Bears and Berries
Bears are of serious concern for many Alaskan berry pickers. With many berries ripening around fall in the interior, both black bears and grizzlies are gearing up for winter hibernation and need to consume as many calories as possible. I have encountered many bears while out berry picking and not only is safety an issue of concern but so is the bears need for nutrients. While we know as nature harvesters that we are not alone and we are not dominant we also need to know how to be safe while in “bear country”.
A few safety tips while berry picking; make noise so not to startle nearby animals, be aware of your surroundings and aware that surroundings can change quickly. It is safe to go with another person or in a group, but that is not always possible. Depending on your comfort levels and the location in which you choose to berry pick, a bear bell, bear spray or even a large caliber gun may be recommended. It is also important to have a basic understanding of the animals you may encounter.
Bears are massive wild animals that can weigh anywhere between 200lbs (black bear) and 800lbs (grizzly bear)(National Geographic). They can be nearly as small as a large dog or taller than a full grown man and are almost pure muscle. Berries are important to bears livelihood because they provide a major source of nutrients and are abundant in the wilderness. Bears are also very important to the propagation of berries. A black bear can consume over 30,000 berries in one day and the seeds pass through the bear’s digestive system unbroken and able to germinate (Berries). They can be distributed miles always from the original site and encourage more growth in the following years. These berries contain high amounts of antioxidants and the seeds of some species can contain vitamin B-17, these are both considered anti-cancer compounds by some scientists, and although captive bears have been found to have cancer, no wild bears have ever been reported to have cancer (Berries).
As we know, berries are important to us for our own personal consumption, we also know how important they are to bears. Be safe while you are berry harvesting but also be respectful.
Here is a video of a couple bears eating berries. You can see how fast and efficiently they can consume them, probably better than a berry rake. (VIDEO) LH Fairbanks
“Berries – a Critical Food.” North American Bear Center -. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.
Society, National Geographic. “American Black Bears, American Black Bear Pictures, American Black Bear Facts – National Geographic.” National Geographic. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.
Society, National Geographic. “Grizzly Bears, Grizzly Bear Pictures, Grizzly Bear Facts – National Geographic.” National Geographic. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.