Ahhh, the “Great Outdoors!”
A place to adventure, relax and be at one with nature. Nothing could be better. I encourage everyone to get out and enjoy it. There is much to be seen and it’s constantly changing. Each adventure leads you somewhere else and you see something new. These experiences are truly one of a kind.
Whether it’s your first time or you’re a regular outdoorsman heading out to hike, mountain bike or camp safety is key. While many safety issues need to be a concern, bear safety is number one! While nothing can guarantee your safety in bear country, knowledge and proper behavior can greatly reduce risk.
Are Bears Unpredictable?
A lot of people think bears are unpredictable, but this is not true with bears any more than other creatures. They do things for a reason. A simple understanding of bear behavior can help avert dangerous confrontations. The good thing is both black and grizzly bears tend to be wary of humans and normally go out of their way to avoid us. Many wildlife specialists confirm this, but there are exceptions. The main exception is a food-conditioned bear. This is a bear that has had a previous encounter with a human and was rewarded with food or trash. The saying regarding this condition is, “A fed bear is a dead bear,” because often times these bears become a nuisance and danger to people. It’s sad, because it’s a human caused situation that can totally be avoided.
As always knowledge is power, especially in the event of a confrontation. Below are some helpful tips for recreating in bear country. We are not experts and there many resources online regarding this topic. Do your homework!
- Don’t feed or approach bears.
- Stay in your group and keep kids close.
- Be alert and make your presence known by singing, clapping and talking loudly.
- Use bear proof containers and leave no trace.
- Avoid surprising bears.
- Stay on the trail.
- Keep dogs leashed.
- Look for bear tracks, droppings and clawed ground or trees.
- Pay attention to your senses. Notice circling birds or strong odors that indicate an animal carcass.
- If you notice a bear in the distance do not disturb it. Turn around or circle far around it.
- When you run into a bear that’s close or sees you don’t panic! Stand your ground or back away slowly. If it follows, stop. Bears are curious and might approach for a better look. Wave your arms, stand tall, speak loudly and be human.
- When a bear charges it’s normally a bluff. Your adrenaline will be rushing and your first reaction will be to flee. Never run, you won’t win this race. Running also triggers their instinctive reaction to chase. Don’t climb a tree unless it is right by you and you can get up high quick. Be big loud and intimidating.
- If a bear attacks, you first need to know what kind of bear it is before you react. See the chart provided to help identify the type. If a black bear attacks, fight back. Use whatever you can to strike the bear in the nose or eyes. When dealing with a grizzly, play dead. Curl up in the fetal position to protect vital organs.
- It isn’t necessary to carry a weapon when in the wilderness. Using common sense is the best defense. Most of the time preparation and traveling carefully are all that is needed. If additional protection makes you more comfortable, consider carrying pepper spray. Bears noses are 100 times more sensitive than humans. Think how irritated your nose becomes when you accidentally sniff pepper. This incapacitating spray teaches bears a lesson without permanently injuring them. Be sure to read the directions.
- Lastly, in areas where you are allowed to carry a gun. Guns don’t bother me, but I don’t recommend this method of protection. More people are injured each year by the guns they carry than by bears. Also, by using the methods above you should be able to avoid any encounter which will make the gun useless on your trip and add extra weight. If this is your choice and this is your last resort, try firing a warning shot. Normally, this is enough to stop a charge and deter the animal.
Stay Calm & Stand your Ground
With 20 years of outdoor experience and numerous bear encounters I have never had to use protections. Simply staying calm and standing my ground has proved successful. When out in the wild remember these tips and they should prove effective. Enjoy!