Bears have a natural fear of humans. This fear helps them survive up to 15 years in the wild.
Our national forests are a refuge for wild animals, including dangerous animals like bears, cougars and wolves. Wild animals can be upset by human presence and can unexpectedly become aggressive. Do not give them a reason or an opportunity to attack. Always keep your distance. Your safety is your responsibility.
Avoid Attracting Bears
Special Considerations for Bear Country. When traveling in bear country the disposal of garbage takes on a new significance.
The primary concern here is safety, both for the visitor and for the bear.
- Personal safety is the first priority; a bear can be a very dangerous animal if provoked or habituated to humans. Habituated means the bear is comfortable or used to be being around humans.
- Safety of the bear is also a concern. Once a bear is habituated to people, usually because it associates people with food, it can rapidly become a problem bear and will have to be dealt with actively, sometimes at the expense of its life.
- Though black bears present less of a threat to the personal safety of backcountry visitors than grizzly bears, the potential for personal injury does exist and preparations should be taken.
- Hang food and strong smelling items at least 10 feet off the ground between trees and 4 feet away from the trunks of the trees.
- Messy kitchens and food odors can attract bears.
- Kitchens should be placed at least 100 feet from tent sites and, if possible, near streams or rivers. A conscientious low-impact camper always keeps a clean camp whether there are bears in the area or not.
- If you suspect bears are in the area, all food, items with strong odors (toothpaste, bug repellent, soap, etc) and trash food must be kept at least 100 feet from tent and kitchen sites and hung at least 10 feet off the ground between trees and 4 feet away from the trunks of the tree or limbs. (Or use special food storage boxes and cable systems if available.)
- Even with this preparation, black bears, who are adept at climbing, may still reach your food.
- Bear resistant canisters can also be carried. These canisters are made from a strong ABS polymer with smooth sides and rounded edges so bears have nothing to grip onto. Stainless-steel locks are easy for humans to open with a coin or screwdriver.
- Food brought to your tent invites danger to your sleeping area and;
- Food left in your pack may result in a destroyed pack as the bear searches for the source of food odors.
- Do not cook or store food in or near your tent (food odors on tent or gear may attract a bear.)
- If a bear approaches, frighten it by yelling, banging pans together, or throwing rocks.
- Do respect bears and admire them from a distance.
- Pack out trash -- don't bury it.
Campgrounds and Picnic Areas
- Keep a clean site by properly disposing of:
- All garbage, including fruit rinds and cores.
- Aluminum foil (even from grills) that has been used to cook or store food.
- Plastic wrap and bags that have stored food.
- Cans and jars that are empty.
- Pick up food scraps around your site.
- Never leave food or coolers unattended (unless inside a vehicle or hard-sided camper).
- Wipe down table tops before vacating your site.
- If a bear approaches your site, pack up your food and trash. If necessary, attempt to scare the animal away with loud shouts, by banging pans together, or even throwing rocks and sticks at it. If the bear is persistent, move away slowly to your vehicle or another secure area.
Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
- Read all signs at the trailhead.
- Hike in a group, keep children close at hand.
- Make your presence known (call out).
- Hike during daylight hours and stay on the trail.
- Avoid taking pets; they may attract bears to you.
- Watch for bear signs: scat, claw marks, diggings, logs or stumps torn apart, etc.
Cabins and Residential Areas
- Never leave unattended food or garbage outside.
- Do not leave pet food outside (especially overnight).
- Bear-proof bee hives, compost piles, and gardens with electric or chain-link fence.
- Do not leave food as bait for any animals or leave food scraps on the ground.
If a bear approaches, move your family and any food indoors immediately.
- Bears are omnivorous, meaning they eat animals and plants. Their natural diet is mainly vegetarian and includes leaves, berries, nuts, grasses, roots, insects, fish, carrion and occasionally mammals such as deer. Bears have insatiable appetites and require large quantities of food.
- Black bears have a flat, "Roman-nosed" profile and no pronounced shoulder hump.
- Bears generally avoid humans. However, a hungry bear will enter a backyard or campground if lured by the smells from food or trash.
- Bears are natural scavengers. They will remember an easy source of food and will keep returning if food is available.
- Bears' sense of smell and hearing are far superior to humans and their eyesight is at least as good.
- Bears are fast. A bear can run 60 percent faster than the world's fastest sprinter.
- Bears are strong. They have been known to pry open car doors and windshields in search of food.
Although black bears rarely attack, they are powerful animals and are capable of injuring or killing humans. These steps may be helpful if you encounter a bear.
- If you see a bear in the distance, make a wide detour or leave the area.
- Do not feed or toss food to a bear, or any other wild animal.
- Keep children close. Pick up children or put them on your shoulders.
- Never approach bears - they are dangerous wild animals. If a bear changes its natural behavior because of your presence, you are too close.
- Give a bear plenty of room to pass, and it usually will.
If a bear approaches you:
- Don't run.
- Drop your backpack and then back away slowly.
- Face the bear, but don't look directly into its eyes. Keep it in sight.
- Make yourself look bigger by waving your arms and yelling.
- Make lots of noise and stomp your feet.
- Do not feed or toss food to a bear or any wild animal.
- Remember, you can't outrun a black bear. They are extremely fast on the ground or climbing a tree. Warning signs of an attack include: a steady glare; ears laid back; smacking of the jaws and stomping of the front feet.
- In the extreme case that you are attacked by a black bear, try to fight back using any object available. Act aggressively and intimidate the bear by yelling and waving your arms. Playing dead is not appropriate.
If the bear attacks, fight back with anything available. Act aggressively. Throwing rocks or hitting a bear with large sticks has been effective some cases.