Most bears avoid people. Many hikers never even know that they passed close to a bear because the bear did such a good job of avoiding them. Most encounters end with the bear and human departing in opposite directions, without harm to either party. Your risk of being hurt by a bear is lower than your risk of being hit by lightning and much lower than your risk of being hurt in a car accident as you drive to bear country.
What follows are some recommendations from bear experts on what to do and how to behave when hiking and camping in bear country. Following this advice should help you reduce your risk, but remember, there is no guarantee of your safety. Every encounter is as unique as every bear.
The most important thing to remember when camping in bear country is, never allow bears to obtain your food, garbage, or other attractants. Bears that learn to obtain food in campgrounds often become increasingly bold and aggressive in their efforts to obtain these foods. They may damage vehicles, tents and other property. In rare instances bears that learn to obtain human foods even enter tents and attack people, resulting in injury and sometimes death. Bears that behave in this way are usually killed by bear managers.
Bears are attracted to all of the following items:
All of these items should be stored where bears cannot obtain them:
Be sure to follow all local regulations and in general, follow these guidelines:
The most important thing to remember if you do encounter a bear is, don’t run! If you run, you may very well trigger the bear’s predatory instincts and if it wants to catch you, it will. A bear can sprint at 35 mph and cover 100 yards in about 7 seconds. Stop and calmly assess the situation.
Bear pepper spay has proven very effective at repelling approaching or aggressive bears and reducing the incidence of human injury. In fact, it is even more effective than a firearm in preventing injury. Statistics show that people defending themselves with guns were injured about 50% of the time while people using bear spray usually escaped injury.
Bear spray is a special chemical solution containing 1%-2% Capsicum. This chemical comes from hot peppers; making the solution extremely irritating to the nose, eyes, throat, mouth and lungs. It temporarily disables the bear but causes no permanent harm.
Bear spray should be discharged only at approaching, charging or aggressive bears. Do not spray it on backpacks, clothing, tents or people; it is not a repellant like bug spray is. If you decide to carry bear spray make sure you look for the following attributes in the product you purchase:
If you intend to carry bear spray, read the manufacturers instructions closely and follow them. Mentally rehearse how you would use your bear spray.