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Charging Bear: Stand Your Ground

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

Stand Your Ground

When you see two large Grizzly Bears running in your direction, the last thing you think of is to Stand your ground. The inner prey urges you to run, but you must fight that urge and stay put.

If you give in and run for your life, you would be doing just that. You will not get far if you have a bear that's well over 800 pounds with claws over 4 inches long and a bite force strong enough to crush a bowling ball and runs at 35 miles per hour. Bears are designed to hunt prey that is much larger and faster than humans.

Most bear attaches are by females protecting their young. But the time of year can play an important role in the aggressiveness of bears. Most bear attaches happen between July and August. This is the time of year when mothers are with cubs, young males are testing the limits with other bears and large males are showing their muscles. But most of all this is also the time of year when the trails are full of tourists.


When we were In search of the Alaskan Coastal Brown Bear we had an up-close interaction with two large males in early June near the Lake Clarke National Park area. During this time of year, the bears are just waking up from hibernation and coming down from the mountains to gorge themselves on clams and grass. They had little interest in us, but we still needed to be on our toes and aware of our surroundings. The on-sight Ranger gave us the low down on the rules and what bears are having a bad day.

If the bears get too close for comfort here's what the experts say:
  1. Remain calm - DO NOT RUN

  2. Avoid direct eye contact with the bear

  3. Back away slowly if the bear is not approaching

  4. If the bear is approaching - Stand your Ground

  5. Raise and Wave your Hands

  6. Do not yell or scream, in a calm normal voice say HEY BEAR

  7. If the Bear is still approaching and is within 25 feet use Bear Spray

If you plan on being in bear country it's best to be prepared. When hiking on trails make noise; talk as you walk and yell out HEY BEAR once in a while. You don't want to surprise any bears out for a stroll. Take Bear Spray and know how and when to use it. Some people may feel more comfortable carrying a firearm with them. The same thing applies to Bear Spray, know-how, and when to use your gun. Be aware of the local laws when it comes to carrying a firearm. In Alaska, there is the Defense of Life or Property (DLP) Law.

If You Kill a Bear in Defense of Life or Property (DLP)

You may kill a bear in defense of your life or property if you did not provoke an attack or cause a problem by negligently leaving human or pet food or garbage in a manner that attracts bears and if you have done everything else you can to protect your life and property (5 AAC 92.410).

Property means your dwelling, means of travel, pets or livestock, fish drying racks, or other valuable property necessary for your livelihood or survival. While game meat is considered your property, you may not kill a bear to protect it unless the meat is critical for your survival. Even in this situation you still must do everything possible to protect the meat (i.e. proper storage, scaring the scavenger, etc. See Safely in Bear Country) before you may kill the bear.

If you have to shoot a bear, be sure you shoot to kill - wounded bears are potentially more dangerous than healthy bears. Also, be very careful of what lies beyond your intended target - stray bullets can travel over a mile and still be deadly.

Bears killed in defense of life or property belong to the state. If you kill a bear you must remove the hide from the carcass and must also salvage the skull (Bear Hides: Skinning and Field Care) (PDF 506 kB). You must give both the hide, with claws attached, and the skull to ADF&G. You must also notify your local ADF&G Wildlife Conservation office or Alaska Wildlife Troopers immediately. You are required to fill out and submit a Defense of Life or Property Report Form (PDF 114 kB) questionnaire concerning the circumstances within 15 days.


If you are backpacking in the backcountry, fishing, or hunting you have the added layer of attracting bears with the enticing smells of food and the responsibility of keeping those food items away from the wildlife. Store your food in approved portable Bear Resistant Food Canisters and place them at least 100 feet from camp. When cooking or preparing food do so at least 200-300 feet away from camp. Bears can smell food from over a mile away.

A helpful Tip: is to place your pots and pans on top of your Bear Canister so it can make noise to either scare them away or alert you to activity.

A fed bear is a dead bear.

The photographs contained in this website may not be reproduced without the express consent of Shutter Bison.

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