You'll want to know these black bear safety tips if you are planning to camp in bear country! (These tips apply just as well to grizzly bears, too.)
Taking some common sense precautions will mean that you will probably never have an unpleasant meeting with a bear.
If a bear learns that easy food can be found at a campsite, the bear will quickly become a "nuisance bear". Far too many bears are destroyed each year because they have lost their fear of humans.
These black bear safety tips are as much for the bears' protection as for your own.
Don't be part of the problem! Take these easy precautions.
This sign says it all:
"Food and Odors Attract Bears. These items may NOT be left outside or in tents at any time, day or night, unless they are in immediate use:"
Store your food in your vehicle between meals. That includes your food boxes, fridge and cooler too.
Anything with an odor should be stored in your vehicle. That includes things like lip balm, sunscreen, toothpaste and other toiletries.
Don't have a vehicle? Some campsites provide bear-proof lockers for hikers and bikers.
If you are camping in the wilderness and there is no bear-proof locker, store your food, toiletries, and cooking clothes in a sturdy bag, suspended between two trees, at least 15 feet/4 meters off the ground at some distance from camp.
Many campgrounds in bear country provide bear-proof garbage cans.
If your campground doesn't, store your garbage in your vehicle. If you're backpacking, hang your garbage the same way you hang your food.
Use a sink or grey water dump station if one is provided.
If there is no such facility, carry your water some distance from the campsite before dumping it.
Bears live in the wilderness, and humans like to explore the wilderness. That means that bears and humans will be in fairly close proximity fairly often.
Bears usually don't want to meet up with us any more than we want to meet up with them!
Black bear safety can be as basic as warning bears that we are there, and giving them plenty of opportunity to get out of our way. Here's how:
Sing, talk loudly, whoop and holler.
Some people carry "bear bells" which jingle constantly as the hiker walks. I don't have a lot of faith in these, because they are not very loud. More than once, I've hiked around a corner and come face to face with someone wearing bear bells. I didn't hear the bells until I'd already seen the hiker!
The more people in your group, the less likely it is that you will have a bear encounter.
A posted sign is a pretty obvious signal to use extra caution!
Watch for loaded berry bushes, scratches on tree trunks, or bear scat.
Bear scat (bear poop) will vary in appearance, depending on what the bear has been eating. You'll recognize it because a pile of it is big!
This bear must have found a loaded cherry tree. Look at all the pits!
Don't wear headphones or earbuds.
Actually, don't listen to music while you hike at all.
Bears come to streams and rivers to drink or to catch fish.
The sound of streams or waterfalls can mask sounds - both yours and the bear's - making an unpleasant surprise for both of you more likely.
If you follow these precautions, you will probably never have an encounter with a bear - but you should carry bear spray just in case.
I use these black bear safety strategies when I go hiking and camping, and I have never had a bad experience with a bear. Although I have seen a number of bears, none has ever approached me in a threatening manner.