dealing with marauding bears

1:06 a.m. on October 2, 2007 (EDT)
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This hasn't (knock on wood) happened to me yet, but on my recent backpacking trips I've been giving it a lot of thought. So I thought I'd see what you all think. :)

Say you were backpacking in bear country. You follow proper "bear protocol" by storing your food in a bear canister. You also locate your sleeping quarters 100-200 feet from where you have your food, pack, etc.

Say you awoke during the night to the sound of a bear trying to get into the bear canister, and maybe tossing around your other gear nearby.

Would you:

a) try to ignore it and go back to sleep, since you don't want to go near the bear and direct its attention to you, and you know it can't get into your food anyway

b) get up, and approach the food area, and try to scare the bear away, hoping this might help save the rest of your gear from being torn apart

c) something else?

Which would you do?

7:37 a.m. on October 2, 2007 (EDT)
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If you could scare the bear away you'd be doing everyone a favor - especially the bear. Left to his/her own devices, if the bear raids your camp and finds an easy source of food (no stalking, no hunting, no fighting) then they'll be back - who knows - they might even tell their fellow bears about it.

Now, that's easy to say while sitting in my office nice and warm and safe - at 3AM - unsure of what you'd be facing (an old boar, a young bear, a sow with a cub?) AND who may be waiting 10-20 yards away from the bear you can see the decision might go the other way, but in the past I've gone out and tried to scare Yogi (who turned out to be a young black bear in the one case where he stuck around long enough for me to see him/her) away. The other times all I found was evidence - never saw the bear.

10:49 a.m. on October 2, 2007 (EDT)
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I just returned from a nine day trip into the South Chilcotin wilderness area here in B.C. We camped in bivies, under a frame of dead wood covered by tarps and had only one set of Grizzly tracks close to our camp at the waterhole. No biggie as we had three heavy rifles between us and I am very used to dealing with problem bears.

At night, the piercing beam of an LED flashlite plus the sqwawk of an airhorn generally routs bears, we ALWAYS hang ALL supplies and even our bags/bivies if away from base camp during the day. If, the bear does not run away and is threatening, he gets shot, no exceptions and, yet, in 43+ years of active wilderness backpack camping plus bush work, I have never had to kill an un-wounded or aggressive bear...lesson is clean camp, lots of human/mechanical noise such as banging pots and little bear trouble usually results.

8:13 p.m. on October 2, 2007 (EDT)
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I keep all my food in a bear canister - so unless they learn to unscrew the lid on the Bearcache :), then they won't get any food.

I guess I'm torn between not wanting a bear to tear apart my pack hoping to find food (it won't), and not wanting to risk my own welfare by approaching the bear.

7:42 a.m. on October 3, 2007 (EDT)
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Hang your pack, cook pots and the like from a bear line - keep the food in the bear proof container - have the best of both worlds. Then if Yogi stops by it's just for a friendly intro and visit - he won't be looking for a free meal!

9:35 a.m. on October 3, 2007 (EDT)
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Bears are NOT ...friendly..., they ARE dangerous, powerful predators and should ALWAYS be treated as such, NOT played with as though they were just large puppies. I adore bears, always have and enjoy watching them more than any other wilderness activity, BUT, with several colleagues mauled over my work life in BC-AB forestry, I am very cautious, even when armed.

If, Yogi stops by, you want to frighten him away a.s.a.p., NOT dick around and possibly get hurt or worse. I just encountered three different Black Bears on my last trip and have dealt with about 60 Grizzlies in my life, I NEVER take chances with bears.

Bears are opportunistic, omnivorous feeders who rapidly learn to associate humans with delectable food, so, in any campsite, a bear may well be looking for a free meal....and even a 200 lb. yearling can shred a human as happens here all too often.

11:37 a.m. on October 3, 2007 (EDT)
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Kutenay makes a very valid point:

"If, Yogi stops by, you want to frighten him away a.s.a.p., NOT dick around and possibly get hurt or worse. I just encountered three different Black Bears on my last trip and have dealt with about 60 Grizzlies in my life, I NEVER take chances with bears."

