Hi everyone! As I start to feel more comfortable running in Alaska, I’m noticing a few things. I’m very easily startled when I hear a noise, and I’m really resistant to running near dense woods without someone else nearby. Let’s face it: I’m afraid of bears and moose. Bears are notorious for hurting people when surprised in the wild (although it happens less than you think) but moose are actually more scary. I’ve met a few people who have been charged by a moose! At home I had to worry about the occasional deer crossing my path, but here the wildlife dangers seem a bit more of a scary real possibility. Actually, more real than you might think…
On Monday, I went for my “long” run of 5 miles (which was tougher than I thought it would be – I definitely lost some stamina during the move!). I ran out the waterfront trail, and then ran out on the dirt road towards Lowell Point until mile 2.5.
Then I turned around to come back into town. I was loving the amazing views and the total silence out there – the only noise was the sound of the ocean crashing against the rocks. I can get used to that!
My route then took me back down Seward Highway toward the bunkhouse where I live. There’s a small lake at the end of the 5 miles, and as I ran over the boardwalk I was grateful that my run was almost done.
As I ran towards the parking lot of the “Welcome to Seward” sign, I noticed a few cars taking pictures of the lake. I thought it was kind of strange, but I kept running along the lake. Until I realized what the tourists were taking pictures of…
Yep. That’s a moose. For a moment I thought it was a horse, or a deer, or something less scary. Especially since there were no large antlers. But once we made eye contact with each other I knew for sure it was a moose (also, there are no deer in Alaska FYI). I froze, snapped this pic, backed away, and ran out of there so fast! Luckily I live only a block from there and was able to get home safely. But what if that moose had been a mom with babies? Or what if I had been far from home and people that could help me? It really got me thinking about my safety while running in Alaska. On top of that, Rachel from veryrach sent me a link to the most terrifying running news story of all time. This story literally gave me the chills and I couldn’t get it out of my head all day. All I could think about is how often I run alone without anyone around me, and how easily this could happen to me. Especially since I’ll be running in Anchorage all the time starting this fall! I’ll obviously be off the base but there are bears all over that city!
So to put myself at ease and to help put all my other runners’ minds at ease, I’ve complied a few tips on staying safe while dealing with wildlife out on your runs no matter where you live:
- Bears are terrifying, but they usually don’t want to have anything to do with humans. I’ve heard that it’s rare for a bear to attack you if it knows that you’re coming long before you get there. One of my new friends who lives in Seward told me to sing during my runs so that the bears can hear me coming (shoutout to Bixler from Alaskagraphy!). Bear bells can work as well, although that sound would probably annoy me after an hour or two. I found an awesome page of tips for warding of and surviving bear attacks based on which type of bear is attacking you here on the Kenai Fjords National Park website. This is perfect because all of my runs will be in the Kenai Fjords National Park and surrounding areas! But if you have brown or black bears where you live, this is a great resource for dealing with those specific animals. Big difference: If you’re attacked by a brown bear, play dead. If you’re attacked by a black bear, fight back! I may need a small sized can of bear spray just to make myself feel better after reading that news story above though. 😦
- On that note, moose are just as terrifying as bears. They will charge you if they’re upset, but unlike bears you need to run away from a moose! The Kenai Fjords National Park website also gives moose safety tips here. Their tips aren’t nearly as detailed as the bear section of the website, but they do mention that if you are charged by a moose you need to run and if possible hide behind a tree or under a car. I’ve heard this from various people around town as well! As soon as the moose perceives that the threat is gone it will leave you alone.
- Stay aware while running. This means no headphones! You need to be able to hear any approaching animals or animal noises. Make sure that you are running with enough sunlight to be able to see any animals before they see you. Keep your eyes on the woods around you and be aware of your surroundings!
- Carry a phone and ID while running. Or do both at the same time with the Road ID app like I do! If you’re attacked you can call for help which is so important when you’re so far away from the nearest hospital. I will be making sure that I only run in areas that get cell phone reception and that Andrew knows exactly where I am when I go out for a run!
- Carry any protection that makes you feel safer. Bear spray will help in the event of an attack, and if you’ve got a license to carry and are very safe and know how to use a gun you might even want to carry while running. It might sound extreme but in Alaska it’s not as rare as you would think. Yes, they make running pants with a built in holster. I kind of think that’s badass 🙂
- Run in groups when possible. I’m meeting a lot of people here who love running and I’m excited to finally go for some group runs while running. That means we’ll probably be making lots of noise talking and will have more eyes to see wildlife near us. And Andrew will be coming on as many short runs with me as possible from now on!
I know this was a pretty scary blog post (at least it was for me to write!) but it’s so important to be safe while running. Hopefully I don’t have any more wildlife encounters while running, but now at least I should be more prepared if I do!
Have you ever encountered wildlife while running? What is the scariest thing you could ever run into on one of your local runs?