Living in Alaska · Wednesday Wisdom

Wednesday Wisdom: Dealing With Wildlife While Running

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.

IMG_0759Awesome waterfall on the road out there

IMG_0761My new favorite running spot!

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!

IMG_0763Seward from the road

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.

IMG_0764

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…

IMG_0765

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?

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23 thoughts on “Wednesday Wisdom: Dealing With Wildlife While Running

    1. I agree! When I got home and told people I saw a moose they were like “Where? I want to go see it!” but I know they were talking about seeing it from a car, not from running right next to it! All the people here who run have now decided not to run near that lake anymore!

    1. Yeah, trail running is where it’s scary! One good thing is that Alaska doesn’t have many big cats, and they’re not in Seward or Anchorage at all (there are Lynx up in Denali). So bears and moose are all I have to be afraid of, but that’s scary enough!

  1. I am also afraid of moose and bears and they are a real concern when out running as I’m in northern BC. There is this amazing trail path in town that has a resident moose. Usually she’s fine but when her calves are with her, there have been people charged. It’s nice living some place surrounded by wildlife but sometimes, it can be a bit scary if you’re not careful.

    1. Yeah I can imagine you see a lot of those where you live! I guess you just have to avoid that trail when she’s got babies, but I would be super scared to run it knowing that there was a moose in the area! It’s awesome seeing them from my car or from buildings but yeah, getting caught outside with them is no fun 😦

  2. i’m so glad you know how to protect yourself, but it’s still scary! wildlife isn’t a threat on my local runs; sometimes, if i’m lucky, the bunnies will come out and run with me haha. but i do live in an urban area, meaning if my runs are too late at night, i have the increased risk of dealing with some scary people, which isn’t fun either.

    1. Oh my god I would love to run with bunnies! And I hear you on dealing with scary people while running. That was my big fear when I ran in Philly, but luckily that’s low on the list of concerns running here in Seward! Unless you run hear the bars downtown at night which I don’t do!

  3. Great post! Thanks for the shoutout! Running with bear spray (or a gun) sure makes you feel safer. Only really need that for trail runs though. The key is to be alert and loud!

    Oh, one minor correction, there are deer in Alaska in some areas (Sitka Black Tail). They taste delicious!

    1. What!!!! People are lying to me! I was also told there are no snakes so please tell me that’s a real thing 🙂 And now I’m intrigued by how Alaskan deer tastes…

      Also, I was told there would be bears roaming around town later in the summer possibly (our shuttle driver told us he sees one in our parking lot every year), so when should I expect to start seeing them around town? I will definitely carry bear spray if there’s a chance they’ll be down on the waterfront trail because that news story really freaked me out!

      1. Haha, yep there are deer, but still no snakes (thank goodness!). And the deer from Prince William Sound are delicious from eating seaweed all winter long.

        Bears start wondering around town late August into September when the salmon are in streams. The most you have to worry about is a bear getting into trash. We actually scared one away from our trash cans last yeah.

        News stories like that pop up every year, but seeing bears while running is pretty rare. That case was a fluke because Anchorage actually has a ton of brown bears around. Our town black bears are bit more adjusted to people and usually won’t bother you. Remember: if you are out on a trail run, just keep singing!

  4. I was going to suggest running in groups and glad you threw that in there. And I always think it’s safer with no music. But, holy cow though, how scary!!

    Those views. AMAZING.

    1. Yeah I’ve never run with music and now I’m really glad! And I’ve always been a solo runner but that might need to change in light of recent events. I’m going to try to keep my solo runs in town so I feel safer! And yeah those views make it all worth it 🙂

    1. Omg geese are terrifying! I hate them! They can probably do some damage if they attack you so you should totally still be afraid of them. The good news is that they’re probably only by the water, right?

  5. ohmygosh I’m sorry I scared the crap out of you!! But I am sooo glad you are now a prepared Alaskan runner!! Another good thing that I do when my bf is out on long runs is have him turn on “track my iphone” so I can check is location from my iphone. It’s helpful having the GPS on there if you were ever lost your husband could just find your location through that. I guess this only works if you have an iphone….
    PS those gun holster pants ARE bad ass!! haha

    1. That’s okay, I need to know these things even though they’re scary! And I love the idea of having someone track you while running. My Road ID app has the ability to alert someone if you stop moving mid-run for an abnormal amount of time and tells you where they are. I always thought that was a good thing in Philly if someone attacks you, but out here I’ll be using it for wild animal attacks instead! And yeah I kind of want those pants! It seems like most locals have at least one gun so that might be in my future…

  6. HOLY MOLY COW! This was a scary post to read! I live in SAn Diego so the scariest thing I COULD encounter (but haven’t yet) is a snake! I am deathly afraid of them so I am scared I would just freeze. But thanks for the post. It is important to think about what you would do in these situations!

  7. Those views! It is gorgeous up there!
    I had an encounter with a deer last summer when I was training for my marathon. It was standing in the middle of the path I was running on so I stopped & stood there for about 10 minutes yelling at it & jumping around trying to scare it off (with no success). Finally someone came up on a bike and it jumped off into the woods so I could continue on my way 🙂
    Boy am I glad I don’t have to worry about moose though! Looks like you found a good collection of tips – that you’ll hopefully never have to use.

  8. I’m so glad I found your blog. Hi! I’m a runner and I recently relocated to the Canadian Rockies (near Banff). I’m freaked out by potential wildlife too – mostly when I’m out walking though. Every branch or leaf I hear rustling gets me fired up. Hahahah

  9. Reading this was just crazy to me! Bears?! Moose?! I also run into a lot of bunnies and the occasional turtle. On the other side of things….you have the most beautiful place to run! I would love to see mountains and water when I ran.

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