If you live in Alaska, you live in bear country. That’s the message from the Anchorage Bear Committee.

About 75 people attended a free bear aware seminar the group held on Monday.

BLM Campbell Science Center instructor Eric Stuart said many people carry bear spray with them while hiking, but few have practiced how to get the safety cap off.

“Just like with anything in an emergency situation the more you train the more you become comfortable with something the better off you are,” Stuart said.

The class also learned how to avoid a bear encounter, like hiking in groups and making noises.

Stuart said the old adage, “Black attack, brown get down,” is an outdated protection tip. Instead, he said it’s important to know the two kinds of attacks: Defensive vs. predatory.

A defensive attack would be a sow protecting her cubs, or if a bear gets startled by a hiker or mountain biker. In that situation, Stuart said it’s important to only play dead if you’re knocked to the ground by the animal.

A predatory attack is different — however, Stuart said to stand your ground and use bear spray but fight back if the bear attacks.

After the classroom course, people headed outside the Anchorage Fire Department training center to test out inert (inactive) bear spray first hand.

“Having lived here for many, many years, I think it’s important we train ourselves and remind ourselves with everything especially this summer that’s been going on, how to take care of ourselves and be safe,” said Nancy Klinski who lives in East Anchorage.

Other bear spray basics include reading the label to see how long the product will last and how far it will project.

Bear spray cans are typically usable for three to five years, but Stuart advising checking the expiration date before you take one with you. Expired cans can be taken to the Anchorage Landfill’s Hazardous Materials center.

Instructors recommend spraying a one to two-second burst toward the ground in front of you. Stuart said it’s only to be used if a bear is actually approaching.

“Another big misconception about bear spray is it can be used to keep bears out of an area. Bear spray is designed to stop a bear’s behavior long enough for you to leave the area,” he explained.

Stuart said taking the time to prepare before you go hiking, could save your life if you encounter a bear in the wild.

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