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Thread: Alaska bear encounters

  1. #1
    Moderator David Johnson's Avatar
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    Default Alaska bear encounters

    When I came to Alaska as a 21 year old, I was pretty psyched about bears. I can remember scarcely sleeping many nights under canvas, and many a heart pounding resulting from juncos rustling around in the leaves.

    I hardly went anywhere with one or more large caliber firearms in or around my person. Well, I just like guns, so maybe it wasn't all about being nervous over bears, but that was certainly a big part of it.

    In the intervening decades I've had a number of encounters with bears. All of them have turned out good for both the bears and I, and my outdoor sleeping habits have become more restful.

    My attitude about bears changed the most at Pack Creek and McNeil River, two well-known Alaska bear viewing areas. At both of those places, I observed bears and people in close proximity, and I experienced a real paradigm shift. I recognize full well that bear behaviors in those places are artifacts of some unusual circumstances and "training" of both bears and people. Still, observation of bear behavior there and elsewhere has brought me to a shift in thinking.

    My attitude has gone from expecting trouble to expecting to NOT have trouble -- but being ready for it (I hope). It's like having a gun in the bedroom. No one expects to use it, but it's good to have it nearby just in case.

    How about you....how do you feel about being in the neighborhood with bears?

    David
    David M Johnson
    Anchorage, Alaska
    http://awildolivebranch.blogspot.com

  2. #2
    Moderator Daveinthebush's Avatar
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    Default Doesn't bother me at home

    There were two black bears killed in my little community outside of Valdez last year. One ate my caribou antlers from the Haul road trip last fall and even took a dump in my front yard within 10 yards of my bear archery target. That is insulting enough. He also craped on my neighbors front porch. I do have a labrador with an excellent nose that alerts me of intruders in the yard.

    I bear bait for two months in the spring and walk almost every 2-4 days into the stands to bait or hunt. The bears run off every time but one. A sow two years ago took over one stand and nothing would get her and the cubs to leave.

    Up north in Unit 13 can be a little un-nerving. There you are just as likely to walk into a grizz as a black bear. Where on PWS I carry the .44 mag., up north I prefer the shotgun.

    As I type this Rouge Bear is on the learning channel. They should not be showing the skin pulled off of a womans skulls just before baiting season.

    Vietnam - June 70 - Feb. 72
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  3. #3
    Mark
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Johnson View Post
    ....My attitude has gone from expecting trouble to expecting to NOT have trouble -- but being ready for it (I hope). It's like having a gun in the bedroom. No one expects to use it, but it's good to have it nearby just in case.

    How about you....how do you feel about being in the neighborhood with bears?.....
    You pretty much summed it up for me with that statement.

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    Member martentrapper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Johnson View Post


    My attitude has gone from expecting trouble to expecting to NOT have trouble -- but being ready for it (I hope).
    David
    In order to "be ready" for something, aren't you more or less "expecting" it?

    I am willing to bet that if one were to map the locations of bear maulings in Alaska, they would find most all of these instances to be in urban areas or in Parks...........where bears are not hunted.
    I'm convinced that there is a reason very few humans are bothered by bears in rural Ak. We kill them regularly. Very few folks out here have the "live with them" attitude. Most bears here KNOW humans are dangerous and leave us alone.
    I can't help being a lazy, dumb, weekend warrior.......I have a JOB!
    I have less friends now!!

  5. #5
    Mark
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    Quote Originally Posted by martentrapper View Post
    ....I'm convinced that there is a reason very few humans are bothered by bears in rural Ak. We kill them regularly. Very few folks out here have the "live with them" attitude. Most bears here KNOW humans are dangerous and leave us alone.
    There is no doubt that park bears become accustomed to oogling humans who don't shoot.

    The opposite should also be true...........

