As the snow recedes, bears are waking up in Anchorage

As Anchorage begins to warm after a winter that has brought near-record amounts of snowfall, bears are waking from hibernation.

The annual emergence of bruins around the city — even with snow still covering many trails — is prompting authorities to warn residents to keep their distance from the animals.

Bears this spring have so far been reported in Eagle River, Hillside, Government Hill and on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, said Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Anchorage-area wildlife biologist Cory Stantorf on Wednesday. Brown bears typically begin waking up around Anchorage in the beginning of April and more black bears will begin to appear closer to the beginning of May, he said.

A trail runner described a charge by a brown bear sow with cubs Tuesday along Turnagain Arm near the Rainbow Trailhead in a social media post shared with hiking groups this week. The runner deployed bear spray and the animal turned around, the post said.

The Anchorage Police Department on Tuesday shared a photo an officer took Monday night of a black bear in a dumpster in a Government Hill parking lot. A crowd of people had gathered to gawk at the animal and snap pictures, many getting far too close to the bear to be safe, police said.

The bear was just looking for food, Stantorf said. Bears are frequently drawn into urban areas by easily accessible food sources like trash or bird feeders. Each year, authorities make the decision to kill some bears if they appear dangerous or no longer show fear around people.

The bear in the Government Hill dumpster this week didn’t show any signs of aggression and the police officers who responded to the area were able to get it to leave, Stantorf said. For now, Fish and Game officials are keeping an eye on the bear, he said.


Stantorf recommended securing trash, pulling down bird feeders, cleaning grills and securing domestic animals and any feed in a secure building or behind a functioning electric fence.

It’s always important to give wildlife a wide berth, but especially this time of year, when many bears may have cubs with them, he said.

Anyone who encounters a bear should stand their ground, remain calm and resist the urge to run, Stantorf said. Deterrents, such as bear spray, should be readily accessible.

“Just talk to the bear,” Stantorf said. “If the bear isn’t approaching you, you can start slowly backing away from the bear, still talking to it. If it starts walking toward you, then stop again. Keep talking to the bear and have that deterrent ready. Show that you’re not something to mess with because we don’t want to interact with them any more than they want to deal with us.”

Bear attacks are rare. None occurred last year in the Anchorage area, Stantorf said. But at least two happened last year on the Kenai Peninsula, both involving a sow with cubs. A 72-year-old man was injured in a November attack near Cooper Landing and a hunter was injured east of Sterling in June.

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter focusing on breaking news and public safety. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota. Contact her at