Staying safe in black bear country

While we love black bears, the last thing most of us want is to encounter one on a trail or in our campsite.

While it is uncommon to encounter bears, being prepared is important to a bear-safe experience.


Facts about black bears

• They have a very keen sense of smell.

• They are extremely curious and intelligent.

• They are most ravenous in spring and fall.

• Diet is 85 percent vegetable matter: nuts, berries, seeds, grass; also grubs, bees, termites, larvae.

• Bears stand up to get a better look or smell -- not to attack.

• They prefer to avoid humans.

• Bears will be more aggressive when protecting food or cubs.

• They are very powerful and can cause serious injury if startled or provoked.

• Bears can run 35 miles per hour and are excellent tree climbers.

• Bears are wild animals to be treated with caution and respect.


On the trail

• Travel in groups. Do not allow children to run ahead.

• Remain on trail. Hike during the day. Bears are more active after dark

• Stay alert and avoid surprising a bear. “Advertise” your presence with talking, singing and bear bells.

• Use caution when traveling on a bike or in berry patches, dense vegetation and noisy streams where a bear may not see, smell or hear you coming.

• Keep dogs on leash; they can provoke a bear.

• When packing food and odorous nonfood items (scented toiletries, gum), use doubled plastic bags to seal in odors. Better yet is a bear-proof container.

• Bring extra zip-top bags for leftovers and for packing out garbage.


What to do if you see a bear

Bears are basically shy and naturally afraid of humans, so attacks are rare. If one comes near you it is most likely just curious.

• Do not approach the bear. Back up and return down the trail or make a wide detour around it.

• If a bear approaches you, stay calm and do not run -- that may elicit a chase response by the bear.

• Let the bear know you are not a threat by talking softly. Lift arms or pack overhead and slowly back away.

• If the bear snaps its jaws, huffs and slaps the ground, it feels threatened.

• The bear may “bluff charge” -- rush forward and stop -- to intimidate you.  Hold your ground until it turns and leaves, then back away.

• Never come between a mother bear and her cub!

• If a bear follows you, stand your ground and yell, clap your hands, wave your arms, or throw something (rocks, sticks) at the bear until it leaves.

• Never toss food or your pack at the bear, as it will quickly learn to confront other humans for food rewards.

Crossroads Chronicle

Mailing Address:
PO Box 1040
196 Burns Street, Suite 1
Cashiers, NC 28717
Phone: 828-743-5101
Fax: 828-743-4173