One very good boy in Alaska took his title of “man’s best friend” to heart when he fended off an Alaskan brown bear from his family’s property.
A video shared to Facebook by Alaskan artist and musician Nicholas Galanin showed an 11-year-old golden retriever named Pretty standing his ground near the door of his home, wagging his tail and barking at the bear. In an email to Snopes, Galanin said that the video was captured at 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 15 in Sitka, a small island community located on Baranof Island in the southeastern part of the state.
“We have lots of bears, though I’ve never seen them engage this closely,” he said.
Pretty’s ears pin back as he almost touches the nose of the brown bear. At one point, the bear looks as though it's winding up to swat the pup before Pretty lunges at the predator, eventually scaring it off.
“Changing Pretty’s name to Legend! He’s always been a good bear dog,” Galanin wrote in the Facebook post.
Though Sitka has a population of about 9,000 people and just 14 miles of road, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimates that there are around 1,550 Alaskan coastal brown bears on Baranof and its adjacent islands. These large apex predators are not to be confused with their grizzly cousins. Alaska’s coastal brown bear populations are a subspecies of brown bear are the only species of bear found in Sitka, according to the National Park Service (NPS).
Scientifically known as Ursos arctos sitkensis, the Bear Conservation website notes coastal brown bears are dark in color and are also distinguished by a large hump on their shoulders. They call the shorelines of the Tongass National Forest temperate rainforest home, primarily feeding off of a bountiful source of berries and salmon during the late summer.
“The grizzly bear is another type of brown bear. So, a grizzly bear is always a brown bear, but a brown bear is not always a grizzly! The different types of brown bear vary genetically, and by geographic location. These are coastal bears, which are typically larger than grizzlies. Grizzlies are found in the interior of Alaska,” noted the Sitka-based bear conservation organization, Fortress of the Bear, on its webpage.
Though bears generally prefer to steer clear of humans, these predators enter a phase known as hyperphagia in August and September in which prepare for their winter hibernation. During hyperphagia, bears are more active and more likely to come into contact with humans in their quest for food.
And for Alaskans like Galanin, it’s a simple reminder to be bear aware and live in harmony with the region’s wildlife.
“This is their home too," Galanin said, "so be respectful.”