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  #1  
Old 7 Feb 2012
*Touring Ted*'s Avatar
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Travelling in Bear Country.... Experiences and advice sought.

I'm doing an extended canoe trip this summer through the Yukon territory and the Alaskan interior....

BEAR COUNTRY...

I'll be doing a lot of camping and trying to live as close to nature as possible. There is real chance that I could run into bears which I have NO experience with at all. Being a lilly livered European, it concerns me a little.

I've been reading up about bear encounters etc and these websites and pretty much attempting to scare to poop out of me lol.

Are there any hardened Canadians/Alaskans here that can give me some sensible 'Real world' advice here ???

Also, is it going too far to consider buying a firearm when I get to Canada ? I don't really want to but it might be useful for food hunting anyway. A lot of websites say "You'd be crazy to go without a firearm" etc.

Just for the record, I am not a hunter or interested in sport hunting AT ALL. (I don't even know if I can legally buy one anyway)

Cheers, Ted
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  #2  
Old 7 Feb 2012
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Ted, you're trying to create problems for yourself where none actually exist. You've done this before. If you're really determined to do so, you can probably succeed....but think how much easier it would be to just mellow out and do something fun instead.

Here's my take: Ignore the gun people. Alaskans are crazy for guns, and love to talk about how essential they are. In fact, that's true of a lot of Americans in general, and I meet people all the time who don't leave the house without carrying, and for that matter who make sure they're never far from a weapon even inside their own houses. I meet them hiking on innocuous little trails in the local parks carrying. In some states you see them in bars carrying handguns, or in the supermarket, or walking down the streets.

Whatever they say, if you've no experience with guns you're more likely to injure yourself or your friends, or have it stolen from you than you are to use it for some valid purpose, like turning back a charging grizzly....which doesn't happen much in the real world anyway. Plus they're expensive, awkward to pack and carry, take a fair amount of loving care, and have a steep learning curve. And they're a real pain in the ass when crossing borders, which you're going to want to do.

I've done a lot of camping in bear country--black and grizzly both. I've had more damage to my belongings from mice and from ravens than from bears. That's normal. Most bears will stay away once they realize you're human. There are protocols for you to follow to stay out of their way, not offend them when on their turf, and not entice them to your camp with the smell of food or toiletries. There are bearproof containers, which you should certainly carry. You're a smart guy. You can learn this stuff easily, as millions have before you. There's nothing you're going to do differently if you've got a gun.

Reliable, relatively unbiased information comes from classes at the parks and at major retailers, like REI in Anchorage. For distance learning, Herrero's "Bear Attacks" is a classic, and a good one for grasping the basics without hysteria. Doug Peackock's "Grizzly Years" is uneven, but entirely worthwhile if you've got the time. Probably guidebooks like the Lonely Planet have sections on bears, but that's just a guess. For all the hysteria, they certainly should.

Hope that's helpful.

Mark
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  #3  
Old 7 Feb 2012
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Probably safer in a canoe than a car...

Two killed in bizarre motorway accident as airborne 21stone black bear smashes through car windscreen | Mail Online

sounds like a fantastic trip - very envious - enjoy
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not too hard really
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  #4  
Old 7 Feb 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markharf View Post
Ted, you're trying to create problems for yourself where none actually exist. You've done this before. If you're really determined to do so, you can probably succeed....but think how much easier it would be to just mellow out and do something fun instead.

Here's my take: Ignore the gun people. Alaskans are crazy for guns, and love to talk about how essential they are. In fact, that's true of a lot of Americans in general, and I meet people all the time who don't leave the house without carrying, and for that matter who make sure they're never far from a weapon even inside their own houses. I meet them hiking on innocuous little trails in the local parks carrying. In some states you see them in bars carrying handguns, or in the supermarket, or walking down the streets.

Whatever they say, if you've no experience with guns you're more likely to injure yourself or your friends, or have it stolen from you than you are to use it for some valid purpose, like turning back a charging grizzly....which doesn't happen much in the real world anyway. Plus they're expensive, awkward to pack and carry, take a fair amount of loving care, and have a steep learning curve. And they're a real pain in the ass when crossing borders, which you're going to want to do.

I've done a lot of camping in bear country--black and grizzly both. I've had more damage to my belongings from mice and from ravens than from bears. That's normal. Most bears will stay away once they realize you're human. There are protocols for you to follow to stay out of their way, not offend them when on their turf, and not entice them to your camp with the smell of food or toiletries. There are bearproof containers, which you should certainly carry. You're a smart guy. You can learn this stuff easily, as millions have before you. There's nothing you're going to do differently if you've got a gun.

Reliable, relatively unbiased information comes from classes at the parks and at major retailers, like REI in Anchorage. For distance learning, Herrero's "Bear Attacks" is a classic, and a good one for grasping the basics without hysteria. Doug Peackock's "Grizzly Years" is uneven, but entirely worthwhile if you've got the time. Probably guidebooks like the Lonely Planet have sections on bears, but that's just a guess. For all the hysteria, they certainly should.

