Backpacking in Bear Nation


grizzly bear in the landscape

Bears are magnificent creatures and it may be thrilling to see one—from an acceptable distance. When mountaineering or backpacking in an space inhabited by black bears or grizzlies, there are precautions you’ll be able to take so that you’re much less prone to have a bear encounter and also you’ll be ready to behave if you happen to do have one. 

Planning Your Hike in Bear Nation

Earlier than you head into the backcountry, discover out what bear-related laws are in place at your vacation spot. Some parks require bear canisters; others don’t.

In nationwide parks the place grizzlies stay, corresponding to Glacier or Grand Teton, rangers encourage you to hold bear spray. In others, corresponding to Yosemite, the place solely black bears stay, bear spray just isn’t permitted. 

Additionally, earlier than you go, discover out if bear poles or metallic lockers are put in within the backcountry websites the place you’ll be tenting, as that may have an effect on your gear decisions.

Learn how to Keep away from Bears Whereas Mountaineering

backpackers hiking through tall brush in bear country

In some areas, even earlier than you get to your first campsite, you could be fortunate sufficient to identify a bear. Your foremost activity shall be to hike with out startling one at shut vary, particularly a mom with cubs. Listed here are some pointers which are notably essential to comply with in grizzly territory, however can apply to black bear habitat as properly.

  • Keep away from mountaineering at daybreak or nightfall. That’s when bears are most lively.
  • Hike in a gaggle of 4 or extra and keep shut collectively; teams of that measurement are much less prone to be attacked.
  • Make noise as you hike so as to not shock a bear. Strive shouting “Hey, bear!” from time to time, speaking or singing loudly, clapping palms, and clacking trekking poles collectively.  The Nationwide Park Service doesn’t suggest that you simply whistle, use a whistle or scream. These noises can sound like an animal in ache, which can entice a bear. Most bells offered as “bear bells” usually are not loud sufficient to be helpful. Additionally, concentrate on your environment always. Noisy streams, wind within the timber, bends within the path and dense vegetation can stop a bear from being conscious of you.
  • Carry bear spray. Bear spray accommodates purple pepper derivatives that have an effect on the eyes and respiratory system. It’s designed to rebuff an attacking bear (however can have an effect on your personal respiration and eyesight, too, if the wind blows it in your face), and empties in solely 7-9 seconds. It’s efficient at a distance of 12-30 ft.

    Carry it instantly in your particular person in a holster, not in your pack (not even in an outdoor mesh pocket—it may get knocked out). Bear spray makes a superb deterrent about 90 p.c of the time. Know use it, as you could solely have seconds to take action. Often you could flick off the security clip earlier than you’ll be able to depress the nozzle. Follow pulling it out of the holster at house earlier than your journey.

    It’s an aerosol, so discover out about airline laws; additionally verify for any worldwide restrictions.

Warning: In camp, by no means preemptively spray your tent or pack with bear spray; it’s NOT like mosquito repellent. It might truly entice bears.

Store Bear Spray

Learn how to Discourage Bears in Camp

campers preparing their meals at safe distance from their tent

Bears which have tasted human meals crave it and will develop into an issue; these bears are often killed. So for the bears’ welfare and your personal security, maintain meals from bears. At all times comply with these pointers:

  • By no means depart meals out and unattended. Retailer meals day and evening; wildlife is at all times lively.
  • Use correct meals storage strategies: At all times use a bear canister, bear bag, tree- or pole-hung bag or supplied metallic meals locker to stow all the next: meals, snacks, empty meals containers and cookware (even when cleaned); private hygiene merchandise corresponding to toothpaste, female merchandise and sunscreen; each little little bit of trash; and even the garments you put on for cooking (clothes can take up meals odors). Some hikers even embrace their range. See our article on meals dealing with and storage for extra particulars about use a bear canister or bear bag, and hold your meals.
  • Maintain odors at a distance: Cook dinner meals and wash dishes (and palms) properly away out of your tent so odors don’t entice bears close to the place you sleep. Use solely a tiny little bit of liquid unscented cleaning soap.
  • Pressure dishwater: Carry a small piece of metallic display screen to pressure meals particles out of your dishwater. Put these particles in your trash bag to haul out.
  • Comply with Depart No Hint ideas (in addition to any official laws) for disposing of human waste.