  6. #6
    Member kahahawai's Avatar
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    I have had a bear encounter--Last year with a 6'6" cinnamon black bear, walked right up to him at approx. 16 yards (Imarked it off) I was carrying a bag of dog food, my bow was strapped to my back pack which I was on my back and my rifle was on the ATV about 50 yards away. I figure the bears would have ran off by hearing the ATV coming up, so I grabbed the dog food and just walked up until I saw him, and at that instant he saw me, he stood up on his two feet and sniffed the air and looked at me, I know he saw me , and he stared for about 5-10 seconds, i just froze and thought I was done, there was no way I was going to defend myself, but he got down and huddled away. I new he was hanging around believe me I kept looking over my shoulder as I filled the empty barrel that was hit hard over the past week, but I had my rifle there this time. as soon as I climbed back in the stand I was trying to set up he came back and was at the bait barrel, I watched him for a while, and it seemed like he knew I was there because he even looked at me in the stand, but when he was about to grab the beaver i just hung up, I had a feeling he was going to grab and go, and that was when I took him, a beautiful colored black bear who provided some tasty sausage and a beautiful rug for the wall that has a great story to it. This was my first ever bear taken, and was proud to take it in the great Land.

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    Member kaguyakguy's Avatar
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    I'll try and add a bit to this discussion....

    A researcher named Steven Herrero analyzed a bunch of bear attacks, and he discovered that 95% of all the attacks could basically be attributed to the person surprising the bear. This is straight from his book "Bear Attacks - Their Causes and Avoidance".

    It's a good read for all of us who spend time in the bush, IMO.

    To that I would add that if the bears are in an area where they have an adversarial relationship with people (hunted), we are more likely to be percieved as threatening to the bear, which will make the bear more inclined to 'neutralize' the perceived threat.

    In the course of guiding out on the Katmai coast, I have personally had a number of 'surprise encounters' with moms with cubs, and a number of other brown bears in those National Park and similar bear viewing-type locations where they could generally care less about you, provided you demonstrate non-threatening body language, etc., and maintain a respectful distance, etc. once you see each other - as we are not percieved as a threat, it follows that the bear doesn't react in a defensive manner.

    FWIW....

  8. #8
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    I haven't baited or shot a black bear since July of 1987. I used to 'jar them up' in Ball and Kerr pint jars, after cooking them first as loose meat, getting rid of the bulk of the grease, and diluting the remaining grease/broth with water and spices before pressure cooking a second time in jars.

    I've had a number of encounters with bears; some expected, and some not. I've suffered from 'bear-a-noia' for many years now; from adolescence, on up 'til current time. Quite a few years.

    One friend who lives in the bush went to the outhouse one day. When he came out, he encountered a black bear. It didn't run. His old dog, a black lab, went after the bear, and he launched an unmanned 4-whlr at it in his attempt to get past it to get into his cabin to get a gun (the bear was between he and his cabin access). That bear killed his dog.

    Another friend not too far from there, also a bush dweller, killed a 9' 10" grizzly not 30 yards from my moose-hunting tree stand out there. I'd seen that bear's tracks off and on, and was nervous.

    In my moose hunting stand I dozed off one day, and awoke to terrible snorting and the sounds of brush being ripped and uprooted... nearly directly below me. Two (approximately 3 yr. old) silver tip twins emerged. They never were able to locate my exact position, 20 feet off the ground, but I watched them as long as they were visible.

    A bears eye-sight is notoriously terrible. But they have AMAZING noses, and fairly amazing ears. those two could hear my hair on my collar when I'd shift my neck and head around. They were apparently unnerved by not being able to ID my locale, and as they vanished between a couple of trees, away from me and into a marsh, the one stood on his hind legs, sniffed the air one last time, and gave a hillarious huge roar, much like a kid who's scared to death tries to act tough, yelling threats while their knees are knocking. I laughed SO hard that day!! What a show!! What a gift!

    I had come down from another tree stand in another location in the Summer of '86, where I'd been waiting for moose, and having gotten to the point that I was falling asleep in the stand, I slowly and quietly followed a trail that took me further back into the brush. I encountered a very large grizzly; we were both surprised, and he took off in the opposite direction of myself, heading further back in, while I made a sweaty, heart-palpitating bee-line to my vehicle. I was young and dumb, and it was a better rush than a Stephen King horror flick.