Hope that's helpful.

Mark
Thanks Mark... Good info. As always, it's appreciated.

Well, I don't think I'm creating problems. Just trying to get a bit of inside knowledge. I'm not stressing or panicking. I just find it good preparation to be a little clued up on an area before you visit it by asking people who've been there and done it. That's the whole idea of this forum.

A bit of planning stops me being 'That guy'. The dumb ass who makes easily avoided dumb ass mistakes like running from a bear or shooting himself in the foot with a machine gun lol...

By a little bit of planning and research, it really takes the stress out of it for me.. I don't think I'm alone. I'm probably just a lot more open about it than most. Once I'm on the road, I pretty much have no plans, stress or ideas at all and have a lot of fun ..

Cheers, Ted
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  #5  
Old 7 Feb 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markharf View Post
Ted, you're trying to create problems for yourself where none actually exist. You've done this before. If you're really determined to do so, you can probably succeed....but think how much easier it would be to just mellow out and do something fun instead.

Here's my take: Ignore the gun people. Alaskans are crazy for guns, and love to talk about how essential they are. In fact, that's true of a lot of Americans in general, and I meet people all the time who don't leave the house without carrying, and for that matter who make sure they're never far from a weapon even inside their own houses. I meet them hiking on innocuous little trails in the local parks carrying. In some states you see them in bars carrying handguns, or in the supermarket, or walking down the streets.

Whatever they say, if you've no experience with guns you're more likely to injure yourself or your friends, or have it stolen from you than you are to use it for some valid purpose, like turning back a charging grizzly....which doesn't happen much in the real world anyway. Plus they're expensive, awkward to pack and carry, take a fair amount of loving care, and have a steep learning curve. And they're a real pain in the ass when crossing borders, which you're going to want to do.

I've done a lot of camping in bear country--black and grizzly both. I've had more damage to my belongings from mice and from ravens than from bears. That's normal. Most bears will stay away once they realize you're human. There are protocols for you to follow to stay out of their way, not offend them when on their turf, and not entice them to your camp with the smell of food or toiletries. There are bearproof containers, which you should certainly carry. You're a smart guy. You can learn this stuff easily, as millions have before you. There's nothing you're going to do differently if you've got a gun.

Reliable, relatively unbiased information comes from classes at the parks and at major retailers, like REI in Anchorage. For distance learning, Herrero's "Bear Attacks" is a classic, and a good one for grasping the basics without hysteria. Doug Peackock's "Grizzly Years" is uneven, but entirely worthwhile if you've got the time. Probably guidebooks like the Lonely Planet have sections on bears, but that's just a guess. For all the hysteria, they certainly should.

Hope that's helpful.

Mark
+1

Mark has given you some great advise. If you really feel you need to take something to defend yourself, take a canister of Bear Spray with you. Make sure it has a picture of a bear on the label, I got asked that each time I crossed in and out of Canada. I saw more Black bear than Grizzly when I made the trip to AK in 09. I camped 36 out of 37 days on this trip with no bear problems. Bears don't like to be startled and they really don't like you getting between them and their cubs. Keep your food and food trash in order and you should do fine. You just have to remember that the bears live there and you are visiting! I think when you get there you will find the mosquitoes will be more of a bother than the bears.

If you have never been to this part of the world you are in for a treat. I took over 1,100 photos on my trip as it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. As the old saying goes, it truly is the untamed frontier, as much of it hasn't been walked on by humans.
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  #6  
Old 7 Feb 2012
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An ounce of preventative measures (i.e. good camping and food storage habits, extra awareness in bear country to prevent surprise encounters) is worth more than a pound of cure (guns).

Carry some bear spray and bangers just in case. Effectiveness is certainly not guaranteed, but having it as a backup will provide you with some comfort on the very rare occasion that you would actually have to use it.

Plus, in Alaska you won't ever be that far away from someone who is packing a gun. Keep that in mind when you making your moves on the local lasses
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  #7  
Old 7 Feb 2012
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Originally Posted by MountainMan View Post
Plus, in Alaska you won't ever be that far away from someone who is packing a gun. Keep that in mind when you making your moves on the local lasses
This is the pure golden advice that you just don't get in a guide book...
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  #8  
Old 7 Feb 2012
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Quote: "The bear entered the vehicle through the windscreen, travelled through the car and out through the rear window, killing the drivers and a back seat passenger."

I love the Daily Mail! It's just too bad that the occupants of that car didn't have an assault rifle handy when the bear came flying through the air at them.

Someone I know vaguely through a backcountry skiing forum just posted a vivid description of a mishap with bear spray. He was camped with friends in the snows in Oregon and was asked how the spray worked. Demonstrating the procedure for pulling the pin to arm the spray can, he accidentally fired spray into both his eyes. He found this remarkably unpleasant.

Me, I neither carry nor particularly miss guns, bear spray, bangers, bells or other paraphernalia. Who needs more complications in their lives? In polar bear country I might be tempted, but grizzlies.....? Nah.

