Bear Safety 101

With bear populations on the rise, read these tips to stay safe when you're hiking or camping

I am sure you've seen a lot of  news about bears lately, including a bear "attack" by a mama with two cubs in CT, so this is a good time to review some safety tips in case you encounter a bea when you are outside enjoying nature.

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I am pretty upset that the bear in CT was euthanized for being "aggressive".  Mama bears are protective of their cubs, as you would be of your children, and we should remember that we are sharing the environment with wild animals when we are out in the woods.  Really, we are invading THEIR homes, so it makes sense to be respectful and safe.

When I volunteered at the NPS we would always let people know about bears n the park if they were around and especially if people were out hiking with dogs.  Many times a bear encounter occurs when an off leash hound approaches a bear, usually not when a person goes at a bear. 

Here are some basic tips for when you are hiking or camping:

  1. Stay on designated trails
  2. Never approach, crowd, pursue, or displace bears.
  3. Leave pets at home unless you can keep control and keep on a leash.
  4. Give bears room to pass. Do NOT run from a bear.
  5. Let bears eat their natural foods. If you are camping, prevent bears from getting human food by learning about food storage requirements.
  6. In many national and state parks, you are responsible for your safety and the safety of wildlife. If a bear approaches you, it is your responsibility to move away and maintain a safe distance.

Once a bear has noticed you and is paying attention to you, additional strategies can help prevent the situation from escalating. So here are a few tips from the NPS about what to do if you encounter a bear to be safe:

  • Identify yourself by talking calmly so the bear knows you are a human and not a prey animal. Remain still; stand your ground but slowly wave your arms. Help the bear recognize you as a human. It may come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better look or smell. A standing bear is usually curious, not threatening.
  • Stay calm and remember that most bears do not want to attack you; they usually just want to be left alone. Bears may bluff their way out of an encounter by charging and then turning away at the last second. Bears may also react defensively by woofing, yawning, salivating, growling, snapping their jaws, and laying their ears back. Continue to talk to the bear in low tones; this will help you stay calmer, and it won't be threatening to the bear. A scream or sudden movement may trigger an attack. Never imitate bear sounds or make a high-pitched squeal.
  • Pick up small children immediately. I would add small dogs and also add that you shuld get yur dog under control at this point.
  • Hike and travel in groups. Groups of people are usually noisier and smellier than a single person. Therefore, bears often become aware of groups of people at greater distances, and because of their cumulative size, groups are also intimidating to bears.
  • Make yourselves look as large as possible (for example, move to higher ground).
  • Do NOT allow the bear access to your food. Getting your food will only encourage the bear and make the problem worse for others.
  • Do NOT drop your pack as it can provide protection for your back and prevent a bear from accessing your food.
  • If the bear is stationary, move away slowly and sideways; this allows you to keep an eye on the bear and avoid tripping. Moving sideways is also non-threatening to bears. Do NOT run, but if the bear follows, stop and hold your ground. Bears can run as fast as a racehorse both uphill and down. Like dogs, they will chase fleeing animals. Do NOT climb a tree. Both grizzlies and black bears can climb trees.
  • Leave the area or take a detour. If this is impossible, wait until the bear moves away. Always leave the bear an escape route.
  • Be especially cautious if you see a female with cubs; never place yourself between a mother and her cub, and never attempt to approach them. The chances of an attack escalate greatly if she perceives you as a danger to her cubs.

So..."take it outside" safely this summer and share the space with the bears!


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