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Bears charging/attacking horseback rider?

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  • Bears charging/attacking horseback rider?

    Hello all,
    I am looking for information from people who have had encounters with bears up here in Alaska while on horseback. I grew up riding the trails all around, behind, and between Flattop and Hilltop Ski area and worked outside of Glacier National Park in Montana and also the Grand Tetons in Wyoming as a wrangler for 4 years and came across plenty of black bears while riding and they ALWAYS ran away. Only had one brown bear encounter on horseback and it was on a trail near Flattop when I was 16 and just seeing the big bear scared me so bad I just turned my horse around before it saw us and we took a side trail back home. Now I live out past Sutton and I guess in my "old age" of 30 I am a little bit more cautious when I ride since I generally ride alone. I guess my question is for anyone who can tell me their experiences with bears they have come across on horseback in ALASKA and how the bears (especially brown) generally react when they see you? Do they run away, charge, think they can take on the horse and kill it if they are hungry enough? I realize every bear encounter is different depending on the situation like momma with cubs, bear protecting a kill, startling the bear, or predatory behavior etc so hey, I guess please share any and all types of encounters you have had! I always take my brother's husky dog with me and she always wears bells and stays about 20-30 ft ahead of us scouting the trail (keep bells on my saddle and generally yell something every few minutes) hoping to avoid a startled bear, but really can't predict/avoid the other situations.
    Also, I would love to meet up with a safe riding partner if anyone out there rides the trails around Sutton/Chickaloon. Happy Trails!
    one more question....with fall pretty much here already how aggressive do the moose out here usually get around horses?

  • #2
    I have been lucky enough to have hunted on horses since 91 up here ~ while I have had many blackie encounters and a handful of grizz all have ended with no animal or person hurt. The biggest scare was a sow who whoofed and clapped her teeth at us just long enough to get her cubs out of there and then high tailed herself away. Mostly having a good whoa on your horse even under high stress is the biggest thing for me, remember turning and running will increase the prey drive in a bear. Happy trails


    • #3
      I have had no experience riding in Alaska but a little in Idaho and Montana that might be pertinent to your questions. I just finished my annual 6 weeks of elk hunting in Idaho (the Panhandle region in the St. Joe Natl Forest) and Montana (in the Snowcrest Range southeast of Dillon) where we averaged riding @ 15 miles a day.

      Over the course of 10-15 years we've encountered only one bear, a blackie, nearly in camp. The bear was curious but completely non-threatening and left in a pretty good hurry. The horses were unperturbed.

      Moose, on the other hand, have been encountered regularly, are not much concerned about riders and horses, and this year we encountered a bull that was aggressive in the face of three horses and two riders. He stood his ground for five minutes, scraped his metatarsal glands together repeatedly (presumably in an effort to produce enough scent to intimidate us) and let us know, through other body language that he was unhappy that we didn't immediately yield the trail and area to him. The horses, all experienced and well-seasoned back country pros, were VERY antsy. In fact moose are the one critter that will agitate these horses without fail. This particular bull postured for five minutes or more, gave indications several times that he was contemplating a charge (lowered head, shaking head/atlers side to side, rubbing metatarsals, a couple of steps forward) despite our spirited vocalizations, etc. Eventually he moved slowly off, letting us know with each step and stare that he was not happy and was re-considering his options. A single rider in that instance may well have had to deal up close with an angry, agressive, possibly charging bull moose and a horse going sideways in a big hurry.

      I have see one horse/rider grizzly encounter in Alaska. Two riders were coming down a steep trail off a high ridge. A grizzly was walking on a brushy trail well below the riders (maybe 700 yards distance and 500 feet below) toward some hikers proceeding directly toward the bear. The riders (and I looking on from the other side of a valley) could see that the bikers and bear were on a collision course. One of the riders ran his horse down the ridge directly toward the bear which ran quickly in a different direction. Potential problem solved. Steady horse and rider moving fast downhill = spooked grizzly. Not sure this incident provides much basis for extrapolation to other circumstances.


      • #4
        read the book out of season it'a a bio of John Luster he was one of the first horse transpotrt/guides up here homesteaded by chickaloon. I never met the pop but John jr's a kick in the pants
        Visions Steel/841-WELD(9353)
        "Rebellion is in my blood, I was born an American"
        Μολών λαβέ


        • #5
          I agree with the poster re having a whoa (good rein) on your horse is most important. I think the risk of getting thrown outweighs the risk of attack. If your use to riding around Chugach State than I think you will find far fewer bears N. of Sutton. There are a lot of great trails out that area! If you contact Castle Mountain Outfitters they could probably give you names and numbers of other local people looking for riding companions. Any of the Luster girls are a great resource for information. In re to bear encounters lol I've seen two situations.. Running away and just plain curiosity..
          Also keep an eye out for endurance competitions near there - it's a great way to meet other equine enthusiasts.


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