South-Central AK spring Black Bear - den elevations?

Holmes

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Jan 30, 2021
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60
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Alaska
Dumb newb question (this is specifically NOT about Southeast (aka coastal) black bears - I've searched the forums and web, but I'm still not sure. Much of the info seems to be about hunting from a boat, over bait, or targeting brown bears)

Question: What type of ground cover are black bears usually denning in the South Central zone of AK? (Kenai Mtns, Western Chugach Mtns, Southern Talkeetna Mtns).

I have OTC tags that I want to spot and stalk backpack hunt this April/May. I know where I've found several bear dens in the early winter, but I think they're all for brown bears. Those dens were pretty high in the alpine, on steep slopes. I also know where I've seen many black bears cruising just before winter, also way above treeline, eating the last of the berries and staying away from the brown bears coming up from the salmon streams.

But, *I think* that black bears usually den more in the timber, down lower....right? If I were to go out in Spring and glass likely bear den spots on high open slopes I would just find brown bears, right? Any suggestions on habitat types to watch for black bears emerging in the Spring? In the alder zone? In the birch? Around the soggy Cottonwoods? In tight Spruce forest? Flat grassy alpine grass meadows?
I'll be hiking from the road system, no problem staying out for 2 or 3 nights, and I wouldn't mind doing this when there's still a lot of snow on the ground and before leaves start popping out, would make backcountry travel a lot easier.

Thank you
 

martensmax

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Dec 31, 2018
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WI
Following along to learn as well planning a hunt early may. Let me know if you wanna team up !
 

Idaho4x4Bronco

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Oct 25, 2019
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I was literally about to write a thread very very similiar, glad I saw this. Free bump for info!

I am super interested in the elevation black bear like to den at. From the little bit I saw on Google, it's 5700-8500ft north facing slopes. Anyone with experience have any truth on that statistic?

Is the general rule of thumb that a bear will den in the highest elevation availavle for the given area? 5900-6500 is about the maximum elevation for the areas I tend to have by me.
 

dhoftiezer

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Nov 9, 2013
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Seward,AK
I've spent a fair bit of time in the southern Kenai Mountains from Seward to Cooper Landing. I've found Black Bear dens from 500' elevation to 4000'. These are simply my observations. I have had very limited success hunting Black bears as they come out of their dens. We get lots of snow in the coastal mountains, the black bears will leave their dens and drop down to the lowlands since they green up first and then follow the melting snow back up the mountain. The challenge is catching them in the open country between "green up" and the alders leafing out. Sometimes that can be a 5-10 day window.
 

william schmaltz

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Nov 3, 2017
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AK
The challenge is catching them in the open country between "green up" and the alders leafing out. Sometimes that can be a 5-10 day window.
This part is right on. That's your best bet. Right around May 15th but maybe a little later this year. If you're covered in yellow alder pollen on your way up, you've timed it perfect. The skunk cabbage pops and grass greens up above the alders about a week before the alders leaf out. They'll stay up high after the alders leaf out, but that's your sweet spot for good access and bears. I was a week early a few years ago and didn't see a bear in 2 days in an area there are lots of bears. Seen a dozen different bears in the same valley the following weekend.

All the black bear dens I've found have been 2,500-3,500 but that means nothing. It's simply a product of it being easier to glass up a den than stumbling across one in the tress.
 
OP
Holmes

Holmes

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Jan 30, 2021
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Location
Alaska
The challenge is catching them in the open country between "green up" and the alders leafing out. Sometimes that can be a 5-10 day window.
This is a really helpful tip for me, thank you!


If you're covered in yellow alder pollen on your way up, you've timed it perfect.......
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All the black bear dens I've found have been 2,500-3,500 but that means nothing. It's simply a product of it being easier to glass up a den than stumbling across one in the trees.
2 super good bits of info!

Thank you both.
 
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