I wasn't implying that Yogi should be invited in for a drink - bears should always be treated with respect - even a "small" black bear can do a heck of a lot of damage when he(she) has a mind to, and Grizzlies are even more dangerous.
What I was trying to get across was that they should be respected, not feared. Respect (to me) means giving them their distance, letting then know you're around and having the decency to do all you can to keep both you and the bear safe. Fear of bears often leads to their being shot to "protect" park patrons and the vast hoards of uninformed people who want to be "safe" in the woods without taking any precautions or learning anything -
I love it when I see a bear in the woods - it just makes the experience that much more "wild" ...

4:08 p.m. on October 3, 2007 (EDT)
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Is there a best method for scaring them away? Air horn, yelling, banging on a pot?

8:01 p.m. on October 3, 2007 (EDT)
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So it sounds like you'all are suggesting that even though my tent would be some distance from the food & pack etc, it's worth getting up, getting dressed, going to the food area, and trying to scare the bear away. Hmmm, OK ...

I guess that means I should bring something to my tent to use to scare them. So, I second rambler's question - What's most effective?

9:22 p.m. on October 3, 2007 (EDT)
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Hmmmmm.... I don't know the answer to this one either Rambler... I have always heard that you should bang pots together and make yourself look big. If you were to bang on a pot, that would mean you had the pot with you in your tent while you sleep? Sounds like a Darwin award in the making. LOL!

7:54 a.m. on October 4, 2007 (EDT)
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I don't believe that there is a "best" way to scare a bear. I've read reports of Grizzlies being unphased by clanging pots, yelling (the most common two ways to scare 'em away) and even shots over their heads and into rocks right in front of them. I think that the best you can do is to secure your food so they can't get to it, and camp well away from food smells.

If approached the last thing you want to do is look like a meal - and a meal - to any hunter - runs. Make noise (probably irritates them and makes them want to go somewhere quiet more than anything, although I'll admit to not being a bear behavioralist), yell, bang pots and be darned sure to have a can of bear spray on your person (note - this does not mean burried in your pack somewhere - when a bear decides to introduce himself is no time to start digging for your defenses!) AND know how to use it.

I've camped around Grizzly bears, seen them at a reasonable distance and found "sign" that they'd been through camp while I was off exploring, but I've never had a problem with them. Others have far different experiences.

Being an East Coast guy the majority of my bear experience is with black bears - they tend to take off when they see you, unless they're a sow with a cub OR they've managed to secure your food bag that had been hanging in a tree and are in the process of having a feast (hey- fasting is supposed to be good for the soul, right?). Exceptions are where they've become used to humans and have decided that they're a good source of easy food - I've seen some darned bold bears in the appalachian mountains near car-camping camp grounds.

And yes - keeping something that smells like food in your tent to deter bears while camping in bear country does sound like an invitation to being mentioned in the next years Darwin Award.

9:06 a.m. on October 4, 2007 (EDT)
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Grizzlies and Blackas will shy away from fire, sudden loud metallic noises and Freon horns of the type used on boats; these are ALL effective means of warning/scaring bears as yelling is largely NOT.

A Freon horn weighs very little and has proven effective on Grizzlies, they are a useful signaling device in emergencies, as well. I suggest carrying one and confining it's use to bears and emergencies, a few hoots BEFORE entering a confined space such as a streamside trail can warn bears of your presence, a good idea, IMO.

Bearspray has been somewhat effective, however, there are too many drawbacks to it for me to trust or use it, being blinded by wind-driven backspray is one and I experienced this here in Vancouver, so, I won't touch the stuff. You cannot fly in charter aircraft with it and this is a major means of access to remote BC-Yukon-NWT wilderness, so, again, it is a poor choice for serious wilderness use.

In some situations here, an appropriate gun is the answer, however, this entails skill in it's use and sufficient knowledge of bear behaviour to know when such use is necessary. I do not suggest that most hikers carry such a piece here as the skills are not there and it is illegal for non-Canadians to do so, anyway, as it should be.

Relax about bears, simple commonsense and caution plus a cleancamp will deal with this situation.

