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Dealing with Bears or how not to!

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  • Dealing with Bears or how not to!

    Be alert at all times, in all places. Bears are active both day and night and can be found anywhere. Watch for their tracks and scat. Avoid surprising bears. They may perceive you as a threat if you startle them. Sing, shout, or make other loud noises as you walk to warn bears of your presence. Be especially careful in dense brush, where visibility is low, and along rivers, where bears cannot hear you over the noise of the water.

    Never intentionally approach a bear. Bears should live as free from human interference as possible, so give them space.

    Be Bear Aware

    Avoid surprising animals at close range. Whistle, talk, sing, or otherwise make noise when hiking in areas where visibility is limited or bear sign present.

    Be alert to sign (droppings, diggings, fresh tracks, etc.), sounds, or other indications of bears. Be particularly wary when hiking wildlife trails, streams, or other areas where bears concentrate.

    Food and beverages should never be left unattended. Foodstuffs with strong odors such as fish, cheese, sausage, and fresh meats should be stored in a food cache, a bear resistant container, or suspended 10 feet above ground. Carry all refuse and garbage out! Buried refuse will attract bears.

    Keep packs and other personal gear on your person. It is easy to become separated from belongings left lying on the ground when a bear unexpectedly approaches. Bears will investigate, often destructively.

    Bears approach anglers because they have learned to recognize them as a source of food. Stop fishing when bears are present.

    If you keep a fish, you should remove the fish immediately to a proper food storage area.

    Do not approach bears {DUHHH!}

    The minimum safe distance from any bear is 50 yards; from a sow with young it is 100 yards. These are MINIMUM distances, there are many times that greater distances are required!

    Regardless of precautions taken, you may come across a bear. Usually they will run away. A bear standing on hind legs may only be trying to sense you better, not preparing to attack. Even a charge is often a bluff, ending abruptly short of physical contact.

    If you see a bear at a distance, turn around or make a wide detour. Keep upwind if possible so the bear will get your scent and know you're there. Talk in an assured tone to communicate your presence. Treat animals as if cubs are nearby. Assume the bear will be defensive. Do not approach closer to scare a bear away as you may be considered a threat.

    Avoid actions that interfere with bear movement or foraging activities.

    Be satisfied with a distant photograph, or use a telephoto lens. Many fatalities and injuries have been related to photography.

    Do not corner an animal. Allow them plenty of space and an escape route.

    Bears are typically solitary animals. Much of their communication at feeding , serves to maintain spacing and avoid conflict. Bears appear to have only a limited repertoire for this purpose. These behavior patterns are not highly ritualized, as in some species; therefore, their meaning is largely dependent on the context of the situation.

    Descriptions of some behavior and a general interpretation of meaning follow to help you understand what a bear may be trying to tell you. Remember, each bear is an individual and each encounter is unique.


    Standing on hind legs - A bear standing bipedally is typically not expressing aggression. Bears generally stand on their hind legs to gain more information, both olfactory and visual.

    Stationary lateral body orientation - A bear may stand broadside to assert itself in some instances. In encounters with human, it has usually been interpreted as a demonstration of size.

    Stationary frontal orientation - If a bear is standing and facing you, it is certainly not being submissive. This is an aggressive position and may signal a charge. It is likely waiting for you to withdraw.


    Huffing - When a bear is tense, it may forcibly exhale a series of several sharp, rasping huffs. A mother may also huff in order to gain the attention of her young.

    Woof - A startled bear may emit a single sharp exhale that lakes the harsh quality of a huff. If her cubs woof, a mother will immediately become alert to the situation.

    Jaw-Popping - Females with young often emit a throaty popping sound, apparently to beckon their cubs when danger is sensed. A mother vocalizing in this manner should be considered nervous and extremely stressed. Bears other than sows also jaw-pop.

    Growl, snarl, roar - Clear indication of intolerance.

    Other Indicators

    Yawning - Indicates tension. This behavior may results from the close proximity of another bear or human presence.

    Excessive Salivation - A clear sign of tension, salivation may appear as white foam around the bear's mouth.

    The Charge

    The vast majority of charges are ones in which the bear stops before making contact. The intensity of the charge or associated vocalizations may vary, but it is distinct in that it is an aggressive or defensive act clearly directed at another bear or human. Bears may charge immediately, as a sow fearing for her cubs, or may emit stressed or erratic behavior before charging.

    There is no guaranteed lifesaving method of reacting to an aggressive bear. Some behavior patterns have proven more successful in close encounters than others. Take a calm assured posture. A firm voice and gradual departure are better than a retreat in panic. Include the nature of your surroundings in your reaction.

    As a last resort, lie face down, protect your neck with your hands and arms, and don't move. This requires considerable courage, but resistance would be futile. Numerous incidents exist where a bear has sniffed and departed without serious injury.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: The information contained here applies to both Brown and black bears in general. With the exception of the last paragraph above. That applies to brown or Grizzly bears.

    For black bears you should not go to ground and cover up but fight back aggressively.
    Last edited by redhawk; 11-11-2008, 11:25 PM. Reason: Addendum
    "If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it." Lyndon B. Johnson

  • #2
    Black bears and campgrounds

    Tips for avoiding bear problems in campgrounds. From a DEC handout

    Taking care of food and garbage can help keep black bears in the forest and out of the campground.

    • Remove all garbage from your campsite at least once a day, especially right after each evening meal.
    • Clean your campsite including tables, fireplaces and the areas around them after each meal. Leave no scraps of food.
    • Clean all cooking and eating utensils
    • Keep food and utensils in closed containers and out them in the trunk of your car.
    • Completely and securely close your car.
    • Collect fat drippings or food scraps in a closed container and take it to the campground refuse/recycling center.

    • Leave food inside or outside your tent.
    • Eat food in your tent
    • Feed, bait, approach, or annoy bears.
    • Sleep in clothes worn while cooking.
    "If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it." Lyndon B. Johnson


    • #3
      Bear Safety on the trail

      The following tips will reduce the likelihood of an encounter with a bear.
      • Never keep food in your tent or lean to.
      • DEC strongly suggests the use of bear-resistant canisters in the eastern High peaks Wilderness Area.
      • In other areas, use a canister or hang food at least 15 feet off the ground from a rope strung between two trees that are at least 15 feet apart and 100 feet from the campsite.
      • Wrap aromatic foods and trash in sealed containers such as large freezer bags and hang or put in canisters. (Regular plastic bags do not stop odor. RH)
      • Hang your pack, along with clothing worn during cooking.
      • Keep a garbage free fire pit.
      • Should a bear appear. do not provoke it by throwing objects at it or approaching it. Bang pots, blow a whistle, shout, or otherwise try to drive it off with sharp noises. Should you fail, leave the scene. (Quickly! RH)
      Bold or Italicized text is addendums or comments by me.
      Last edited by redhawk; 11-11-2008, 11:27 PM.
      "If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it." Lyndon B. Johnson