Bear Safety on the White Mountain National Forest

Bear canisters are recommended and available to borrow free-of-charge for backpackers
Volunteers with bear container

Bear canisters are available to rent for free at all of our Ranger Stations and Visitor Centers. See a guide on how to pack a bear canister.

Coolers, food scraps, and backpacks left unattended are snack invitations to a hungry black bear. Normally shy and afraid of humans, bears lose this sense as they become accustomed to even the smallest remnant of food. Even empty food wrappers are enticing to a hungry bear.

Sadly, this can become a dangerous situation for them as they look for food freebies and as a result become repeat offenders due to our negligence

Enjoying the Forest amongst them is easy if you follow these guidelines.

Bear Food Storage Requirements

Following safe food storage practices protects both you and the bears:

  • Never leave food or coolers unattended.  All food, food particles, trash, and coolers need to be secured in a vehicle or trailer.
  • Always keep a clean picnic area, campsite, or other area where you may be spending time.
  • Don’t leave any food (including condiments), food particles, trash, and coolers out when not in use.
  • Store food in bear-resistant units, hard-shelled vehicles or car trunks.
  • Never store food in your tent.

Additional rules for camping:

  • If your plans include backpacking, tie up your food(see links for tips below) or in a bear-proof canister.
  • Keep sleeping areas, tents, and sleeping bags free of food and odor (like toothpaste or deodorant).
  • Don’t sleep in clothes you cooked or handled fish or game in.
  • Never bury or burn food waste.
  • If camping in the backcountry, hang your food bag at least 10 feet off the ground and 5 feet out from a tree limb that could support a bear, or better yet pack and use bear resistant containers.
  • Place sleeping tents at least 100 yards away from food storage and cooking areas.
  • Never leave your backpack unattended.

‚ÄčThe feeding of bears, intentional or unintentional, is prohibited on the White Mountain National Forest. Visitors who have not properly stored their food risk their own safety and receiving a citation (36CFR 261.58cc $100).


A video introduction to encountering black bears from a White Mountain National Forest Wildlife Biologist.


Additional Resources