6:31 p.m. on October 4, 2007 (EDT)
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Wow, I wish my uncle was still alive, so I could tell him about the use of the horn. He invented them. He had a small plant in New Jersey that made fire alarms. They were set off by heat. In his shop he was tinkering around with other horns, truck horns, etc. He had a great place for a kid to visit! Anyway, he somehow came up with the idea for the hand held horn. Check its label. His company was called Falcon Fire Alarm. He was also a great outdoorsman and ended up trying to raise beef cattle in South Carolina. Don't think he hiked much, but he organized pack trips in the west at one point and has a daughter, my cousin, who still lives in Montana. Those horns now come in sizes not much bigger than a cigarette lighter. Guess I'll put one in my pack when I head for the JMT next summer. I spent an entire summer in Glacier Park on a trail crew and never saw a bear. A book on Grizzly attacks concludes that no one method of scaring bears, including spray, works all the time. My favorite story in the book was about a guy who made a bear proof suit, and went looking for bears to attack him. He found the bears, but they would not pay any attention to him. Then he fell over and found his suit so heavy he had a hard time to stand up again. He gave up on the project. A Ranger in Glacier saw a grizzly, so he rang his bear bell. The bear looked up and started to approach. When the Ranger stopped ringing the bell, the bear returned to eating berries. Bear bells are really meant to alert the bear that someone is approaching so they will not be startled and will move away. A study done on bears in CA that have become reliant on human food have become overweight and spend more time sleeping than bears that survive entirely in the wild. Is there a lesson there?

4:14 p.m. on October 5, 2007 (EDT)
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i wish my uncle was alive as well because he had a bear sniffing around his mountain house and used his gun to scare off the bear..i wouldnt recommend it because he was lucky and the bear actually ran away instead of charging..

11:33 p.m. on October 6, 2007 (EDT)
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Well,
It happened to me in August and we lost half of our food. We had half in a Garcia and half in a bearvault. The ranger (ADK High Peaks) told us that the Garcia would be the better so we put the good stuff in the Garcia and our extra in the Bearvault. He got into the Garcia. We yelled at him while I kept my camera in video mode on him, but he stayed around the camp about 10 minutes before he headed away towards the canisters after he grabbed one pack for research (mine)and then spent the rest of evening trying to get the cannisters open.

6:22 p.m. on October 7, 2007 (EDT)
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Wow! scary! Is your video on you-tube? I'd love to see it. How did s/he get it open?

6:28 p.m. on October 7, 2007 (EDT)
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10:33 a.m. on October 11, 2007 (EDT)
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Quote:

Hmmmmm.... I don't know the answer to this one either
Rambler... I have always heard that you should bang pots
together and make yourself look big. If you were to bang on
a pot, that would mean you had the pot with you in your tent
while you sleep? Sounds like a Darwin award in the making.
LOL!

Haha, yah, This is the thought process I went through myself on a recent trip. What would I use to make noise? The pots would be over where the bear presumably would be nosing around. I'm sure not going to bring one into my tent :).

I think my own answer to the original question I asked above would be that I would stay in my tent and let the bear poke around and go on his way - unless, of course, he was poking around near my tent...

But it seems like most here are suggesting that it's worth getting up, going to the food area, and trying to scare the bear.

10:39 a.m. on October 11, 2007 (EDT)
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Quote:

It happened to me in August and we lost half of our food.
We had half in a Garcia and half in a bearvault. The
ranger (ADK High Peaks) told us that the Garcia would be
the better so we put the good stuff in the Garcia and
our extra in the Bearvault. He got into the Garcia. ...

Seriously? how did the bear get into the Garcia canister? Bears carry screwdrivers or coins now to open twist latches? :)

6:49 a.m. on October 12, 2007 (EDT)
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Going toward a bear, in the dark, trying to ...scare... it, is a REAL good way to initiate an attack and maybe become REAL DEAD!

There are very small battery-operated alarms that operate by motion, these are used by professional bushpersons in places like Katmai, Alaska and they are reported to work very well, as do the air horns.

DO NOT try to scare bears, DO NOT approach a feeding bear AND treat ALL bears with respect, caution and even slight fear; you will be more likely to enjoy encountering one and not become a victim of an attack that YOU caused.

1:03 p.m. on October 13, 2007 (EDT)
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Hmmm, lots of interesting comments and conflicting advice :).

