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For the most part, bears usually stay away from people.
 Some areas are more prone to bear problems due in large part to the overpopulation of tourists and abundance of food provided by them. Some California National Parks are particularly notorious for their brazen bear populations.

Concentrated bear problems are sometimes posted so be very aware.

While camping in bear country you may encounter a bear.
 If you are planning a camping trip to bear country, a telephone call to inquire about bear activities is recommended.
If you confront a bear while in the outdoors, remain calm. 
Don't panic!

To reduce the chances of bear problems:

Move to another campsite if fresh bear sign is present.

Never have food in your tent.

Use canned and dried foods to minimize food odors.

Store foods out of a bear's reach.

Use air-tight or bear-proof containers.

Burn waste paper in your campfire.

Remove all garbage and fish remains from camp every evening.

 Bears have an excellent sense of smell and are attracted by food odors. Dirty dishes and garbage (especially bacon grease) may lure bears to your camp. Wash dishes immediately and dump the water away from camp (at least 150 feet away from any lakes or wetlands). Outside of the wilderness, leave your food in your vehicle, preferably in the trunk when you are sleeping or away from your campsite. When possible, burn all food scraps, left-over grease and garbage. Nonburnable garbage should be hung up with the rest of your food and packed out when you leave. Don't dispose of food in the wilderness latrines. Bears will still find it and may destroy the latrine in the process.


 Bears are naturally curious and may want to look inside your tent. It's no problem for bears if the tent is closed tight . . .
they'll just make their own opening

Seeing bears can be very enjoyable. However, having a bear in camp can lead to problems.
If a problem becomes serious, the bear may be killed unnecessarily.

If a bear comes into camp:

Don't feed it. Scare it away.

Make loud noises, bang pans, yell or use air horns.

Don't be gentle! Chase it away.

Throw rocks or pieces of firewood or use a slingshot.

No nearer than 15 feet from the bear!

If a bear makes threatening sounds, stands upright or bluff charges, you are too close. These actions can be unnerving, however, the bear can almost always be chased away.

Spray repellents containing capsaicin (hot pepper liquid) are available to discourage bold bears.

These repellents are effective and will not injure a bear's eyes or make the bear aggressive.
Care must be taken when using these products. 
Be sure to follow label instructions.


A bear will take advantage of any foods available and will attempt to eat anything that resembles food in look, smell or taste. When natural foods such as nuts, meat berries, insects and tender vegetation are scarce, bears search actively for anything to eat. This is when bears most often come in contact with people. When bears find a source of food they will usually return regularly.

Bears and People

Bears and people meet under a variety of circumstances. Most bears are wary of people and will usually leave when encountered. Although seeing a bear can be a memorable experience, some people are frightened when they encounter these animals.

Bears can become a nuisance when they visit homes, resorts, campgrounds and restaurants. Although some bears become used to people, they are still wild animals no matter how "tame" they may appear. People must always be cautious around bears since they may react unpredictably.


The best way to avoid bear problems is to not attract them in the first place.


If you have persistent bear problems or want more information on bears, contact your local DNR Area Wildlife Manager for assistance.

Black, Brown & Grizzly

Wilderness hikers often wear bells on their boots to warn nearby bears of their presence.
Try singing if you're on the move.
On the other hand, the bear is the noisiest critter in the woods (humans #2) so quietly listening works well too.
If you still find yourself face to face with a bear, back away slowly.  Talk softly  "nice bear"  and keep your eyes down.
Leave a cooler or pack behind as you retreat as a distraction. 
Under no circumstances should you run or scream.
To the bear, a scream is a challenge to fight. 
Do you really want to fight a bear? 

Just Remember . . .

Avoid all contact with bears 
Never feed or approach bears. 
Don't try to get close for that perfect photo!

Dogs can annoy bears
and bring them back to their owners. 
It's best to leave your dog at home or keep it on a leash.

store food in tents. 
Store all food in the trunk of your vehicle.

Sleep at least 50 meters
from the area where you store and cook food.

Pitch your tent away from dense bush, lake shores, stream banks and animals' trails.

Keep clothes and gear free of food odors
 and dispose of dishwater at least 100 meters from your campsite.

Do not cook strong-smelling or greasy foods.
Burn out tin cans after a meal if you have a fire.

Keep your campsite clean.
Put all garbage in bear-proof containers or pack it out.
 Never bury garbage -
bears can dig it up.

Clean fish in running water. 
Dispose of fish entrails by burning them in a hot fire or dropping them in deep or rushing water after puncturing the air bladder.

