Basics Safety

8 Tips for Bear Safety

By on June 12, 2017

Encounters With Bears

Bear safety is an important topic for anyone adventuring outdoors.  First, don’t be afraid; it’s quite rare to have an encounter with a bear during your outdoor excursion.  Even if you do cross paths with a bear while on your hike, chances of dying from a bear attack are extremely low.  How you act around a bear will be different, though, depending on the type of bear.  In the map from National Geographic shown below, the light blue shaded mostly in the north is where you can find polar bears.  The brownish-orange (sorry not good with colors) represents the regions where you might encounter a grizzly bear.  The remaining grey/purple shade is the region with the black bear population.  For example, I live right now in New York where (if you know your geography) you can see we have black bears all around the state.

bear map

source: National Geographic

While it’s possible, you’re probably not going to win an actual fight against a bear if it gets to that point.  Black bear females weigh 170 on average, males weigh 300 on average, and grizzly bears are even larger.   If you do see a bear in the backcountry there are a few precautions you can take to avoid danger.   Here are some tips.


8 Tips for Bear Safety

#1: A bear where?

Know which bear is in the region you’re trekking.  Grizzly bears tend to be more aggressive and along with their size, an encounter is more likely to be deadly.  Learn some basics about different types of bears around the world, especially those in your region.

 

#2: A little spray goes a long way

Be prepared by bringing bear spray.  Bear spray works at a range of about 30 feet and if used properly, will scare the bear off to leave you alone.  Think you need a gun?  Think again because research actually shows that the bear spray may be more effective to use in protection than a gun.  In addition, killing a grizzly in the United States (besides Alaska) is actually a punishable crime.  They’re an endangered and protected species and you can face huge fines if you shoot and kill one.

 

#3: Open your eyes

Be aware of your surroundings; keep watch around you as you walk.  If you know your hike is in the same territory that bears live then reconsider hiking with headphones on.

 

#4: Heyyyyyyy Bear!

If you see or hear a bear, make a lot of noise.  Let them know you’re around and they are likely to leave you alone.  Best to avoid surprising them.

 

#5: Mmm smells good!


If you’re staying overnight, make sure to take precaution with your food.  Use bear canisters, hang your food away from your tent, or invest in small electric fences.  If you are planning to hang your food, keep it at least 100 feet away from your tent (more is better) and hang it away from the tree and high off the ground.  Keep in mind that in your pack to hang, or your bear canister, whichever you choose, you should also place any of the following:

  • Cooking stove
  • Dishes and utensils
  • Dog food
  • Garbage and compost
  • Toothpaste
  • Insect repellent
  • Lotions

 

 

#6: What color tent should I buy?

It’s better if your tent blends in!  Bears can actually see colors so your yellow or orange tent is more likely to stand out to them.  All the more reason to love my MSR tent

 

#7: Solitude in the forest

You’re better off backpacking with other people.  No group of backpackers is going to be attacked by bears (very unlikely).  You’re much more likely to have an encounter when you’re solo hiking.  P.S. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t solo hike!  Just read the other tips and be aware.

 

#8. Campsite awareness.

Choose your campsite carefully; don’t camp right on a stream where bears search for fish and don’t camp directly on a trail they might pass by.  Try to keep more in the open depending on your terrain and what’s available.  ALSO, don’t cook your dinner right by your tent (haven’t you seen Alone?).  Make dinner away from your tent so that the smell isn’t surrounding the site you’re going to be sleeping in.  On that note, if there’s scent from the food on your clothes, don’t sleep in those clothes either.

 

black bear safety tipssource: Chris Parker \\ flickr

I hope these tips are helpful and you take them to heart when you hike in areas shared with bears.  Take a look at the map above if you’re not sure whether there are bears where you live.  The amount of bears in your state may surprise you!  Take a look at the states with at least 1,000 bears:

States With > 1,000 Bear Population

Alaska – 200,000
Arizona – 3,000
Arkansas – 4,000
California – 30,000
Colorado – 11,000
Florida – 3,000
Georgia – 5,000
Idaho – 20,000
Maine – 25,000
Massachusetts – 3,000
Michigan – 18,000
Minnesota – 20,000
Montana – 10,000
New Hampshire – 5,000
New Jersey – 3,500
New Mexico – 6,000
New York – 6,500
North Carolina – 13,000
Oregon – 27,500
Pennsylvania – 14,000
South Carolina – 1,200
Tennessee – 4,500
Utah – 2,000
Vermont – 4,100
Virginia – 16,000
Washington – 30,000
West Virginia – 10,000
Wisconsin – 35,000

 

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2 Comments
  1. Reply

    Eena

    June 12, 2017

    I always thought to stay quiet when you see bears… good to know!

    cabin twenty-four

  2. Reply

    Guru Karanam

    June 14, 2017

    whole heartily thank you for giving out valuable information

Please comment or ask questions!

RACHEL M
New York, NY

I am Rachel, an early 30's Midwestern girl residing in NYC with my husband and dog. I have learned to appreciate the city but am also a huge adventure girl. Follow along with my outdoor adventures as well as my city adventures and fitness journey. I'm an advocate of empowering other petite women not to be limited by our size!

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