Bear Safety

photograph of black bear walking in the grass

Black bears roam freely in the Bighorn National Forest. Seeing a bear can be a memorable and exciting experience. Caution is required, for your safety as well as the bears'. 

Bears have color vision, acute hearing, and a keen sense of smell. They learn quickly and remember feeding locations for years, which is why it is imperative never to feed bears. Bears are extremely adept at searching out food. They can swim, climb trees, bend open car doors, and pry out windshields. Female bears are fiercely protective of their cubs.

How to help protect your food and property

  • Keep a clean camp. Store food, garbage, attractants, and stoves in closed vehicles or an approved bear-resistant container. Coolers and ice chests are not bear resistant.
  • Bears are attracted to anything with an odor, including food, garbage, motor oil, toiletries, liquor, insect repellant, and any item that looks or smells like food. Keep these items stored properly.
  • Don't keep attractants in tents. Store them well away from sleeping areas.
  • If you're in the back country, attractants should be hung at least 10 feet/3 meters high and 4 feet/1.2 meters from the nearest vertical support.
  • Don't sleep in the same clothes you wore while cooking.
  • Do not bury garbage.
  • A bear that is habituated to food rewards from humans is essentially a dead bear, as nuisance bears that are trapped are often euthanized because they associate humans with food. Don't contribute to unnecessary bear deaths.
  • While hiking, don't surprise bears. Use caution where visibility or hearing is limited. Hike during daylight hours. Hike in groups. Make noise.
  • Bear repellant (bear pepper spray) is available at local outdoor retail stores. It is recommended for everyone recreating in bear country. Keep the spray where you can get to it easily, not in your pack.