Bear Safety for Campers

Bear Safety for Campers

Bears are common members of the wildlife community. They are found in many habitats, from forests and meadows to plains and coastlines. Encounters that lead to aggressive behavior or attacks are rare, however, as most bears avoid humans. Still, consider the following tips to reduce the risk of a bear encounter or attack while camping.

Keep a clean camp

Human conflicts with bears often occur when bears access human food sources. Secure and store all food and beverages away from tents. Also secure non-food items that have a smell, such as personal hygiene products, cooking utensils, and garbage away from tents. Don't sleep in clothes you've cooked in.

Hike and travel in groups

Most bears avoid people if they can hear or smell them. Bears often become aware of groups of people at greater distances, as groups tend to be noisier than a single person traveling alone. Groups are also intimidating to bears due to their size.

Leave pets at home or keep them on a leash

Keep animals leashed and close to you. Bears will chase fleeing animals. Pet food may also attract bears, so secure pet food between meals.

Be alert

Most bear attacks that occur in the wild have resulted from a human startling a bear. Be aware of your surroundings and avoid moving silently through a bear habitat. Sing or clap your hands frequently while hiking to reduce the odds of surprising a bear.

Never get between a mother and her cub

The likelihood of an attack escalates greatly if a mother perceives you as a danger to her cubs. Never attempt to approach a cub, even if the cub appears to be alone or sick, and never place yourself between a mother and her cub.

Make yourself big

If a bear approaches you, use sticks or objects to make yourself appear larger. If it’s a black bear, make noise and yell in low tones to intimidate the bear. A high-pitched scream can trigger an attack, so don’t screech.

Move away, but don’t run

It’s rare for bears to attack humans, but a sudden movement may provoke an attack. If the bear is stationary, leave the area slowly by walking sideways. If the bear follows, stop and hold your ground.

Carry bear spray

Carry bear spray in the event of an attack. Bear spray can stop aggressive behavior in bears. If a bear charges you, put a cloud of spray between you and the bear. Keep spraying until the bear leaves, or spray into its face if it advances.

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