Bear safety tips starts with the fact that wild bears really don’t like being around people. Many people are concerned and scared about encountering bears, and therefore won’t hike. This page will cover avoidance of bears, what to do if you see one, and what to do in the very unlikely event that you’re attacked.
If you’re hiking in an area that is known to have bears, take some bear spray with you, and know how to use it. Keep it handy, not in the bottom of your backpack. Don’t plan on hiking early in the day or late in the day. Bears are most active around dawn and dusk. Hiking in groups is a good idea.
The best bear safety tip for hiking is avoidance, by making a little noise. If it hears you, it will try to move out of the way. The worst thing to do is to hike quietly. That’s when you’ll surprise a bear, and you’ll be surprised too.
Although tieing bells or a couple of cooking pans onto your backpack helps a lot, experts say it is not enough. You still need to make some other noise regularly. Clap. Shout. Let them know where you are.
Here’s one of those bear safety tips most people don’t think about. If you’re hiking into the wind, be more cautious and alert. Make more noise. Your scent is being blown behind you. Bears have an extremely keen sense of smell, but under these conditions, they will not be able to pick up your scent and get out of your way.
If you’re backpacking and camping out, bear safety tips start with cooking and storing food at least 100 yards (91 meters) away from your tent. Hang food at least 10 feet (3 meters) above the ground. Do the same with items that have a strong odor, such as toothpaste and soap. Consider using airtight bear-proof containers, particularly if there are no trees.
When you go to bed, don’t wear what you cooked in. Change clothes and store dirty clothes away from the tent. Keep the area clean. Keep pans and dishes clean. Don’t bury garbage. Either burn it completely in a campfire, or pack it out.
So, what are the bear safety tips if you encounter a bear? First, stay calm. Avoid sudden movements. Don’t run. A bear can chase you down at speeds of up to 30 mph (50 kph). If the bear hasn’t seen you, quietly slip away.
If it notices you while it’s still far away, wave your arms and talk calmly, so you can be identified as human. Slowly back away. If follows and pursues you, throw something on the ground such as binoculars. It may distract the bear enough to allow you to get away. Do not throw food.
How you handle a bear attack is never straight forward. It usually depends on the mood of the animal. It can also depend on the kind of bear that’s attacking, so when learning bear safety tips, it’s important to know how to tell the difference. Black bear safety is a little different than grizzly safety.
A grizzly bear is generally larger, averaging 400 pounds. Black bears average around 200 pounds. But size isn’t a telltale sign due to age and gender factors. A full grown black bear male can be bigger than a young grizzly female. Even color isn’t a good gage. Black bears are not necessarily black. Both species can range in color from a brownish blond to black. So what are the other factors?
For a grizzly, look for the distinctive hump at the shoulders, with the back end slightly lower than the shoulder hump. Just remember: shoulder hump, lower rump. Other features are the short, rounded ears, and the slight dip in the profile between the eyes and the nose. Also, a grizzly has longer claws, 2 – 4 inches, which tend to leave claw marks in the tracks.
A black bear has no shoulder hump, and the rounded hind end is slightly higher than the shoulders. Its ears are taller and pointed, and the face runs a straight line from the forehead to the nose. There’s no dip before the nose. The claws are less than 2 inches and more curved.Even with the curve, the tracks don’t usually have a claw mark.
Generally, depending on the bear’s mood, grizzly attacks are better handled by playing dead. If a black bear attacks, fight back, unless it’s a mother protecting cubs. When playing dead, fall face down with your backpack on to protect your back, and place your hands behind your neck. Stay still for as long as you can because bears will stay around and watch for a while.
When fighting back, throwing objects is good, but bear spray would be the best tip for fighting an attack. Spray well before the bear gets to you, so it runs through the spray. Aim for the face. Bear spray won’t affect the body. Also, do not spray into the wind. The pepper spray will be blown back at you, incapacitating you instead of the animal.
If you’re planning a hiking trip in bear country, a little extra preparation is worth the time. There are bears in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so review these bear safety tips before going. Know them like the back of your hand.
The more you know about bears the better off you are, since they’re truly difficult to predict. Get some bear spray. Know how to use it. Keep it handy, not in the bottom of your backpack. Never turn your back and run. Never give food. Learning about bear safety tips will help you make the most out of any day or overnight hiking adventure.