    I've stood within 5 yards of a sizable black bear on POW Island in 1989, and tickled my trigger repeatedly, 18 years ago, asking myself if I wanted to spend -that- much time in front of a pressure canner and sharpening knives. The answer that day was 'no, I didn't.'

    The difference between July of '87 in the Interior, and 1989 on POW was a decent paying job; oddly enough, the presence of money made a black bear look more like work than food. I'm a meat and necessity hunter more than anything else. I don't refer to myself as a sportsman, as I don't think that killing is 'sport.'

    I've had quite a number of bear encounters. I no longer hunt them, and have little desire to kill one, though I did get a grizzly tag for last year's moose hunt, just in case (I resent performing free labor for the government...).

    I don't trust them at all. It's that one that you assume is the fuzzy neighborhood clown that might just rip your head off and stuff it down your throat after he's chewed on it for a while.. Bears can change demeanor/temperament based on a number of factors. Are they getting too old to hunt? Is it a crappy year for chow? Are they injured or otherwise sick? Is there an obvious way out of a perceived confrontation? And even way more variables than those. The list goes on.

    I leave them alone, and pray that they do the same for me.

    ruffle
    Last edited by ruffle; 04-13-2007 at 22:43.

  9. #9
    Mark
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    What a wonderful post! I can identify with this completely.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruffle View Post
    I haven't baited or shot a black bear since July of 1987. I used to 'jar them up' in Ball and Kerr pint jars, after cooking them first as loose meat, getting rid of the bulk of the grease, and diluting the remaining grease/broth with water and spices before pressure cooking a second time in jars.
    I found that bear meat needs that grease. I think that when cut/drained out completely, it's like eating leather.

    ....I've stood within 5 yards of a sizable black bear on POW Island in 1989, and tickled my trigger repeatedly, 18 years ago, asking myself if I wanted to spend -that- much time in front of a pressure canner and sharpening knives. The answer that day was 'no, I didn't.'...
    This is something I think needs to be discussed. I find myself in this situation more often than not.

    Moose? During the season?

    Shoot. Get to work.

    Bear? I rarely shoot. Mrs. Mark isn't fond of bear meat. Why should she be? She's used to moose and caribou. We raise sheep, turkeys, and other livestock here. Why eat a nasty bear? After shooting a few bears, why bother with the work when I have plenty of bear hides and plenty of meat?

    The difference between July of '87 in the Interior, and 1989 on POW was a decent paying job; oddly enough, the presence of money made a black bear look more like work than food. I'm a meat and necessity hunter more than anything else. I don't refer to myself as a sportsman, as I don't think that killing is 'sport.'
    I agree. I have plenty of money. This isn't 1960's era Alaska. There's actually a warehouse store just 3 miles away. There's food aplenty.

    I've had quite a number of bear encounters. I no longer hunt them, and have little desire to kill one, though I did get a grizzly tag for last year's moose hunt, just in case (I resent performing free labor for the government...).
    I still hunt them, but rarely shoot. I actually went out today to check the trails. They were still too snowbound for wheeled rigs.

    I like to hunt. Even just to draw them in and watch them. I even talk to them.

    I don't trust them at all. It's that one that you assume is the fuzzy neighborhood clown that might just rip your head off and stuff it down your throat after he's chewed on it for a while.. Bears can change demeanor/temperament based on a number of factors. Are they getting too old to hunt? Is it a crappy year for chow? Are they injured or otherwise sick? Is there an obvious way out of a perceived confrontation? And even way more variables than those. The list goes on.
    Yup. You can't trust them. They're murderers, thieves, and vandals by trade.

    I leave them alone, and pray that they do the same for me.
    I'm only afraid of them when zipped up in a sleeping bag and tent like a burrito.

  10. #10
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    Hi Mark.

