Katmai National Park is home to some of the largest brown bears on the planet, and this hiking duo came face to face with not one, but two simultaneously.
Thankfully, the gent at the heart of this encounter, who goes by Chasing.Luminance on TikTok, had “bear school” training that allowed him to safely exit without escalating the situation. And while “bear school” may sound a bit hokey to some, the term represents very real (and highly recommended) programs offered throughout bear country.
Bears cover such a wide range that many populations behave differently, especially in reaction to humans. This is particularly true of brown bear populations, which include inland grizzlies. For anyone traveling out in open bear country, seeking out local bear safety courses (see: bear school) will give you the tools to survive in that specific region. And again, locality is key, as a bear course native to the Katmai region of Alaska will contain different advice than one taken in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, etc.
Harrowing Footage Shows Best Case Scenario For Encountering Brown Bears On Foot
A few core tactics are lauded by the National Park Service (NPS), however, which include the use of “hey bear” to alert bears to the presence of us humans. Chasing.Luminance puts “hey bear” to use as he films, before talking through their actions with his hiking partner:
@chasing.luminance So this was an interesting encounter. You might wonder why we didn't just walk backwards down the trail? Why did we go into the thick forest? Every other time we saw a bear on the people trail they were just using it as a highway , cruising back and forth. So we were trained to get off the trail and give them the right away while making sure the bear knows we're there so we don't startle them. This bear had other ideas… we're very grateful to the bear school training that helped us keep calm and move out of his way. #bears #brownbears #brownbear #katmai #katmainationalpark #animalencounter #absoluteunit #wildlife #wildanimals #Alaska ♬ original sound – chasing.luminance
“So this was an interesting encounter,” Luminance captions. “You might wonder why we didn’t just walk backwards down the trail? Why did we go into the thick forest? Every other time we saw a bear on the people trail, they were just using it as a highway, cruising back and forth. So we were trained to get off the trail and give them the right away while making sure the bear knows we’re there so we don’t startle them.”
As his footage shows, “This bear had other ideas,” however. But the hiking duo remain “very grateful to the bear school training that helped us keep calm and move out of his way.”
NPS’ Nationwide Tips for Hiking in Bear Country
Alongside alerting brown bears to your presence by saying “hey bear,” the National Park Service offers the following tips for use in all areas of North American bear country:
- Respect Closures: Stay out of areas that are closed for bear management
- Be Alert: See the bear before you surprise it
- Watch for fresh tracks, scat, and feeding sites (signs of digging, rolled rocks, torn up logs, ripped open ant hills)
- Never Hike Alone in Bear Country: Hike in groups of three or more people
- 91% of the people injured by bears in Yellowstone since 1970 were hiking alone or with only one hiking partner
- Only 9% of the people injured by bears were in groups of three or more people
- Avoid Hiking at Dawn, Dusk, or Night: During summer, this is when grizzly bears are most active
- Make Noise: When hiking, periodically yell “Hey bear!” to alert bears to your presence, especially when walking through dense vegetation/blind spots, traveling upwind, near loud streams, or on windy days
- Avoid thick brush whenever possible
- Carry Bear Spray (and know how to use it): Bear spray is proven to be highly successful at stopping aggressive behavior in bears
For further, potentially life-saving tips from NPS, see their full Hiking in Bear Country page here.
For more on the brown bears of Katmai, see our National Parks Journal: Katmai Ranger Cheryl Spencer Explains the Difference Between Brown and Grizzly Bears next.