Be bear-aware this spring

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.

Reports are coming in that both black bears and grizzlies are emerging from their winter dens. That’s something to be aware of if you’re planning any trips to the woods in the next few weeks.

Grizzlies get more press than black bears, but all bears can be dangerous if you surprise them. Always stay aware of your surroundings while you’re hiking, and make noise while you walk to avoid startling a bear.

Special rules apply to areas where grizzlies tend to be found in relatively high numbers. These rules, which are good guidelines in black bear country, too, include hanging your food and other items that attract bears 10 feet off the ground and four feet out from any vertical support.

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.

These rules are designed to protect both bears and people. If you don’t follow the rules, bears can become conditioned to humans and see them as a source of food. A conditioned bear may have to be killed to prevent a human tragedy. It only takes one incident to ruin a bear’s natural instincts to stay away from humans.

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.