Black bears (Ursus americanus) are found over most of Alaska, including Valdez and the neighboring regions of Prince William Sound and the Copper River Valley. They are related to but distinct from brown bears (Ursus arctos). The differences between brown bears and black bears is not always in the color of their fur, as both species have a range of colors they may appear in. Black bears are distinguished from brown bears by being smaller on average and having a straight facial profile.
"Furry Fisher" by Gary Minish
Safety & Etiquette
Black bears are frequently spotted around town in Valdez. Please make sure to secure your trash to keep our bears wild! Everyone interested in viewing black bears should practice standard bear awareness that is applicable to both black and brown bears, such as keeping 100 yards distance, making noise while hiking, and secure food and garbage. Take special caution around sows with cubs.
However, there are some specific details relevant to black bears in particular. Valdez Parks & Recreation offers this advice: "If the animal makes contact, fight back. Unless you're physically unable, it's often better to defend yourself against a black bear than to curl up on the ground. Keep making noise and looking large throughout the encounter, but if you end up at close range, use any nearby object as a weapon to fend off the bear. If nothing useful is around, punch or kick the bear's nose. Do whatever is needed to scare it away, but focus on sensitive areas that are likely to get an immediate reaction. Try to create space between you and the bear, but never run away, make the bear do that."
A black bear on North Harbor Drive in town. Photo from Nat Shack.
Black bears can be seen in a number of areas around town, along the Richardson Highway and out on our many miles of hiking trails. The best bear viewing is in the later summer when salmon are returning to Valdez to spawn. Bears may be seen fishing in the anadromous streams around Valdez or at the Fish Hatchery on Dayville Road. A viewing platform is provided over Crooked Creek to allow spectators safely to view both spawning salmon and another wildlife (including bears!) that may choose to feed there. While at Crooked Creek, look across to the Duck Flats - you may see bears there too!
Black bears may often be seen within the main townsite of Valdez. Even while walking our city streets, make sure to safely deposit your garbage to keep from attracting bears!