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Hikers who took selfies with bears jailed and banned from National Parks

Brown bear with wet fur in woods
(Image credit: Getty)

Three hikers who livestreamed themselves approaching brown bears at an Alaskan National Park have been sentenced to jail time, fined, and banned from entering any other parks for a year.

While seeing bears from a distance can be the highlight of a hiking trip, it's extremely important not to approach or startle the animals. As Backpacker (opens in new tab) reports, one of the visitors was seen on a livestream wading in the Brooks Falls area of Katmai National Park after leaving the viewing platforms to get closer to the bears, which were feeding on migrating salmon.

Each of the hikers was given a fine of $3,000, which will be paid to Katmai Conservancy (opens in new tab) to contribute towards the maintenance and protection of the park. Two of the visitors were also sentenced to a week in jail, while the third received a sentence of 10 days. All three were given a year's probation.

“These individuals behaved carelessly and put themselves at great risk. Brown bears are fierce, territorial predators, especially when concentrated in order to feed on migrating salmon,” said Mark Sturm, superintendent of Katmai National Park and Preserve, in a press release (opens in new tab). “Things could have easily ended very badly.” 

How to stay safe

Like most wild animals, bears tend to avoid people, but it's best to avoid an encounter altogether. If you're planning to visit a National Park, check the guidance on how far you should stay from the animals as advice varies depending on terrain and species. The National Park Service (opens in new tab) recommends using binoculars or a scope to get a better look at bears without intruding.

If you find yourself too close for comfort, resist the urge to run; most bears can cover ground at 30mph and if you run, the bear may see you as prey. If the bear hasn't seen you, stay out of sight and keep downwind if you can.

If the bear has seen you, back away slowly and don't turn your back. This will allow you to keep track of it, and will help avoid triggering its chase reflex. If it moves off, walk in a different direction. If it approaches, stop and stand your ground. For more advice, see our guide on what to do if you meet a bear.

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better).