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.