you in to recent bear activity.
4. Cleanliness is good: Leaving garbage, dog food, human food or anything else that smells, looks, tastes or feels like food outside and unprotected around your camp, home or cabin is just asking for trouble. Among other things, bears are motivated by the search for food. Any food! Help keep Alaska’s bears wild. Keep all attractants locked up, put away and secured. This is not only acting responsibly, it’s the law!
Enjoy your Alaska wildlife opportunities, learn about the animals you see and help teach the next generation of hunters and viewers what it means to be a steward of the resource. For more information about bears and other Alaska wildlife, visit www.adfg.state.ak.us or call or visit the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office at 43961 Kalifornsky Beach Road in Soldotna, (907) 262-9368.