Bear Safety

Higher elevations of the Tonto National Forest are in black bear country

Black bear A black bear in its natural habitat
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife)

Report nuisance bear activity to the Arizona Game and Fish Department 24/7 Radio Dispatch at (623) 236-7201 or local sheriffs’ or Forest Service offices.

“Being aware of our surroundings, keeping a clean camp and giving bears plenty of space are some of the most important things we can do to avoid conflicts with these beautiful animals and ensure safe and enjoyable visits to our national forests.”

Scott Jackson, U.S. Forest Service
National Carnivore Program Leader

Practice Bear Safety

Practicing bear safety, in particular black bear safety is important when hiking, camping or visiting the Tonto National Forest.


(Video created by Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest)

Precautions to Minimize Bear Encounters

Take the following precautions to avoid bear encounters:

  • Do not feed bears
  • Do not store food in sleeping areas
  • Secure human food, pet food, scented toiletries, and trash in animal proof dumpsters, food storage containers, and/or trashcans provided in some developed recreation sites
  • Travel in groups
  • Keep kids close and pets leashed
  • Make noise
  • Carry an easily accessible E.P.A. registered bear pepper spray that you know how to use

How to Discourage an Approaching Bear

Being outdoors means being with wildlife. Many people never encounter a bear yet if you do, follow this simple advice:

  • Alter your route to avoid a bear in the distance
  • If the bear continues approaching…
    • Make yourself as large and imposing as possible
    • Stand upright and wave your arms, jacket or other items
    • Make loud noises, such as yelling, whistles, and banging pots and pans
  • Do not run and never play dead
  • Give the bear a chance to leave the area
  • If the bear does not leave, stay calm, continue facing it, and slowly back away

In an Emergency

Black bears usually avoid people yet if they start associating people with food, they may become aggressive. If a black bear attacks, do the following:

  • Fight back with everything in your power – fists, sticks, rocks and E.P.A. registered bear pepper spray
  • Call 911 or Arizona Game and Fish Department 24/7 Radio Dispatch at (623) 236-7201.
  • Arizona Game and Fish Department personnel remove bears that present an imminent threat to human safety or when in a situation where they cannot safely escape on their own.

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