When out in the woods even in the suburban areas around Anchorage, hikers and walkers should always be "bear aware" and have some type of bear deterrent, whether that be bear spray or a gun. The debate goes on as to which is more effective against a bear. Here's an interesting article by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Bear Spray vs. Bullets Which offers better protection?. And of course no deterrent is effective if not readily available (i.e. stored in your backpack). So whatever you choose as a bear deterrent, be sure you can easily access it when needed. This ADN article provides helpful information on how to effectively use bear spray. How to Use Bear Spray Effectively.
I'm often asked "Do llamas attract bears?" Bears have been known to attack llamas but my experience has been that llamas don't attract bears anymore than any other pack stock or pets.
In fact the llama's "alarm call" may act as a good deterrent for bears. Llamas are instinctively alert and aware of their surroundings, and usually draw attention to an intruder by making a startling "alarm call" when it senses danger. A llama is usually aware of a bear long before we can see or hear it and will let off their "alarm call" when the unwanted intruder is around.
Click on the hyperlink to hear what a llama alarm call sounds like - Llama Alarm Call.
Camping with llamas even helped one couple with their bear anxiety. "But when the only thing shielding us from Mother Nature is a thin layer of opaque fabric, our imaginations run roughshod over rational thought. Bears are the problem. Our fear of bear attacks is equal parts nebulous and irrational. We logically know we’re not going to be eaten by one, but our adrenal glands still need convincing." Here's a link to the article. On Backpacking with an Anxiety Llama
That said, I would not recommend leaving llamas tied out unattended while camping. In that situation llamas would not be able to defend themselves from predators such as bears or even an aggressive dog. There are both brown and black bears in the Anchorage area and our neighborhood (in Eagle River) is no exception. We have used an electric fence for many years and that works well to keep the bears and other predators away.
Alaska Department of Fish &Game (ADF&G) has additional information on bear safety on their website.
For those of you in the Anchorage area, the Municipality of Anchorage has a website where you can report a bear sighting. This website also features the bear activity maps that show black and brown bear habitat as well as areas of frequent bear encounters. MOA Bear Activity Maps
Some tips to keep you safe in bear country (from the MOA website):
- -Buddy up. You are safer in a group.
- -Make Noise. This will prevent you from surprising a bear.
- -Use your senses to stay aware. No headphones!
- -Carry bear spray. Have it accessible and know how to use it.
- -Don’t feed bears. Handle food, fish and attractants responsibly.
- -Slow down. High speed equals high risk in bear habitat.
- -Leash your pets. Off-leash pets can bring bears back to you.
- -Never run from a bear!
Related articles at links below.
Afraid of bears? There are far more dangerous things in the Alaska outdoors
The Essentials for Traveling in Alaska's Bear Country.
A brown bear killed a hiker in Eagle River. A man searching for him was mauled.