Bear Safety 411
April 27, 2016 by Alina Murphy
Gear, Cooking and Sleeping
- Treat all odorous products such as soap, sunscreen, deodorant, and other toiletries in the same manner as food.
- Bear bag tutorials
- Sleep a minimum of 100 yards (91 meters) from where you hang, cook, and eat your food. Keep your sleeping gear clean and free of food/toiletry odor. Don’t sleep in the same clothes worn while cooking and eating.
- If a woman chooses to hike or camp in bear country during menstruation, a basic precaution should be to wear internal tampons, not external pads. Used tampons should be double-bagged in a zip-lock type bag and stored the same as garbage.
- If you hear a bear outside your tent at night, make noise. Clap, talk; Let it know you’re there!
On the Trail
- Make bears aware of your presence on trails by making loud noises such as clapping, talking loudly and singing. This lessens the chance of surprise encounters and startling a bear, which are the cause of most bear-caused human injuries in the parks.
- Hike in groups when possible.
- Use caution where vision is obstructed.
- Do not run on trails and do not wear headphones. People have been known to literally run into a bear around a hairpin curve in the trail.
- Avoid carcasses as bears often defend this source of food.
If You Encounter a Bear
- Get acquainted with the differences between black bears and grizzly bears. Grizzlies are much more aggressive than black bears. Black bears are much more relaxed and you can usually scare them off pretty easily. Grizzlies require a lot more work on your part to avoid an attack.
- Do. Not. Run. Bears can run over 30 miles per hour and running may elicit an attack from otherwise non-aggressive bears. In the parks, bears see us as fellow predators, but by running you become prey and initiate a cat and mouse game.
- If the bear is unaware of you, detour away from the bear. If the bear is aware of you and nearby, but has not acted aggressively, slowly back away.
- Some bears will bluff their way out of a threatening situation by charging, then veering off or stopping abruptly at the last second.
- If a bear is acting aggressively and charges you, use your bear spray to create a smoke screen between you two. Spray in a sweeping motion from the ground up. The bear spray will hinder the bear’s sight, smell and taste for a couple minutes, disorienting it. Take this opportunity to back away from the situation and clear the area. But Do. Not. Run. The bear can still hear and the sound of running will trigger their prey drive.
- If you are attacked, play dead. Drop to the ground, lift your legs up to your chest, and clasp your hands over the back of your neck. Another position is to drop to the ground, chest and face down and clasp your hands over your neck and head, elbows out. This stabilizes you more so the bear cannot flip you.
- The bear should back away after a bit. Stay on the ground for a while until you are sure the bear has cleared the area. However, if the bear is prodding you for a prolonged time or starts to eat you, stop playing dead and fight for your life. Go for the eyes and throat. Way easier said than done, I know. I can’t even imagine this situation and I have goose bumps writing it, but fight like your life depends on it, because it does.
- All bear sprays are Not created equal. Make sure you do your research and are giving yourself your best chance at safety. We carried this one.
- I advise more than one bear spray canister per group because you might deploy one and encounter another bear down the trail. Also invest in a bear spray holster for your belt. You have seconds at most to get out that spray and create the smoke screen. Precious moments you can’t spend fumbling for the spray.
Head over to Bear Smart for much much more information on bears and bear safety.