    My primary reason for canning black bear, back when I ate them, is that the twice-cooked-in-a-pressure-canner method (once loose, and once in jars... and a pint is more meat than most persons realize) is that I've NEVER shot a bear that had fewer than 3 visible-to-the-naked-eyes parasites; round worms, tape worms, unidentifiable worms (for which I almost received the honor of being involved in naming one), and various flukes or fluke-like critters.

    Cook it at 15 lbs. of pressure twice, first loose, and then with the broth diluted the second time around in jars with spices, and two things happen; every parasite known to human kind is deader than a door nail, and the meat literally falls apart into small fiber, like over-cooked stew meat. Mostly 'cause at that point, it's literally over-cooked stew meat.

    I would typically fry up some spuds with onions, chopped or grated carrots, perhaps some rutabega diced fine, and then, when the potatoe 'hash' was nicely browned, toss in between a jar and a half-jar of the bear meat drained.

    I can assure you that it tastes JUST like the government's commodity canned pork from many years ago. You'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference at that point. Seriously.

    Moose and caribou I freeze fresh. Bear I always canned, just for the disease and parasite issues.

    Even with moose and caribou, echinococus granulosis is quite common.

    Many of the Eskimo villages, where persons traditionally eat raw caribou dipped in seal oil, test positive for this critter. (I don't know how to spell this thing, but it's pronounced 'Quock,' or 'Qwaaack,' with a real gutteral mixing of the sounds in its proper pronunciation; I've eaten it a few times and preferred the caribou to the seal oil only because in at least one of those instances, the seal oil was rancid).

    In humans, with the exception of the St. Lawrence Island variation, it's a relatively benign issue. Later in the human host's life, nearly micro-scopic cysts are found in the human host's lungs, that will sometimes dislodge themselves during a massive coughing spree (the coughing is rarely related to the critter's presence form what I understand), and appear as a tiny blood spot on a kerchief.

    If your dog, (or a bear), should get into that same parasite by eating raw meat from an infected caribou, fish, bear, or moose, IT'S UGLY!! Visually speaking. Worst case of fluke-like worm infestation I've EVER seen!! Man!! Yuck!!

    Anyway, yeah, I chuckled about the 'human burrito' reference. Perhaps I should sleep next to a jar of picante' sauce and some shredded lettuce? ;^>)

    I ate some canned grizzly almost 30 years ago. It was a bear that was shot near Mcbride, B.C., and canned with carrots and onions in quarts. It was much better than most persons have often talked about; especially around a cold, wet camp fire. I guess that's the difference between a coastal fish bear, and an inland berry, game meat, and wild grasses bear.

    ruffle

  11. #11
    Mark
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruffle View Post
    .....My primary reason for canning black bear, back when I ate them, is that the twice-cooked-in-a-pressure-canner method (once loose, and once in jars... and a pint is more meat than most persons realize) is that I've NEVER shot a bear that had fewer than 3 visible-to-the-naked-eyes parasites; round worms, tape worms, unidentifiable worms (for which I almost received the honor of being involved in naming one), and various flukes or fluke-like critters.....
    Now, that's great advice. Part of the problem around here was that Mrs. Mark and her mom would cook the crap out of bear meat because they were afraid of it, and it would be tough as hell. You're canning suggestion is ideal.

    I appreciate that great advice.

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    Thumbs up Bear Meat....

    Many years ago, I shot a 300# cinnamon phase black bear.

    He made great! tacos and peperoni...McPeaks on Badger Rd. made the peperoni for me.

    A neighbor of mine says that lard rendered from black bear fat makes the best! pie crusts.

    And its organic.

  13. #13

    Default No thanks, only flukes I like are akin to halibut

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    Many years ago, I shot a 300# cinnamon phase black bear.

    He made great! tacos and peperoni...McPeaks on Badger Rd. made the peperoni for me.

    A neighbor of mine says that lard rendered from black bear fat makes the best! pie crusts.

    And its organic.
    I read all of the posts so that I might know a bit more about the critters I might view, or run into. Great stories, and some good info. I plan on tying bells on my fishing vest.. No surprises.

