Some of the best hiking trails in the U.S. are in areas populated by bears. Despite this, a chance of a bear attack isn’t too likely. In general, bears tend to avoid humans, and the likelihood of a bear attack is miniscule.
Beyond packing bear spray, there are a few other things you can do to reduce the chance of a bear encounter. Here are some useful tips for anyone who is planning on hiking in an area with bears.
Grizzly bears are commonly found in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Alaska. They are less common than black bears, but they’re also larger and more dangerous. A grizzly has a smaller snout than the black bear, and they can run very quickly. For this reason there’s no point in trying to outrun them, as they will be able to catch you quickly. Grizzlies can’t climb trees well, but they can reach up to grab things in trees—such as yourself!
Black bears are more common than grizzly bears, and they’re found in most parts of the US. They come in a variety of sizes and colours, including black, brown and cinnamon. The black bear is around 7 to 10 feet tall, and males can weigh between 125 and 550 pounds, whereas females tend to weigh between 90 and 300 pounds.
When are bears are most active?
Bears are generally shy animals that prefer to keep themselves to themselves, so they normally avoid humans if they hear them or smell them. However they do become more aggressive during mating and birthing season, and they will also be more aggressive if they’re injured or protecting their young. They are most active during the cooler hours of the early morning and evening, and during the daytime they tend to seek shade in the under bush.
Tips For Hiking in Bear Country
- Hike in a group instead of hiking alone, and try to make as much noise as possible as you go. You can whistle and sing as you walk, or you can carry bear bells to create a sound.
- Stay in open areas as much as possible, as this minimizes the chance of you surprising a bear and scaring it.
- Always be aware of your surroundings. Avoid the underbush during the day as it could be a bear’s bed, and look out for running water or lush vegetation as this could signal a bear’s home. If you’re in an area that you think could be a bear’s home, leave immediately.
- Avoid going off-trail, as you’re more likely to encounter a bear in an area that’sn’t regularly used by humans.
- Don’t wear strong perfumes, soaps or hair spray, as a bear will be able to smell it and they may think it’s a food scent.
- Make sure that your cooking area is at least 100 feet away from your tent. Bears are attracted to the smell of food, even if it’s just a dirty pan, and this can increase the risk of an encounter in the night time. If you’re further away from the food the bear is less likely to notice your presence.
- Make sure all of the food is properly packed up before you go to sleep to minimize odors.
- Change your clothes before you go to sleep, especially if you cooked in the clothes or kept snacks in the pockets.
- Consider all personal items as food (such as your deodorant and your toothpaste). Pack them away securely and keep them away from your sleeping area.
- Be careful if you’re traveling in a windy area, as a bear may not smell you before you arrive so they’re more likely to be startled by your presence.
- If you come across an area with berry patches or dead animals leave immediately, as you could be hiking through a bear’s food source.