Black Bears vs. Grizzlies:
What To Do if You Encounter a Bear

illustration of a black bear and grizzly bear

Most bears are cautious of people and can flee as quickly as they scent, hear or see an individual. Nevertheless, bears are unpredictable and harmful. At all times give a bear a large berth when potential.  

The way you reply to a bear encounter could also be completely different relying on the kind of bear. It may be arduous to inform black bears from grizzlies as a result of each can vary from blonde to black (within the jap U.S., nonetheless, black bears are usually solely black).

Black bears stay all through a lot of the nation, so chances are high you’ll see one sooner or later. Black bears haven’t any shoulder hump, ears which are taller, and a straight face profile.

Grizzlies, whereas widespread in Alaska and western Canada, stay in only some locations within the decrease 48, primarily Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and probably the North Cascades in Washington. Grizzlies have distinctive traits to search for: a outstanding shoulder hump, small rounded ears, and a “dished-in” or concave face profile.

What To Do if You Encounter Both Sort of Bear

  • By no means method a bear.
  • Should you see bear cubs, maintain your distance. Mom bears are notably harmful and have been identified to cost and assault at shut vary with out warning.
  • Should you spot a bear earlier than it spots you, again properly away, conserving your eyes on the bear.
  • Should you’re with others, group collectively to look extra imposing.
  • Retreat and reroute your journey if potential, giving the bear a large berth. Should you can’t progress on the path, it’s higher to postpone your hike.
  • In case you have bear spray, get it prepared.
  • Combat again in any of the next conditions: You’re attacked in your tent; at evening; after being stalked; or any time your state of affairs appears dire.

What To Do if You Encounter a Black Bear

  • If a black bear is coming towards you, elevate your arms to look bigger and yell loudly, bang pots collectively or throw objects to scare it off.
  • Seize an extended, sturdy stick for protection.
  • Should you’re in camp, shortly lock away any meals in a bear canister or metallic locker, or carry the meals with you (even when it’s in a cooking pot) as you again away. It’s essential to NOT let a bear get your meals.
  • If the bear retains coming towards you and appears extra fascinated about your meals than you, drop the meals as a final resort and transfer away.
  • Even when a black bear comes close to out of curiosity and appears innocent, maintain attempting to scare it away and again away.

If a black bear assaults you:

  • Don’t play useless.
  • Combat again aggressively. Use sticks, rocks and punches on its eyes and nostril. It’s treating you as prey.

What To Do if You Encounter a Grizzly

  • If a grizzly stands up to have a look at you, it’s assessing you. Speak to it calmly, don’t make eye contact and again up slowly—you don’t wish to seem a menace.
  • If a grizzly does a bluff cost, which appears to be like completely different from a full-on assault, its ears shall be up and it could huff and sure towards you. Strive to not panic; stand your floor and speak to the bear to let it know you’re pleasant. Get your can of bear spray prepared—by no means flip and run! If the bear turns and retreats after a bluff cost, proceed to again up.

 If a grizzly assaults you:

  • If a grizzly’s ears lie again and it’s silent with its head low because it prices, it is a full-on aggressive assault. Use your bear spray when it reaches 30 ft away. Don’t panic and spray too quickly. Goal low so it doesn’t go over the bear’s head.
  • Should you don’t have spray, or it fails to work, play useless.
  • Attempt to lie flat in your abdomen along with your pack between you and the bear; cowl the again of your neck along with your palms—your elbows and unfold legs can maintain you from being rolled over.
  • If the bear does flip you over, maintain rolling until you’re in your abdomen once more.
  • You can even strive a cannonball place. The bear might chew you after which depart.


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