Hiking takes you into places wild animals call home. You’re the guest; they’re the residents. It’s up to you to learn how to enjoy spending time on their home turf without doing any damage. Statistically speaking, your chances of even seeing a bear are slim; the odds you’ll be involved in an unpleasant encounter are slimmer still.
But if you do encounter a bear, not knowing how to respond and behave could turn a dream day in the woods into a nightmare, or even cost you your life.
So arm yourself with the information you need to stay safe, have fun and make bear-smart decisions now – then you won’t constantly be worrying about what might lurk around every corner, and the woods will be safer for both people and bears.
Ten Tips for Hiking in Bear Country
- Do your bear homework. Find out if black bears and/or grizzly bears are commonly seen where you’re going, and whether or not there have been any recent incidents.
- Choose food wisely and pack food and snacks in zipper-style bags.
- Carry bear spray, keep it quickly accessible and know how to use it.
- Hike in groups; you’ll make more noise and most animals will avoid you. Keep kids between adults, don’t let them roam ahead or lag behind, and practice what to do if you see a bear.
- Stop, look and listen frequently. Make noise places where bears might not be able to hear or smell you coming. Don’t hike at dawn, dusk or at night. Leave electronics at home.
- Avoid areas that are prone to high levels of bear activity, like dense berry patches, fruit or nut-bearing trees.
- Bears and dogs don’t mix. Leave dogs at home, or keep them on a short leash at all times.
- Learn the tell-tale signs of recent bear activity, like fresh scat, tracks and overturned logs or rocks.
- Leave baby bears, even if they seem to be abandoned, alone. Mom is likely hovering close by.
- Respect bears, view and photograph from a safe distance and learn how to respond if you do encounter a bear.
For more information, please read chapters 16 and 17, and the “Crossing Paths with Bears” section in Living with Bears Handbook.