Maybe you’re an avid camper, hiker, mountain biker, or a rough-rider equestrian, or perhaps you’ve only recently heard the thrilling call of outdoor adventure. Regardless of which “camp” you fall into it’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for the wildlife that inhabits the areas where you and friends/family will be adventuring. One particularly impressive specimen of this wildlife could be bears!
Here’s a few bear safety tips that will keep you and yours safe and having fun:
Bear Safety Tip #1: Research The Area
Always research any hiking, biking, or horse riding area before you enjoy it. You’ll always learn a lot and may even receive pointers and fun tips from those who’ve taken the path beforehand. For example, research what species of bears live in the area (if there are any at all) and learn more about respecting that particular species’ day-to-day habits. Also, research the season in which bears will be most active and/or aggressive and plan your adventure accordingly. Some campgrounds or hiking areas will even provide bear safety tips specific to that geographical area. This information is immensely valuable and should be followed carefully especially when you are hiking with children or pets.
Bear Safety Tip #2: Make Noise
Making noise in the wilderness might seem like it defeats the entire point of peace, quiet, and serenity in the outdoors but it’s not like you have to shoot a bazooka, light up fireworks, or sing your favorite Katy Perry songs at the top of your lungs just to ensure that bears won’t come around! Just make sure that you aren’t sneaking around like a silent assassin. Talk in a normal to slightly-louder-than-normal voice and step loudly from time to time. After all, if you make a bit of noise 99.9% of bears will stay as far away from you as possible. Bear bells are available for purchase and will certainly keep the bears at bay.
If you happen to spot a bear, by all means do not approach it, try to feed it, or worse, surprise it. Though the bear might seem adorable, cute, or even somewhat friendly, a bear’s natural first instinct when caught by surprise is to defend itself…..even if it’s against you and your friends/family! So be careful and always proceed with caution in bear territory!
Bear Safety Tip #4: Stay Away From Carcasses Or Other Obvious Food Sources
When you’re out having a good time and making a bit of noise (see tip #1) it’s very unlikely that bears will bother you. However, it’s difficult for a hungry bear to resist a fresh animal carcass or other obvious food sources such as large bushes heavily-weighted with yummy berries. In fact, hungry bears are a lot like hungry humans. They get grumpy if they don’t have a full belly so respect the bears’ need for food and keep walking. You can always enjoy your own camping and/or hiking snacks and leave the berries for the bear.
Fear Safety Tip #5: Steer Clear of Mama Bears With Their Young
Almost everyone has heard about the devotion of mother bears to their young. Mother bears are known for wildly attacking anything that seems to present even a small threat to their young. In fact, it’s an interesting fact (at least for black bears) that young cubs are normally born in January or February while their mothers are still in hibernation, and then fed on stored milk until mother and cubs emerge during the spring season. It is during this season that hikers, bikers and the like will want to avoid trails in bear territory or at least closely follow all of the other tips in this article if there are no trails available in “bearless” country.
Bear Safety Tip #6: Stay On The Trail
Bears, like many mountainous mammals, have a keen instinct and awareness of what is going on in their surroundings. As long as hikers don’t litter old food scraps along the trail it’s likely that bears will hunt and gather their food in areas as far from the trail as possible.
Humans however aren’t always as observant and perceptive as bears but can train themselves with practice to recognize “bear indicators.” For example, to train your sense of “bear awareness” you may wish to research where bears normally live, what bear tracks look like, and what bear feces look like, so you can be aware if a bear is near. However, regardless of how “bear savvy” you are it’s best to stay on the “human trail” and leave the bears to their own adventures.
Bear Safety Tip #7: Don’t Tempt A Bear’s Nose!
Bears have incredible noses and even more incredible senses of smell. It’s easy to tempt bears with food and even scented body products (or any scent that isn’t found in their natural environment) to come wandering into your campground or your hiking group. And again, bears aren’t shy about eating so keep your campground and hiking gear as scentless as possible. Bear canisters are available for purchase and can keep seductive smells locked up so bears won’t be tempted. If you’re not interested in purchasing a bear canister then use a large plastic bag to store your food and hang it between two trees. The bag should hang at least 12 feet above ground.
Another tip along the lines of keeping your campground “smell proof” is to wash your dishes at least 100 yards downwind from your campground area and the campground areas of other “human types.” If any of the leftover food does end up attracting bears your trek downwind will be sure to keep them away from you and your friends and/or family.
Bear Safety Tip #8: Avoid Dawn, Avoid Dusk
Bears like to “do their bear thing” at dawn and at dusk. During the rest of the day they are not nearly as active so do your best to hike with some trekking poles, bike, and ride horses when bears settle down for a nice nap.
Enough Room for Everyone
One of the beautiful things about enjoying nature is knowing that other people (and animals) can also enjoy it nearby. All species of bear thank you in advance for your respect.