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Prevention and Tips:


  • Always let someone know where you are going. Leave a travel plan, including a time when you expect to return.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, even in town. Most bears hibernate in the winter.
  • Make noise, sing, clap; don’t wear iPod headphones.
  • Feeding bears is illegal. Store food in bear-proof containers away from camp.
  • They eat salmon-their country-their food source-give  up your fish
  • Never approach or follow a bear—always leave it an escape route.
  • If you see a bear or when confronted, assess situation. Are there cubs around? Check again. Do you see or smell a moose kill? How can you leave safely?
  • When you encounter a bear, talk and wave your arms—let it know you are human. A bear standing on its hind legs isn’t threatening you. It’s trying to identify you. Stand your ground. Never try to outrun a bear—they will chase anything that runs. Speak calmly to bear: “Hello bear, I’m not here to hurt you. I’ll be leaving now.” Then back away.
  • If a grizzly charges, don’t run. Use your bear spray at about ten feet. (Always keep it accessible.) If it’s a black bear—don’t run— get ready to fight. Pick up stick, pretend it’s a mean dog, and threaten it. If knocked to the group, curl up and defend vital organs.


 Parental Discretion Advised


The mission of the Grandma Goes to…children’s book series is to illustrate that not everyone in the world lives the same type of lifestyle. How boring would that be?!


My process for writing a story is to just get all my thoughts on paper first; editing & formatting will come later. My Original Bear Story was this ‘free thinking’ process. I found it to be very funny but not appropriate for a children’s book. I want my stories to be kid-friendly but also educational. So the ‘Bear Safety’ story in the Grandma Goes to the Alaskan Wilderness is the edited, tamer version.


After completing that rewrite I found that I still wanted to share my original thoughts about bears from a big-city point of view. And that is why it is on my web site. Hope you enjoy the humor of the situation.


Today was bear safety training. Grandma doesn’t even want to think about the possibility of encountering a bear. When Blue Meghan and Grandma were working in Antarctica, Blue would casually mention, that after a bear entered the yard three times back home in Alaska, her dad would have to shoot him. Otherwise, he just keeps coming into the yard and that is not safe. And of course they do not waste so the family would then eat the bear. The way she talked it was as if a bunny rabbit was digging up our garden in the city. Grandma was grateful she was in Alaska during the winter when the bears were hibernating. Well, not always…Grandma was thinking it was hard enough just getting your coat and boots on over your pajamas and walking down to the outhouse with your flashlight in the middle of the night. She couldn’t even begin to image having to watch for a bear at the same time. She would be such a nervous wreck, it would take her forever to fall back asleep.


 The first rule of bear safety is to avoid encounters. If possible, take a dog with you. He will know before you that a bear is nearby. Be alert, do not listen to your music. Make noise, wear a bell, sing, stay out in the open.

(oh, I like that singing part-first time ever I’ve been allowed to sing out loud)

You want bears to know you are around.  Be aware of your surroundings. Do you smell bear? Do you see scant (poop)? Do you see fresh scratches on trees? Did you come upon a food cache? Keep your bear spray in your hand and be ready to use it.


 If a bear is coming your way--get out of the way. If you have fish, leave the fish-it’s their food source-you can get food at the store they can’t.


If a bear sees you- DO NOT RUN

(Really, are you kidding me-your natural instinct is to run)


They will chase you.  Assess the situation. How close are you? Do you see cubs? Do you see a moose kill? If you are six feet away it is time to use the bear spray. Aim for the nose and eyes.

(You’re kidding, right? Take time to aim?)


(Wait--What!? If I’m six feet away from a charging bear, I’ve already died of fright; no need to worry about spraying him with mace.)


After spraying- DO NOT RUN; do not scream either.


If it is a grizzly, keep spraying, back away, find an escape route. A bear on its hind legs is not threatening you. He is thinking: “To charge or not to charge”. Remember they can bluff charge- (Whoa-time out: how do you tell the difference??) 

He is trying to identify you. Try to make yourself seem larger.

(Yeah, right-I’m only 5’2”-what chance do I have?)

Let him know that you are human, calmly talk to him in a deep, low voice, “Hello bear, I’m not here to hurt you-I’ll be leaving now-you are welcome to my fish, lunch or whatever”.


(Seriously, I’m suppose to have a conversation?!!!) 


If it’s a black bear –get ready to fight.

(Wait, how do I tell the difference?! Can you even think straight when you are in that situation? I’m from a big city-this is so far out of my element…)


Get a stick and think of him as a mean dog…DO NOT RUN


There is a time to fight. Aim for the nose and face.

(again that aiming thing)

And a time to curl up and defend your head and vital organs.- You’ll know when you are in that moment. DO NOT RUN


If you happen to be lucky enough to have a gun and know how to use it-aim for the shoulder, this will give him pause and then you can shoot him again. If you aim for the head it is possible that the skull is so thick the bullet can ricochet.  If you aim for the heart or lungs, he can still come after you before he actually dies. The outcome will not be in your favor.


By this time Grandma was ready to go home. She was terrified at the thought of actually seeing a real live bear. But to the people who live in the state of Alaska this is no big deal. They instinctively know what to do and do not panic or even give this all a second thought. It is a way of life for them.  After the safety lecture, it was time to learn how to shoot the gun; which was a 12 gauge short barrel shot gun and we are firing slugs. -if that means anything- Grandma takes one practice shot attempting to hit a soda can in the snow bank. Needless to say, she missed completely. The recoil from the gun was intense and extremely loud even through their ear protection. By this point, Grandma had had enough. She just wanted to go back to the safety of main cabin. Upon her return, Paula questioned her, “ That’s it? You’re done?” “Yep,” Grandma replied. “Let the bear eat me”. 


 Alaska is a harsh state.

Enjoyed this?  Be sure to buy:

Grandma Goes to the Alaskan Wilderness

The grandmother who worked in Antarctica and roughed it on a remote island in the South Pacific earns survival skills in America's final frontier.

Along with her companion book:  

The Jr. Iditarod: Alaska's Little-Known Sled Dog Race

 Her coverage of the 2013 Competition