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  • Writer's pictureTrail Guide Joe

Be BEAR Aware! Hiking, Biking, & Boating Safety

Hiking, biking, or boating in the wild, particularly in bear territory, doesn't have to be a scary thing. By no means should you be completely fearless either. You should carry a healthy respect for the wildlife, especially bears, when you are camping in their "home turf". What can you do to protect yourself and others while having the experience of a lifetime? Following these guidelines, established by the Be Bear Aware Campaign, and be ready for the time of your life!


Whether you hike, mountain bike, float rivers or ride horses, there are precautions you should take. Start by telling someone where you are going and when you plan to return. Always follow local regulations and review trailhead signs.



The "DO IT" List

 
  • Watch for bear signs such as tracks, droppings, diggings, rocks rolled over, scratch marks on trees, and logs torn apart.

  • Carry binoculars and scan ahead periodically.

  • Make noise by talking or calling out in a monotone, non-threatening voice, sing, or clap your hands to let a bear know of your presence.

  • Shout often when traveling upwind, near streams and waterfalls, or when you cannot see the path ahead.

  • Keep children close to you and within your immediate sight at all times.

  • If dogs are permitted, keep them on a short leash to avoid conflicts with wildlife.

  • Report dead animals to the nearest ranger station.

  • If you must bring food, dry foods are both lighter and less smelly and thus less likely to attract a bear.

  • Hike at a pace everyone can maintain and stay together. Some bears behave in a predatory manner and will seek the easiest target.

  • If an animal approaches, back away to maintain a safe distance of 100 yards from bears.



The "DON'T DO IT" List

 
  • Don't hike alone or at night.

  • Don't rely on bells, usually they are too quiet and a bear can become desensitized to them.

  • Don't travel through thick brush as it can increase the likelihood of you startling a bear.

  • Don't let children play in or near dense cover and refrain from squealing or making other animal-like noises while hiking or playing.

  • Don't take pets on hiking trails. Pets may attract bears and generally are not allowed on trails in our national parks and refuges.

  • Don't approach a carcass; a bear may be just out of sight, guarding its food.

  • Don't carry foods and beverages with strong odors, scented deodorants, lotions, and other odorous items. A bear's acute sense of smell can detect odors from great distances.

  • Don't leave your packs, food, or beverages unattended; even food or beverages stored under water may attract bears.

  • Don't wear ear plugs; listening devices should be avoided as it drowns out sounds around you.

  • Don't hike ahead or allow someone to fall behind, especially children and pets.

  • Don't run if an animal approaches. Back away to maintain a safe distance of 100 yards from bears

  • Don't try to out run a bear, even on a bicycle. You can't. Period.



More "TIPS & POINTERS"

 

Do what you can to prevent bear attacks by:

  • Making sufficient noise to alert bears to your presence.

  • Avoiding approaching or surprising a bear at close range or other signs of aggression.

  • Getting close to a carcass or other food source.

  • Startling or approaching a female bear with cubs.

  • Avoiding hiking off trail or at night.

  • Bears are most active during the morning and evenings, before feeding times while avoiding the heat of the day, but can be encountered any time.

  • Groups of three or more people tend to make more noise and appear more formidable. This makes groups safer than solo hikers.

  • Stay on Trails for your safety and to protect the habitat.

  • Bicyclists and runners should carefully select the areas they are recreating in and be extra alert in bear country. Speed and quietness increase risks of a sudden encounter.

  • Running to a tree may provoke a bear to chase you. Some grizzlies and all black bears can climb trees so it won't do you much good anyway.

  • Bears can run up to 35 mph, up and downhill, for a distance of 2 or more miles. You cannot out run them.

Following these suggestions will help make the journey safer for you, your companions, and wildlife. Look for bear signs in your immediate area and always maintain a safe and respectful distance from wildlife. Please do not approach, follow, or feed wildlife, especially bears.

Wildlife + Distance = Safety!


Happy Trails!

These helpful tips were created by the Be Bear Aware Campaign - https://bebearaware.org/bear-safety-tips/
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