Bear Safety

Avoiding Contact

  • Keep a clean camp.
  • Store only sleeping gear and clean clothing in the tent. Never sleep in the clothing worn while cooking.
  • Hang all food, garbage, cooking gear and cosmetics in a tree at least 10 feet above the ground and four feet from the tree trunk or nearby branches.  If you are camped near your vehicle, store these items in the trunk. Use PVC-type float sacks for storing items to minimize odors.
  • Never use the stuff sacks for tents or sleeping bags to store food, garbage, cooking gear or cosmetics. This may transmit smells attractive to bears to tents and sleeping bags.
  • Where hunting is permitted, store game meat as you would human food. Dispose of fish entrails by puncturing the air bladder and dropping them in deep water, allowing natural decomposition.
  • Dispose of used tampons or sanitary napkins by packing them out in a sealed plastic bag.
  • Pitch your tent 100 yards uphill from the area where you're cooking and storing food, if possible.
  • Never bury or burn garbage.
  • Never cook in or near a tent.
  • Avoid cooking strong-smelling foods; use dehydrated foods when possible.
  • Use a stove instead of a cooking fire whenever possible.
  • Store horse and pet feed the same as human food.
  • If dogs are permitted in the area, keep your dog on a leash; a free ranging dog may lead a bear back to you.

Hiking in Bear Country

  • Stay informed about recent bear activity in the area.
  • Leave a travel plan with a friend, and sign in and out at the trailhead so that someone will know when to expect your return.
  • Stay on trails.
  • Hike in groups to avoid surprising bears.
  • Hike in daylight hours only.
  • Make human sounds by talking, singing or clapping your hands. Avoid high-pitched voices.
  • Stay alert. Look for paw prints, droppings, fresh diggings, torn-apart logs and rocks that have been turned over. These may signal that a bear is active in the area.
  • Recognize and avoid bear food supplies such as berry fields, fish spawning areas and animal carcasses.
  • Watch for noisy streams and wind directions that may mask your sound and scent.
  • All bears have the ability to climb trees, some better than others.
  • Grizzly bears hide or make daybeds in thick brush, often near trails.
  • Always carry a used bandana, shirt or parka that you can drop easily. Avoid dropping food; this will encourage the bear's aggressiveness toward other hikers.

Bear Encounter

If you see a bear, stay calm and give it plenty of room. Do not startle it; detour slowly, keeping upwind so it will get your scent and know you are there. If you can't detour, wait until it moves away from your route before proceeding.

When a bear first detects you, it may stand upright and use all of its senses to determine what and where you are. Once it identifies you it may ignore you, move slowly away, run, or it may charge. A wild bear rarely attacks unless it feels threatened or provoked. On four legs, a bear may show agitation by swaying its head from side to side, making huffing noises and clacking its teeth.

A charge or retreat may follow. Flattened ears and raised hair on the back of the neck indicate aggressive intent. If a bear runs with a stiff, bouncing gait, it may be a false charge.

Never run, and do not try to climb a tree unless you are sure you have time to climb at least 10 feet before the bear reaches you. Bears can run very fast.

If attacked by a bear, do not run. Bears can easily outrun you. Try playing dead. Lie flat on your stomach, or lie on your side with your legs drawn up to your chest. Clasp your hands over the back of your neck. Bears have passed by people in these positions without harming them.

Learn more about bear awareness at Grizzly Bear Outreach Project (GBOP). View TV and radio Bear Smart PSA's.