Be bear aware in the backcountry

Seeing a bear, whether it’s a black bear or a grizzly, can be the highlight of an outdoor adventure. But getting too close can turn an awe-inspiring experience into a tragic one.

There’s a common perception floating around that grizzlies are aggressive defenders of their territory that will maul or kill a person if the bear is startled or threatened. It’s also commonly believed that black bears are skittish and shy and will run from trouble rather than stand and fight.

These generalities can lead to trouble. These are wild animals, and they are unpredictable. But there are steps you can take to avoid causing a bear to turn your head into a canoe.

If you’re going hiking, camping or hunting, research the area you plan to visit. Special rules apply to areas where grizzlies tend to be found in relatively high numbers. These rules can include hanging your food and other items that attract bears 10 feet off the ground and four feet out from any vertical support. The use of bear-resistant containers is required in some areas. And in all grizzly use areas, dogs aren’t allowed to run off leash.

When you get done cooking and eating, bag your garbage in a sealable bag and hang it in the storage area. This storage area should be at least 100 yards from the sleeping area. The same goes for the cooking area. Cooking releases a lot of scents that can attract bears, so you want to be sleeping as far as possible from where you’ve cooked your dinner. In addition, change your clothes after you cook or eat and store the clothes in a sealed bag and hang the bag in the storage area.

Another thing to keep in mind is that bears are most active at dusk, dawn and during the night. Stay clear of likely bear habitat at these times. Don’t go bumbling into a brush patch alone in the middle of the night. There could well be a bear in there trying to figure out how to get your food out of the tree it’s hanging in.

We’ve covered what you should do to avoid putting yourself on a bear’s menu. Tune in tomorrow to find out what to do if these precautions fail.

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