Bear Country Basics

By Don Graydon.

The primary concern hiking and camping in bearcountry is safety, both for the visitor and for the bear. Personal safety is the first priority a bear can be a very dangerous animal if provoked or habituated to humans. Safety of the bear is also a concern. Once a bear is habituated to people, it can become a problem and will have to be delt with actively, sometimes at the expense of its life.
Introduction to traveling in bearcountry.

In bear country, stay out of the "personal space" of bears. Try not to surprise them. Make a lot of noise on the trail and in your tent if you see or hear bears. If people get too close, black bears often climb trees to escape - but they may attack, especially to protect their young. Brown bears, especially grizzlies, are more likely to attack (and polar bears think everything they see is food). If confronted directly by a bear, do not run this will almost surely provoke it to attack. Grizzlies are not known to attack parties of four or more persons, so this should be the minimum group size in grizzly country - and everyone should stay together.

When traveling in bear country, food security and the disposal of garbage takes on a new significance. Allowing a bear to obtain human food even once often results in the bear becoming aggressive about obtaining such food in the future. Aggressive bears present a threat to human safety and eventually must be destroyed or removed from the park. Odors attract bears, so avoid carrying or cooking odorous foods. Keep a clean camp do not cook or store food in your tent. All food, garbage, or other odorous items used for preparing or cooking food must be secured from bears (see Camping - food storage). Do not leave packs containing food unattended, even for a few minutes.

If you are involved in a conflict with a bear, regardless of how minor, report it to a park ranger as soon as possible. Another's safety may depend on it. Park rangers and biologists need this information to document bear behavior for research and management purposes.

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