You see them everywhere. The signs reading….Be Bear Aware. You have to think about this constantly, because when you are hiking in the back country, you are in their territory.
Some basic rules:
- Hike in groups, if possible.
- Make noise as you hike. Talking, yelling, singing, screaming in fear, when you see a bear. The jury is out on bear bells. I used to carry one, but someone once told me this makes the bears curious and once they know what the sound is, it tells them where to look for their lunch. Perhaps, tongue in cheek, but, point taken. I left my bear bell behind.
- Watch for bear signs and likely habitats
- Always carry bear spray (my Patty calls it her can of naivete), keep it handy and know how to use it. This includes trips to the toilet. Do not drop it down the hole. If you drop it down the hole, do not try to retrieve it. Trust me, you don’t want it.
- Never cook or store food near or in your tent. Keep food containers and wraps sealed, when carrying in packs and clothing.
- Use the bear bins (lockers) to store all food and cooking materials.
- If a bear bin is unavailable, use the bear pole and hoist your food up as high as you can.
- Never get between a Mother bear and her cubs.
- Know the difference between black bears and grizzlies.
- If you encounter a bear, make yourself look big by stretching out your arms, talk softly, try to back away slowly.
- If they feint or charge, get louder and act more aggressive, waving a stick.
- Always leave an avenue of escape for the bear. They are likely just as scared of you as you are of them, unless they feel threatened.
- If contact is inevitable. drop on the ground, lay prone, clasp your hands behind your neck and use elbows and feet to keep from being rolled over. If you are rolled over keep rolling until you are back face down. Do not struggle or scream. The bear feels threatened by your presence and will leave once he deems the threat gone. I think this last part could be difficult to follow through on.
- Do not run. You will look like prey and they can run faster.
- Climb trees only as a last resort. Bears can climb trees too or worse yet, knock you out of the tree by hitting the trunk.
Despite the bear scat, bear digs and bear wallows, we did not see any actual bears….until our last day hike out. M leading our group spotted movement ahead and we all stopped to watch three Grizzlies crossing. They likely did not see us, but seemed more worried about bumping into us than we did about bumping into them. We were downwind, so they could not detect our aura. Lucky them.