New Mexico Bears

12:33 p.m. on August 26, 2008 (EDT)
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I was wondering if anybody knew how brazen the bears are in the Sangre de Christo mountains are, near Philmont Scout Ranch, Cimmaron, NM. I have not found anyone who says how often they (bears) try to steal smellables. And if you could give some advice on how to avoid them, that would be great.

Thanks!

3:31 p.m. on August 26, 2008 (EDT)
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People have been pretty careful about keeping their food and other smellables away from the bears in Philmont itself and in other parts of the Sangres (it is Sangre de Cristo, by the way, the Spanish spelling). The bears have not become accustomed to humans as a food source. So even a basic, properly set bear bag is effective. Basic guidelines are the usual - bear bag 100-200 ft from your sleeping area and cook area, cook area 100-200 ft from the sleeping area, do not wear or keep clothing which was used when cooking or eating in the sleeping area (in the bear bag instead). Bear bag can still be a rope over a limb, at least 20 ft from the ground and 15-20 ft out from the trunk, tied off well to the side. Counter-balance is better, and of course, a bear canister is better still. Ursacks still work, though Philmont wants them hauled up with the bear bags. Philmont itself has cables between trees at the proper height, rather than depending on people being careful to not damage the trees.

The bears are still fairly shy of humans, so no need to take extraordinary precautions to avoid them. You should count yourself lucky if you see one and can photograph it.

4:28 p.m. on August 26, 2008 (EDT)
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Bill,
I know it's going to be a real simple answer, but how do you set up a counter balance?

5:45 p.m. on August 26, 2008 (EDT)
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Look at the following URL - http://www.princeton.edu/~oa/training/bearbag.shtml Princeton Outdoor Action Guide's series of websites are among my favorites for explaining things. Unfortunately in this case, their illustration is pretty tiny. There are plenty of other illustrations in books and on the web, but this was a good opportunity to point out this excellent set of web pages.

The principle is easy - two bags, each with half your smellables, connected with a rope across a branch, counterbalancing each other.

Basically, the counterbalance method is to take two bags, each filled with approximately half your baggable smellables. Tie one end of your rope to one of the bags. Toss the other end over the branch and haul the first bag up to the branch. Tie the second bag far enough up the rope so that the two bags will be 10+ feet above the ground. Finally push the second bag up with a stick, hiking pole, whatever, until the two bags are at the same height above the ground (at least 10 feet up). The 2 bags, being of close to the same weight with balance each other (with some help from the friction of the rope on the branch.

The trick is retrieving the bags. You obviously don't want to leave an end of the rope hanging down to where the bear can reach it. So, you could coil the rope and fasten it to the second bag. But how do you retrieve the coil? One method is to use your push-up pole or stick (a multisection hiking pole fully extended works, or an avy probe pole) to pull the coil off the bag, dropping the rope into your hand. Then pull the second bag down, undo it, and let the first bag bring itself down under its own weight.

10:41 p.m. on September 26, 2008 (EDT)
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It's been my experience that if you're outside of a town, or Philmont, bears aren't any kind of a problem with normal precautions.

September 18, 2014
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