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News | July 27, 2015

The sun is out, and so are the bears

By Airman 1st Class Kyle Johnson JBER Public Affairs

Summer is in full swing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and with it come some unique challenges the JBER community should bear in mind.

A wide variety of wildlife calls JBER home and, depending on the season, risks of an encounter can vary.

During the summer, bears are considerably more active, which can increase the risk of bear-related incidents.

In order to ensure healthy cohabitation with JBER's bear life, Jim Wendland, a wildlife conservation officer on JBER, briefs newcomers as they arrive on base.
There are two types of bears on JBER: black and brown bears.

Black bears typically den between October and April, whereas brown bears den from November to March, Wendland said.

There are three primary ways to determine whether the bear in front of you is a brown or black bear; color, size, and ears, he said.

Brown bears are lighter in color, have short, rounded ears and are generally larger than black bears.

The first step to bear safety is preventing an incident from occurring in the first place. For the best chances of success, adhere to Wendland's advice below:
Travel in groups and make noise; store food in bear-proof containers; carry bear deterrent and be proficient in using it, and make noise to avoid surprising a bear.

If a bear encounter happens, it is important to act accordingly.

Don't approach bears, but slowly leave the area, and never run from a predator.

They are more likely to attack defensively rather than offensively, said Dave Elliott, research associate at the wildlife conservation center on JBER. This means they feel threatened in some way, and are trying to eliminate the threat. If this happens, play dead after the bear makes contact with you. It will assume the threat has been eliminated and move on.

If the bear has been stalking you, it may see you as food. In this case, it could be an offensive attack. To deal with an offensive attack, fight back in any way you can, Elliot said.

"If you are knocked down, your best option is to play dead." Elliott said. "Very rarely will there be an offensive attack."

Feeding the bears is a finable offense and creates a dangerous situation for both the bears and the JBER community.

It's for this reason it is important to keep food waste out of open garbage bins around base so as to not train the bears they can find easy meals in residential areas. Store food in a bear-safe container at all times, even at home.

Leaving grills, smokers and trash in accessible places can result in an unwanted bear encounter.

If you see bears near residential trash bins, parks, and housing locations, contact security forces at 552-3421.

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