YMMV.

Ted, look for the Herrero book. It's good reading, and gives you lots of stories to tell without undue scaremongering.

Mark
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  #9  
Old 7 Feb 2012
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I am sure RUS bears are no different from American or Canadian bears, so -

The advice I received here is that bears are at their most dangerous when they are -

- Hungry. Be extra wary after their hibernation period. Keep preparation cooking and eating of your own food to the minimum time and always store food in air-tight containers, hanging on trees well away from you and your camp.

- Threatened. Retreat but carefully and steadily, unless charged or followed faster than you are retreating. Be especially careful when there are young or injured bears about.

- Surprised. When camping or moving about make continuous noise so they hear you from a distance. I have heard of people wearing bells and a small radio round themselves. Although it could attract their attention it does reduce the chance of them acting on instinct and impulse when suddenly surprised by seeing you close up.

I have been told they find loud noise (like moto engines with aftermarket cans?) uncomfortable and, unless desperate, will avoid it.

The other advice I received was to climb a tree - but I am dubious about that for 2 reasons. It reduces your options to just that with no alternative escape plan or route if it fails. Secondly, bears can climb trees!
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  #10  
Old 7 Feb 2012
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Originally Posted by *Touring Ted* View Post
I don't really want to but it might be useful for food hunting anyway.
Just for the record, I am not a hunter or interested in sport hunting AT ALL. (I don't even know if I can legally buy one anyway)

Cheers, Ted
Made me smile!! - Food hunting with a weapon that can drop a bear.
It reminded me that the Deliverence (a movie reference for those who are too young to know) guys managed with a bow and arrow, but that's Hollywood for you.

Seriously, just enjoy the canoeing, the scenery, and the mossies!!
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Old 7 Feb 2012
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Deliverance, now there's an educational film.....
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Old 7 Feb 2012
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Originally Posted by oothef View Post
Deliverance, now there's an educational film.....
The cast included well known moto-adventurer Charly Boorman.

So it must have all been genuine with nothing staged for the film or any acting involved ...

Poor Ned Beatty (Bobby) though.

Last edited by Tony P; 7 Feb 2012 at 23:01.
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  #13  
Old 7 Feb 2012
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Originally Posted by Tony P View Post
The cast included well known moto-adventurer Charly Boorman.

So it must have all been genuine with nothing staged for the film or any acting involved ...

Poor Ned Beatty (Bobby) though.
Wow, thanks for that Tony, I didn't realise CB was in there.

A google search confirms there were not too many bears but a pig for sure:-
Mountain Man: I bet you can squeal like a pig. Weeeeeeee!
Bobby: Weee!
Mountain Man: Weeeeeeee!
Bobby: Weee
as quoted in What are some famous quotes from the movie Deliverance?

A classic movie from 40 years ago!
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Old 8 Feb 2012
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Ted
There is a lot of good advice here. I'm from Canada and have a life time of hiking and camping experience in B.C. ,Alberta and the Yukon. Lots of 1 week or more canoeing trips. I have come across and seen 100's of bears both black and grizzlys, I carry no firearms and no bear spray but do carry a whistle and a bell on my pack.

I store food up and away from my tent and do dishes and brush my teeth away from the camp.

Problem bears are usually near population centers not in the wild.
This summer in Eagle Plains Yukon, I watched a hotel employee pepper spray a problem garbage black bear in the face and it just shook its head side to side and continued to knock over litter barrels, he sprayed it again and it did the same thing so he went inside came out with a rifle and the rest was history. So from what I saw pepper spray may not always work, plus you better have the bear down wind before using it

A canoe trip in the Yukon will be remembered for a life time!!!
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  #15  
Old 8 Feb 2012
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Ted! lots of good advice shared. Have river hunted for years in the Yukon. That said, forget gun. Pealess whistles are good as is bear spray if ever that close and personal, but aim for nose and shoot downwind. Agree that wilderness bears tend to avoid humans in general. However, for the very rare instance that a bear is stalking you and not timid to noise or your presence then assume that it is hunting you. Time to be aggressive, make yourself big, lots of noise. Don't back down or run or climb trees.

Cooking odorous foods, ie meats, fish, in morning is preferable since it provides you more time and distance until discovery by a hungry and curious bear. By July the Salmon are migrating up the Yukon River and can therefore be a source of food to bears down on the sandbars or backchannels. Watch for fish carcasses and avoid camping near those sites. They'd much rather eat a stinky, greasy fish than bother you :-)

You are in for the treat of a lifetime; unlimited daylight, serenity, some wildlife, true wilderness. You will find other river users to be very friendly and helpful. Yukon River Quest is June 27 to July 1 from Whitehorse to Dawson City. Fun crowd and fun place to be for finish party. Provisioning stores are few and far between but greyling can be had at creek mouths. Maybe you'll learn to make "bannock" :-)

Happy Travels !
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