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This summer I would like to visit Alaska for hiking in the wilderness. However most of Alaska is populated by bears and being on the safe side I would prefer to carry a rifle for self-protection.

Is it possible for a non-US citizen tourist on a B1/B2 visa to obtain a permit to carry a rifle while hiking in Alaska? And if so, is it possible to obtain one remotely before arriving to Alaska?

If it matters I have a Canadian PAL license and can bring my own rifle from Canada.

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    I was under the impression you could carry a long gun there without a permit. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Mar 12 '18 at 23:52
  • @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas yes, but does that also apply to non-US citizen tourists? See this related question. – JonathanReez Mar 13 '18 at 0:05
  • @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas aliens are generally prohibited from possessing firearms by federal law, although there are some exceptions. – phoog Mar 13 '18 at 0:07
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    @JonathanReez that's simply not true. It may be risky, but it's far from suicidal. See for example adfg.alaska.gov/?adfg=livingwithbears.bearcountry. – phoog Mar 13 '18 at 0:13
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    @JonathanReez my point is that the probability of needing a weapon of any sort is very small to begin with. Note the heading "in the rare event of an attack" (emphasis added). – phoog Mar 13 '18 at 0:55
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If you're going somewhere more remote, carrying a gun might make sense. Reach out to the Alaska Department of Public Safety (who issue concealed carry permits to US Citizens) to ask about the relevant laws. (https://dps.alaska.gov/) I'd also reach out to the nearest Forest Service station to where you're going, and ask whether carrying is actually a good idea.

For the record, it probably is not a good idea. Bears in many parts of Alaska are famously conditioned to run toward gunshots— chalk it up to generations of hunters killing animals and abandoning the carcass when a bear shows up. From what the Alaskan hunters and outdoorsmen I met there told me, the further north (toward the interior of Alaska) you go, the more conditioned bears are to move toward gunfire. Hiking with a gun is perfectly safe until you fire it, at which point everything with claws within earshot (and, there may be more than one such thing) comes toward you.

The better solution is usually to make noise while you hike so you don't startle any animals you come across. In the Denali area, most hikers wear bells on their packs. Moose are a bigger danger than bears there, and there are enough people around in the summer that you'll get some uncomfortable looks if you have a rifle slung around your back.

Speaking of Denali, specific rules apply to national parks. Since 2010, it's been legal at least for US citizens to carry guns in national parks, but nobody is allowed to bring a gun to any US government buildings in National Parks... which, e.g., if you're in Denali, is every building you might need to enter for supplies, information, etc. This might pose logistical challenges. And, not that you're expected to die without defending yourself, but wildlife in national parks are protected, meaning you end up in a legal bind even if you shot in self-defense. It might make sense to just do what everybody else does.

For what it's worth, I'm not saying this because I'm an anti-gun person. My family carries in the backcountry in Idaho and Montana, where the threats are cougars or wolves. The difference is that those respond to gunfire in the expected way... by running for it.

  • Thank you for the input! I'm basing my question on Canadian realities where in some remote areas you're not even allowed to go outside without a gun, as there's just too many bears around. Perhaps things are different in Alaska. – JonathanReez Mar 13 '18 at 3:06
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    @JonathanReez This answer needs a citation in making a potentially dangerous claim that bears run towards gunshots. In fact, I know it works the same way in Alaska as in Canada, when doing field work, companies and even schools will require somebody to have a loaded gun in possession. – user71659 Mar 13 '18 at 4:54

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