Don't use or pack
 strong-smelling or herbal scented perfumes, deodorants, shampoos, etc.

Don't surprise bears.
Carry a bell, sing, talk or make noise along a trail to avoid startling bears.
Never hike alone, or after dark.

Never come between
 a female bear and her cubs.

Stay clear of occupied bear habitat, berry patches, avalanche chutes or streams with spawning salmon.
Leave an area the way you came if you see fresh signs of bears such as tracks, droppings or diggings.

Be wary of hiking in high winds.
A bear may not be able to pick up your scent and have time to move off before you come across it.

In response to a question about bears being attracted to citronella, in the February 2003 issue of Backpacker magazine the "bear expert" wrote about "several years" of research in "Alaska to test how bears respond to different sights, sounds and smells. Citronella powerfully attracts some male and female bears. For some individuals of both sexes, it elicits rolling and rubbing that can last for 5 to 10 minutes... We know of no attacks on people triggered by wearing citronella, but because of its bear attraction power we don't recommend wearing it in bear country."



There are Four Subspecies of Bear in North America. 

They are:

1.Black Bear (Ursus americanus)
2.Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis)
3.Alaskan Brown Bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi)
4.Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus)

Black Bear

The black bear is the smallest of the North American bears, and the only one that is distinctly American.

The American black bear is a medium size bear, weighing between 130 and 660 pounds with a total body length of 50 to 75 inches. Though known to attack when provoked, the black generally gives humans a wide berth.

Though usually nocturnal, the Black Bear may be seen at any time, day or night. The Black Bear's walk may appear clumsy, but in its bounding trot it can reach speeds up to 30 mph. This bear is also a powerful swimmer and a well-known climber. It uses trees as a means of escape when in need of protection and the bear can also find food in the trees.

They can be seen at any time of the year if you happen to be in the right place at the right time. This bear is mainly solitary, except briefly during the mating season.

 This bear does not have the prominent shoulder hump which characterizes the brown-grizzly.

Although normally black, it is quite common to see chocolate brown, cinnamon brown, gray,  pale beige bears  or pale blue (known as glacier bears) to white (known as Kermode bears).

A typical black bear has long, lustrous jet-black hair over most of the body from its head down to its tiny tail. On its muzzle and around its eyes, the hair is light-colored. Most black bears have a splash of pure white on their chests. This splash may vary from just a few hairs to an area about a foot across.

 In eastern North America, the Black Bear is almost completely black and in the western regions it's color ranges from black to a shiny golden cinnamon, and can even have a white blaze on its chest. In the northwestern region there are even individuals that are almost white!

Habitat & Range: In the West, these bears inhabit the forest and wooded mountains. In the East, they live in forests and swamps. The Black Bear is widespread across North America, ranging from Alaska all the way to Mexico, most being found in the Rocky Mountain states and California. In the East, they range from the New England states, through the Appalachian Mountains to Florida. The Black Bear can also be found in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. The bear is territorial and occupies an area usually 8-10 square miles, although in less populated places they may range over 15 square miles.

American black bears are found in North America; in 32 states of the United States, all provinces and territories of Canada except Prince Edward Island, and northern Mexico.


Alaskan Brown Bear

Unarguably the largest and most dangerous of North American big game, the Alaskan brown bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi) and the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) are recognized as separate species although mammologists generally agree they are one and the same animal. Bear experts admit they are unable to tell the animals apart and classify both under the Latin name Ursus arctos.

Alaskan brown bears are huge, formidable animals that may weigh as much as 1,500 pounds. On all fours the bears stand as much as four and one-half feet at the shoulder and may reach nine feet in length. Most big males weigh between 800 and 1,200 pounds with females averaging between 500 and 800 pounds. Standing erect, some brown bear boars tower over eight feet. Grizzlies are proportionately smaller animals standing three and one-half feet at the shoulder and weighing up to 800 pounds. These bears average six to seven feet in length for males, less for females.

Both browns and grizzlies have dished-in facial profiles and obvious shoulder humps. Each comes in various colors from dark brown to blond. Hair is long and thick and grizzlies commonly have conspicuous silver-tipped guard hairs. Tails are stubby, shorter than the five wickedly curved claws on each forefoot; these are often three to four or more inches long. Claws on the bears' hind feet are considerably shorter. Each adult animal has 42 teeth including four prominent, curved canine teeth, 12 incisors, 16 premolars and 10 molars. Such weaponry, combined with awesome power and surprising speed-and the big animals' naturally aggressive nature-make the big bears a potentially dangerous adversary.