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    Member Erik in AK's Avatar
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    When in bear country I am "cautiously optimisic" as they say.

    I have had several encounters with bears, both brown and black, that never involved me killing one but left me with renewed appreciation for their power or stealthiness.

    My first: I took a walk down the south shore of Eklutna Lake in July 02. I had drawn a sheep tag and was scouting for tails that led up from the lake. I got a late start and had walked out to the big point by about 11pm. I turned back and within a mile I was walking on brown bear tracks that had walked on mine. That bear picked up my trail shortly after I passed the old valve shed and followed me for about 5 miles and I never knew it was there.

    later that september during the hunt I watched a sow and two yearling cubs investigate my camp. I was high up on the ridge above camp as she made her way down the other side. The whole time during her approach I figured I was going home but all she did was leave a noseprint on the rainfly. She went back up the way she came and a half hour later I watched her dig up 7 ground squirrels in 9 attempts. She ate up the first 4 and then crippled the 5th and tossed it to her cubs who at first didn't know what to do. After a few minutes of tentative sniffing, one cub picked the squirrel up at which point the other cub latched on and the squirrel was pulled apart and eaten. When the sow tossed unlucky squirrel number 6 to her cubs they pounced on it. As she excavated the last one, her cubs were pawing at the hole as she dug. It was an amazing thing to watch.

    Then there was the time I was stalked by a black bear. October 1996: I was walking back to the Eagle River Nature Center (another failed sheep hunt DS140) and thought I saw an animal shape back in the trees. A few minutes later I crossed the first powerline right of way and out into the clearing steps a beautiful black bear. 5 to 6 feet, rolls of fat, glossy black with a white V on its chest only 50 yards away. I was thrilled and in the moment disappointed that there was no season for blackies in the Eagle River Valley. It stood on its hind legs while we watched each other. When I turned to resume my plod down the trail the bear dropped to all fours and paralleled me through the woods. I kept an eye on the bear and grew nervous when after 10 minutes it was not only still following me but angling in closer. When we crossed the next clearing the bear was only 20 yards. When it turned and took a few steps in my direction I quickly shucked my pack and picked up a few rocks from the trail and started throwing for all I was worth. Only after I hit the bear did it retreat, and then only another 30 or 40 yards. Put the pack back on but left the hipbelt and chest strap un fastend and had my bow in my hand instead of lashed to the pack. I was scared at this point. I thought for sure it would come back and force me to shoot it. I did not want my first bear to be a DLP kill. In another 10 minutes I was almost back to the Center and ran into a state park ranger who was out "playing" with a nice bull moose. He was calling the bull who would come in, see us, get confused and leave only to be enticed right back again. I told the ranger about the bear. He said "Yeah, that bear's been a nuisance all summer."

    A wonderful animal deserving of our utmost respect.

  15. #15
    Member SoggyMountain's Avatar
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    Default Yeah THAT guy

    Thanks for that post Kagayakguy. I posted about that book the other day in another thread. Couldn't remember Steven Herrero's name, but remember the book well. I'd call it recommended reading for anyone venturing out.

    I bump into bears all the time and always have. But, I've never been threatened really. There is some question about two young brown bear twins one time that we figured were stalking us, but I'm not convinced at all that they had anything other than "NEW TOYS" on their minds. We had watched them wrestling with eachother for a good half hour. This one would chase that one, then that one would chase this one....and it always ended in a wrestling match. Like cats might play with eachother. After they ambled off, we got back to work but then one appeared right above us. We called the helicopter to come run it off, and when it got up to us, it started circling down below! Apparently the twin had dropped down under us and was coming up with the other coming down from above. That's the closest thing to an "oh crap" encounter that I've ever had. The rest, which are way too many to count, usually involve the bear moving off or even running off.

    What I got from that book is that brown bears tend to be motivated to aggression by fear or perceived threat. The blackies are usually hungry.

