An Alaskan Brown Bear can weigh anywhere from 300 to 860 pounds
Click to enlarge An Alaskan Brown Bear can weigh anywhere from 300 to 860 pounds

Brown Bear Behavior 111

    Brown Bears are characteristically solitary animals. The majority of their interaction is at rivers and lakes where large populations of salmon hold and congregate. To maintain their personal space bears use different types of communication and behaviors. What is interesting is that their limited gamut of behaviors is not ritualized and their connotation is heavily reliant on the circumstance of the situation. It is important to concern yourself with different bear behaviors. At the same time, one must take into account the broad and common meaning in its specific context because each behavior is highly unique.

    The following is from "The Bear Fact" published by the Alaska Natural History Association in cooperation with the National Park Service. Upon understanding some of the general meanings of their behaviors you will have a different perspective when on your bear viewing tours.

Brown Bear Posturing

  • Standing
    A bear standing on his hind legs is typically not expressing aggression. Bears generally stand on their hind legs to gain more information visually and through smell

  • Stationary Orientation
    A bear may stand broadside to assert itself in some instances. In encounters with humans, it has usually been interpreted as a demonstration of size.

  • Stationary Facing You
    If a bear is standing and facing you, it is certainly not being submissive. This is an aggressive position and may signal a charge. It is likely waiting for you to withdraw.


  • Huffs
    When a bear is tense, it may forcible exhale a series of several sharp, rasping huffs. A mother may also huff in order to gain the attention of her young.

  • Woofing
    A startled bear may emit a single sharp exhale called a woof which lacks the harsh quality of a huff. If her cubs woof, a mother will become alert to the situation.

  • Popping Sounds
    Females with young often emit a throaty popping sound, apparently to beckon their cubs when danger is sensed. A mother vocalizing in this manner should be considered nervous and extremely stressed. Bears other than sows also jaw-pop

  • Growling
    A clear indication of intolerance and possible aggression is coming when growls, snarls, and roars are heard.

  • Yawn
    Indicates tension. This behavior may result from the close proximity of another bear or human presence.

Another Indicator

  • Salivation

    A clear sign of tension, excessive salivation may appear as white foam around the bear's mouth. Only severely distressed bears exhibit this characteristic.


    The vast majority of charges are false charges one in which the bear stops before making final contact. The intensity of the charge or associated vocalizations may vary, but it is distinct in that it is an aggressive or defensive act clearly directed at another bear or human. Bears may charge immediately, as a sow fearing for her cubs, or may emit stressed or erratic behavior before charging.

Sleeping Bears

    It is very common for adult bears to sleep near a prominent food source, example a small river or stream full of spawning Salmon, a moose or Caribou carcass or gut pile, Never startle a sleeping Bear this is a very dangerous position and death can Occur.

Be Alert

    By understanding bear behavior clues, you may have a better understanding of how they will react to different situations. But remember, when in bear country it is important to be alert, watch for bear signs (scat and markings on trees), avoid areas of limited visibility, make noise when walking around, and travel with others. The best way to be safe around these animals is to give them lots of space and to avoid surprise encounters.

Be Safe

    The ability to grasp the meaning of their behaviors is not the answer to being safe in bear country. It is highly recommended not to go into bear country alone. Traveling with a group or better yet an experienced guide is the best bet