Polar Bear

The Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) is the true King of the North, reigning as undisputed ruler of the frigid waters and frozen wastelands at the top of the world.

Polar bears are huge, long-necked, pear-shaped animals with thick, whitish-yellow pelage that blends well in a world of ice and snow. An inches-thick layer of fat beneath the skin serves both as insulation and an energy source. Sloping heads appear small. Ears are short and situated below the crown of the skull. Eyes, nose, lips and claws are black. Adult boars stand four feet at the shoulder and are about eight feet in length. Males average about 1,000 pounds and females are typically smaller and lighter. There are reports of some polar bears weighing in excess of a ton.

Plantigrades, the long-legged bears walk on the entire soles of their feet. Pads are covered with short, insulating hair that also provides traction as the bears walk or run across the ice. There are five toes on each foot and claws are sharp but relatively short. Polar bears walk with a distinctive shuffling gait and are surprisingly quick and agile for such large animals. They can run at speeds over 30 miles per hour and swim tirelessly at speeds conservatively estimated at six miles per hour. The white bears have been sighted at sea swimming strongly more than 100 miles from the nearest landfall. The bears have a total of 42 teeth including four long canines, 12 incisors, 16 premolars and 10 molars.


Avoiding Bears
 Tom Huggler

Camping encounters with wildlife are the exception, not the rule.  In a lifetime of sleeping outdoors, I have experienced perhaps a half-dozen incidents, all of which could have been avoided with the exception of a foraging grizzly bear in the arctic.  I awakened one night to a rough panting outside our tiny tent.  In a panic I found my .44 magnum handgun and ripped it from its holster.  Holding a shaking penlight in my mouth, I sat up in my sleeping bag, the gun in both trembling hands, and waited for a certain attack.

Luckily, the bear was merely curious.  Finding nothing to eat, he wandered off into the dark, but I was too shook up to sleep anymore that night.

Foraging bears are a constant threat to campers in the backcountry and in many of our national parks.  The last time I visited Yellowstone, rangers drove throughout the campground each evening, warning people to put food away.  In Glacier National Park a couple of years ago a black bear surprised my wife and me as we hiked along a trail back to our camp.  The bruin, more interested in berries than in us, ambled off the path into the woods.

My arctic camping partner and I avoided a confrontation with that curious grizzly because we had taken certain precautions.  We prepared and ate supper 50 yards from our tent.  We washed dishes, stuffed empty food packaging into Zip-Loc bags, and made doubly certain that no food or food odors lingered in the area.  Had trees been available, we would have suspended our mess kits and food supplies on a rope 15 feet above the ground and at least five feet from the tree trunk.  We even changed clothes before climbing into our sleeping bags.  That left nothing to smell except human beings, and when the bear got a whiff of us, he "woofed" and left camp in a hurry.

"A fed bear is a dead bear" say the posters in our Western national parks.  A bear that is rewarded only once by finding food in a campground quickly loses its fear of people.  That bear will have to be removed.  If it becomes a problem, park personnel will kill the animal.

Many government-run parks provide food lockers in modern campgrounds and food poles or cables in backcountry sites to keep chow away from bears.  Auto campers are required to lock all food in the trunks of cars at night and to dispose of trash in bear-proof receptacles provided.  Besides these precautions, there are many other things campers can do to avoid a confrontation with a bear.

* Don't hike alone or after dark, and whistle, sing or otherwise make loud noises when traveling through known bear country.  A bear that hears you will nearly always move off the trail.

* If you see a cub, back off; never get between a cub and its mother.

* Stay as clean as possible, avoid scented shampoos and deodorants, and don't sleep in the clothes you wore all day and cooked in.  Instead, hang them away from camp, along with your food.

 * Remember that a tent affords more protection than sleeping in the open.  Keep a flashlight and a noisemaker handy.

 * Most importantly, don't provoke a bear by approaching the animal for photos or a better look.  According to the National Park Service, if you run into a bear, avoid eye contact (which might be interpreted as a threat), talk softly and walk away, while dropping something that might distract the bear.  A friend of mine, who lives in Alaska and was fishing the Russian River for sockeye salmon, avoided a certain confrontation with a young grizzly when my friend dropped his stringer of fish in the trail.  All the bear wanted was something to eat.


  If you are attacked and have no means of defense, however, the best advice--according to the NPS--is to drop to the ground, assume the fetal position so the knees will protect vital organs, cover your head with your arms, and play dead.

Bears are the largest potential threat to campers in North America.

 Most campers
 who use common sense
never see one!



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