    I also have seen some video footage of black bears in attack mode. They seem to like to stalk and size up their odds before weighing in for a maul. Brown bears seem more explosive.... they aren't considering their odds as much as they are reacting to a circumstance.

    That's how I've seen it.

    I should say here that last year something roared at me. Sounded like the MGM Lion! My grouse hunt (with my .22) was not very comfortable after that.

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    Default Mark or ruffle is right.

    I agee with the expect there to be no trouble but be prepared if there is.

    On a side note anyone been to the Russian yet? More bears than I've ever seen at one time. I know McNiel is chock full, but usually I see one or two bears at a time and they amble away.

    This sat/sunday at the russian the bears were everywhere fish carcass's were. (stop chop and throw is apperently to much work for some (almost all) people. They didn't walk away, they stayed put. People were thinking it was some kind of bear holiday. (total of 6 different bears not counting the 3 cubs) Walking within 30 feet on purpose! This boar near cottonwood had a crowd of about 30 people standing 30 feet away. He was straight up staring at the crowd as well. He made me nervous and I got out of there. Then were the sow was killed last year by the ferry in that little wood area..........well I saw 2 sows with cubs popping in and out of there, I also saw one of the "named" bears that were orphaned a couple years ago. It is a really bad scene. Something bad will happen this year. Then I can thank all the nuckleheads that keep leaving food out for the bears when I can't fish before 8 or after 8pm. I just hope no people get hurt. The bears???? They are as good as dead.

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    Default bears

    I'd be more leery of a bear in the Brooks than I would be with a coastal bear . I distrust blacks more than browns but have more respect for the latter . I was more concerned with both around when the family was here , now I tend to see a problem as the same as getting hit by lightning , if your time is up , it is . I still carry but think that if a bear is serious they're probably going to come out on top . Somebody said a mountain without a bear on it isn't , they're a **** interesting part of life .

  18. #18

    Default a native's perspective on bears

    Part of what shaped the way I think about bears was the native folklore I heard when I was young: Were there stories of brave men hunting bears together, using nothing but the simple bows & spears they had at the time? Yes; bears were respected, and it was considered prestigious to get one. Were there stories of bears stalking or mauling people, or at least being a little terrorizing? Not that I remember. I do remember a story or two about them reacting in annoyance to people who provoke them.

    I think bears usually go about their daily business without much thought about humans. Unless we scare them, provoke them, or unwittingly (or wittingly) tempt them with our enticingly sweet & salty foods, we have little to worry from bears. That said, I like to give them plenty of warning that humans are in the area, I keep my food stashed well, and I pack some heat when I'm in the outdoors. I like to go about my daily business without much thought about bears, but I do it responsibly.

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    A funny thing about "bear behavior knowledge" by some experts is reading later on the news papers about such experts and how they died to bears :)

    I am not an expert by any means, but common sense tells me that one never knows how bears (humans too) are going to react at any given moment. We don't even know enough about domestic dogs. If we knew, then there would not be so many dog bites.

    About park and dumpster bears: Stephen Herrero also says that human habituated bears are most dangerous, specially the ones that hang around dumpsters or land fields. There are dumpsters at most parks, too.
    http://www.absc.usgs.gov/research/br..._conflicts.htm

  20. #20
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    My experiences with brown/grizzlies in the wild is neil, but I did have alot of fun with Toby and Lucky at Prudhoe Boy. Both were born in the area and began life as dump bears until it was fenced off. They then became quite accustomed to the dumpsters in the area and the occassional goodies left by the workers.

    They never were aggressive during my experiences and I have been with in 2 feet of Toby with nothing between us..(very nerve racking). Bear spray did not evey effect him.

    While stationed in Kaktovik, had the occassion to see many polar bears. Even had two cubs playing on my porch as their mother was getting into our dumpster. Living in Kaktovik was unique in that the locals were not anxious to shoot every bear that came in to town as I had seen in some of the other villages I had been in. There if there bear was injured or became a true nusiance, then it was addressed (harvested)...otherwise it was "you respect the bear and the bear will respect you".

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