I think right now I feel as uncertain about what I'll do when I encounter this situation as I did when I originally posed this question :?)

4:05 p.m. on October 13, 2007 (EDT)
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I suggest that the advice you follow is that which is based on extensive personal experience, not on reading what some pundit who lived in NYC and wrote "At Home in the, etc."

Caution and use of warning devices, NOT tinkly little harness bells, will do more for your safety than any BS that those who have never seen ONE Grizzly can provide you.

After over 50 years since my first Grizzly encounter, working solo in Grizzly country for months at a time over a nearly 30 year span and teaching bear safety to hundreds of forestry workers as part of my duties, I can give advice that works and have.

11:19 a.m. on October 16, 2007 (EDT)
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Thanks for the advice :).

7:54 p.m. on October 16, 2007 (EDT)
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Consider the following set of photos when you are dealing with bears. This happens to be near one of my favorite climbing areas, Donner Pass, just a couple miles from the Sierra Club's Clair Tappaan Lodge. http://uutah.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=8835

Note that there is some question as to exactly how the bear got to this ledge under an overhang, though there is no doubt that he had to be rescued from the ledge.

8:22 a.m. on October 17, 2007 (EDT)
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Some resuce! Any idea of how they convinced the bear to leave the bridge and jump into the net?

You know, that could have been a series of setup shots - with a dude in a bear suit up on the bridge (in one shot the bear is sitting in a very human position and seems awfully calm in the net - which wouldn't be familiar territory for a bear!) - with the final shot of the bear walking away from the net being the only "true Yogi" shot -

Never the less, if that was a real bear, imagine the strength needed to a) get there and b) stay there!

10:31 a.m. on October 17, 2007 (EDT)
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The "dude in a bear suit" must be a very skilled climber indeed, to hang from the bridge like he did, while wearing a bear suit--not to mention extremely foolhardy.

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Hamlet, Act 1, scene 5.

11:12 a.m. on October 17, 2007 (EDT)
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Rexim wrote: "The "dude in a bear suit" must be a very skilled climber indeed, to hang from the bridge like he did, while wearing a bear suit--not to mention extremely foolhardy."

i'm not trying to say that's what happened, I'm just offering a possible secondary explanation. You also need to keep in mind, in this digital age, that with photo-shop many things are "possible".

In fact, a bit of research proved that it was a real bear and that it was shot with tranq's after the net was in place (hence the relaxed appearance of the bear in the pictures) - that was one lucky bear!

http://www.snopes.com/photos/animals/bearledge.asp

11:29 a.m. on October 17, 2007 (EDT)
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Photoshop crossed my mind as well.

You're right--one lucky bear.

11:59 p.m. on October 17, 2007 (EDT)
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Don't forget... Bears know "food" by smell only. To a bear, lipgloss, toothpaste, candles, car air freshners, deodorant, soaps, chewing gum (even just the wrappers in your pocket), and a host of other "people things" smell just like food to a bear.

I know most real outdoor people know this, but I mention it as a reminder to the weekend warriors and newbies to hang this stuff up too if you "need" to take it into the woods.

A black bear's sense of smell is 700 times more sensitive than a blood hound. A blood hound can smell 1000 times better than a human! Bears can smell food 4 miles away. One trailed a sow in heat for 14 miles!

I teach wilderness survival at Carbon County Environmental Education Center near Jim Thorpe, PA. We've dealt with numerous bear/human contact incidents in our area in the last few years. In the past 30 days, there have been 2 biting incidents at Hickory Run State Park. ALL of the incidents have been provoked by food stored improperly. One of the children bitten was sleeping in the "food tent"!!!!!!!!

Education is the key to success. Never stop teaching, NEVER.

2:02 p.m. on December 19, 2007 (EST)
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We had that exact thing happen in August at Avalanche Leanto in the Adirondaks. We yelled at him when he got close to the Leanto but when he went behind the Leanto where the bear cans were we let him be and listened to him all night trying to break them up (He got lucky with the Garcia, not so lucky with the bearvault).

10:37 p.m. on December 19, 2007 (EST)
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For those of you who have posted stories of failures for the Garcia - what was the actual mechanism of entry? Did the bears get the lid open, or did they physically break the canister?

August 23, 2014
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