How scared of grizzlies should I be in Alaska

I always think of Grizzlies when I think of Alaska. How common are they to see if I’m only staying at established campsites. Do people carry bear spray with them in their cars all the time?

I car camped in Alaska for 9 days and never saw one grizzly, this was in August of 2019. I backpacked or went on day hikes every day and slept in a rooftop tent most nights. One of the first things I did upon arrival was buy bear spray, it is a MUST! Most car rental spots will give you some and all the backcountry huts we stayed in had extra but you should always carry it. Beyond that bring a bear bell and attach it to your backpack while hiking. Chances are you won’t see one if you’re loud but best to be prepared.

Reading your advice made me laugh because we always wear a bear bell on our packs but some have told us it could be a dinner bell! Guess Alaska was not a big year for bears in 2019 because we were there for a week and did not see a single one! We also found you can rent bear spray.


Funny, I was there in 2019 and saw quite a few grizzlies! But I also just love them so much that I try to watch for them from a safe distance.

Bear bells are mostly useless and a marketing gimmick, so definitely don’t go that route.

The most important thing is to practice general bear safety.

  • Never hike alone in bear country
  • Make noise——talk with whoever you’re hiking with. If you run out of things to talk about, sing songs together.
  • If you see a bear, don’t panic! Stay still. Talk to it in a calm voice. It’ll probably sniff the air a bit, stand up to get a better look, and then just meander on its way.
  • If it decides to charge you, stand your ground. 99% of the time, the bear is just bluffing and will peel off. However, if you run or move, it’ll trigger its predator instinct to chase. NEVER RUN!
  • If somehow in a million chances you’re actually attacked, cover your neck and vital organs.

Grizzly bear attacks, let alone deaths are extremely rare. Just be sensible, learn how to use bear spray, and give them their space.

Alaska is worth the trip, and so is seeing a bear. Truly my favorite creature :slight_smile:


Generally they are fairly “friendly” by not attacking but it does only take one to ruin your day. So bear spray and/or large firearms are advised… .454 or bigger (10mm, 0.460, 0.500, 12ga.). I had 2 bear sprays in my car but friends or guests walk off with them. I need to put one back because you end up spontaneously going on a hike without bringing one. So having one handy is a great practice. We rent them at Gwins Lodge in Cooper Landing (50 miles due south of Anchorage). I’ve been scared 2x in 9 years where the bear was aggressive. We backed off while talking to it one dark night hiking at dusk. Never saw it but it did everything to warn us… yelling, smacking trees, slapping jaws shut. It clearly had cubs which is the most dangerous of encounters. Another time one ran at me on the Russian and it veered off when faced down and yelled at. Never had to spray or fire a gun. One person was killed this year about 30 miles north. He was cutting a trail a mile from his yard and his dog provided no protection apparently. The dog came home to eat and he didn’t. They are very fast when they want to be so there would be little warning. Have the safety off the spray once you feel close to a bear. Sometimes you can smell them, skunk like, but others you can’t.

Do you know the difference between a Brown Bear and a Grizzly ?? There is a tremendous difference in their sizes and behaviors…
If attacked by either it is best to play dead…
If it is a Black Bear then you need to fight for your life…
Black Bears are not apex predators in Alaska, thus, they kill and start to feed before they may be chased away by other animals…
most Brown/Grizzly Bear attacks happen by stumbling into them, Black Bear attacks have usually been by stalking…

If tent camping… NO food or really anything with strong scents in your tent…

It always amazes me how people minimize Black Bears but are scared of growling Dogs… :roll_eyes:


I lived in Alaska and I only saw them a few times from a distance. As much as you don’t want to see them, they don’t want to see you. Be a smart hiker, I wore bells on my shoes to make noise. We talked loudly or sang on hikes. If they know you’re there they stay away. The spring and fall they are looking for food and in spring protecting their young as well. Another thing that people don’t mention are the moose. They are very dumb and can’t see very well. They tend to charge at large item like cars or stare or charge at bright lights. If it’s dusk on a road pull over and turn off your lights if a moose is running towards your car. Other than those two animals I didn’t really have any other issues. If you are tent camping make sure you have a container for your food and trash that’s lifted in the air every night. Don’t leave it open in your car or tent as they will come looking for it and tear up the place. It’s basic common stuff. It’s like people choosing fast food or going fishing lol.

The thing about bears is you only have to be faster than the slowest person in your group!

