Bear Safety Tips

06 19 2016

Warm weather means that the Earth is waking up after winter's deep sleep. Deciduous trees are breaking dormancy with fresh displays of foliage and flowers, and the outdoors are brimming with blooming vegetation. Bears are emerging from hibernation and prowling for sustenance. Although the majority of those who enjoy outdoor recreation never have a bear encounter, it's nonetheless wise to be prepared whenever you're in the wilderness. Following are several bear safety tips designed to keep you and your companions as safe as possible while spending time in the great outdoors.

Make Noise

Most bears have no desire to cross paths with humans. Letting them know you're in the area by wearing bear bells on your shoes, singing or talking loudly with your companions will provide them with the opportunity to steer clear of you. The Frontiersman Bear Horn also effectively serves this purpose. However, keep in mind, bears that are acclimated to the presence of humans sometimes fail to be frightened off by noise.

Wear Unscented Grooming Products

Scented soaps, lotions, shampoos, deodorants and other grooming products attract bears because they smell sweet. To a bear, sweet scents mean wild fruits, honey and other good things to eat. Always use unscented products before embarking on a wilderness adventure.

Proceed With Caution on Wooded Trails

Contrary to what a lot of people believe, with the exception of polar bears, North American bear species do not actively hunt and stalk human beings. Most bear encounters happen because the animal is startled, which is more likely to occur in areas with low visibility, such as wooded trails. Also, moving swiftly on a wooded trail may be interpreted by bears as charging behavior, and they may react by going on the defensive and attacking. Even though bears are not predators of humans, running from them might trigger the animal's prey drive, causing it to give chase and attack.

Don't Mess With Mama

One of the most dangerous places in the world is between a mother bear and her cub. Don't be there. Leave the area immediately if you spot a cute little baby bear, even if you suspect that its mother is nowhere near — she is, and she's watching you.

Bear Safety Camping Tips

Good camping food storage strategies are essential if you're going to be enjoying an overnight camping trip. Never store food in your tent or anywhere near where you sleep. Place it in sealed containers in your car and park at least 1,000 yards away from where you plan to spend the night.

What to Do if a Bear Attacks

If the worst-case scenario occurs and a bear attacks, your response depends on the species of bear. If it's a black bear, fight and make as much noise as possible. If it's a brown bear, experts advise to play dead — Remember the saying, “If it’s black, fight back; if it’s brown, lie down.” This may cause the animal to leave the area planning to return later to dine on your remains. Brown bears often bury their prey, but not deeply, so don't panic if this occurs. You may also be able to fend off the attack by using bear spray. Also, always enjoy the wilderness in groups of three or more to optimize positive outcomes of encounters with wildlife, and be sure to keep bear spray in an easily accessible place, such as in a holster rather than in your backpack.

One of the most important things to realize when developing a bear defense strategy is that although the majority of bears are predictable, there is always about a five percent wild card with bear behavior. Even though bear populations are most concentrated in rural parts of the American West, the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, there have nonetheless been sightings in all states except for Hawaii. Making a habit of carrying bear protection spray as part of your camping, picnicking, and hiking bear safety strategy minimizes chances of actual bear attacks during periods of outdoor recreation.