I was stationed in Alaska for 5 years and absolutely loved it! It’s a must visit state and should be on everyone’s bucket list. Planning your trip during the summer months is a must though. As for bears, they are everywhere but a little common sense will keep you safe. Bears are just as afraid of you as you may be of them.

If you encounter a bear it’s important to keep your distance, keep calm and under no circumstances do you try to get close for pictures. As with any wild animal, they usually do not attack unless they feel threatened. Keep your camp area clean and carry bear spray and a whistle.

The most common mistake people make in Alaska is underestimating Moose! Moose can be way more dangerous than bear. The most common issue is you accidentally putting yourself between a moose and her calf. Again, all of this is avoidable simply by knowing your surroundings and not behaving erratically. Most encounters and thrilling and end with the animal quietly wondering away. Common sense will keep you out of trouble, just remember, you are visiting there home and you should act accordingly by keeping your distance and not startling them.

Lived in Alaska for 10 years, now roaming the “Lower 48”.

The best advice is to have a healthy respect for bears. I wouldn’t terrify yourself over them. It’s not worth that much fear to miss out on so much amazing adventure int he state. I did tons of outdoor adventures deep in the woods, hiking trails and climbing mountains and never saw one in the wild.

I carried a weapon probably 30-50% of the time, and never bothered with bear spray, because it only works if the conditions are in your favor - otherwise you’ll be the one coughing and crying. That being said, if you’re wise, it is definitely not a bad idea. Even though I carried a gun, I didn’t feel impervious. The reality of if a brown bear/grizz attacks you because you spooked it, you won’t have enough time to do anything about it.

The reality is: bear attacks are very very very rare. For all the people exploring every summer all over this GIGANTIC state, there are maybe three occurrences?

That being said, being aware and again, having a healthy respect for all bears in general will go a long ways. I would often be playing music on my phone. Or would make it a point to call my dog to my side loudly (just because I would feel silly yelling for no reason) even if she was 10 feet in front of me. Keep your eyes up as much as possible (without tripping). Don’t carry smelly food. Springtime is protective mama time, end of July/August is salmon feeding time and bears will be congregating near rivers. Generally, they are harmless in salmon season since they’re focused on the fish, and many will continue fishing when a bear walks out to the river - but having this info to plan around if you’d like to avoid seeing one can be helpful.

Repeat attacks are rare.

I’ll echo JR_M’s comment - Brown/Grizz mostly only attack because they are protecting cubs or because you spooked them/are too close. They’re not necessarily going for the kill. If they attack play dead (curl up) while using your arms to protect your head and neck. Black bears will attack for this reason as well, but are more likely to be the ones hunting. If they attack you, the general recommendation from ADF&G is start with the same play dead tactic, but if it becomes apparent they are going for more, fight for your life.

Also reiterate. Watch for moose. They’re dumb and have no fear in attempting to trample you. It’s always good to keep aware of large trees in case you need to hide behind one.

Please don’t psyche yourself out over bears in AK. There is too much to enjoy and far too much you might miss if you are worrying. Alaska is phenomenal, be kind to her and bask in her glory.

How can you tell the difference between black bear scat or brown/Grizz scat? Black bear scat has traces of berries and smells more green…Brown/Grizz scat has traces of bells and smells like bear spray. (It’s a joke)

Hey Hamishh,

I’ve spent the last 3 year in interior Alaska. We have grizzly bears in the region, but if you’re taking the right precautions, you rarely will have an encounter.

There are definitely more grizzly bears down in the southern portion along many of the estuaries where there is plentiful food for the bears. In these areas, there is a higher likelihood of a chance encounter.

Many visitors do find some bear spray and keep it with them when they visit AK. But yo answer your question about “being scared of them, or NEEDING the bear spray when staying in developed camp grounds” I’d say you will probably be good to go! If you’re prepared and use local resources that report bear activity (most established campground will have a post on their entrance board); You don’t need to be scared.

Hope you enjoy your time here in AK!

Depends on where you are. I worked in SE and saw bears every day for two years.
Learn to co-exist with bears. Make noise when you travel. Avoid early and late times of the day. Avoid tall grass and deep brush. Firearms are a last resort. Carry bear spray in a holster on your belt.

Grizzlies, brown bears, coastal browns, Barren Ground grizz are all the same species, Ursus arctos. Working around salmon streams the coastal browns were huge but gave us little trouble. It was the black bears that sometimes followed us around for a couple of hours.

Food storage is important. Secure food and anything that might smell like food and keep away from where you sleep. Control your fear and learn the ways of bears.