bear canister

6:32 p.m. on March 4, 2016 (EST)
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I have used only one bear canister. I rented it so it didn't come with instruction.  I hung it from a tree branch.  I felt like an idiot doing so but wasn't sure that's the right way. Next week I'll be in the Shining Rock Wilderness.  Where they are now required because of some green horn tenderfoot.  Decided to store food in their tent and then tell the rangers about the bear that stole their food. I have allways bear baged my food. And never had a problemthank god. But do you hang them? Or set it a good ways from your tent?  I miss the good old days of a bag. So any advice will help. 

7:30 p.m. on March 4, 2016 (EST)
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I believe it was JR who pointed it out to me do not hang it as that is the the one way it will fail by dropping it. That was good advice from him.

8:25 a.m. on March 5, 2016 (EST)
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That's right, don't hang it. Dropping it can crack it open. In fact, there is a bear in Yosemite that has learned to roll bear canisters off a cliff near top of the Snow Creek Trail to get a snack.

Set the bear canister at least 100' from camp, downwind. Don't wedge it under or between rocks or logs, that could give a bear leverage on it. Don't leave carry straps on it.

The idea of a bear canister is that the bear can't get into it and can't pick it up to carry it away. So by design it should actually attract a bear that has never run into a bear canister before. But, it will spend the whole night playing bear soccer with it, become frustrated, and give up. Bears are smart, and after they run into a few bear canisters they will learn that no matter how yummy they smell it's a total waste of energy to fool with one, and they reach the point where they just ignore canisters altogether. Which is the end goal.

So it's also important to place the canister nowhere near a cliff, long slope, or water, because a bear that has not yet learned its lesson about canisters could end up rolling it away in its attempts to open it. Also a good idea to mark the outside of your canister with reflective tape and/or safety orange paint, because in the morning it may not be where you left it. If it has been moved, expect it to be covered in bear slobber, and take pride in the fact that you've helped "train" a bear to look to its natural environment for food.

Bear canisters have been very effective. Backcountry campsite raids in Yosemite are way down from what they were a decade or more ago. I've spent many nights out there and have actually been partly disappointed that in the morning my canister is right where I left it (because the bears have learned their lesson), but mostly glad that we've found an effective way to reverse the cycle of bears habituating to humans that leads to human-bear interactions that lead to bears being put down.

Bear canisters are also very effective at warding off more likely opportunists like rodents, birds, raccoons, etc.

9:00 a.m. on March 5, 2016 (EST)
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JRinGeorgia said:

..Set the bear canister at least 100' from camp, downwind. Don't wedge it under or between rocks or logs, that could give a bear leverage on it. Don't leave carry straps on it...

If one is trying to position the canister so the food is not up wind of your camp, keep in mind mountain areas commonly have what are referred to as valley and summit winds. This refers to the winds generated by the effects of evening chilling and morning warming.  Summit/valley winds can occur daily, and typically blow up hill or downhill, depending on if the air is warming or cooling.  If you camp where a summit/valley wind is likely to cycle be mindful that a down wind canister placement my well turn into an up wind placement when the cycle reverses, placing your camp in direct line with a scent tracking bear and your canister! If camped in mountainous areas consider placing the canister lateral of your camp along the same elevation contour, to minimize the probability of your food and camp being aligned with the wind directions wind as the summit valley winds cycle.  And of course, if there is a prevailing breeze that runs lateral to the mountainside, that then can be considered, in addition to the summit valley wind cycle.

Ed 

9:15 a.m. on March 5, 2016 (EST)
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More about wind considerations:

To some degree all the fuss about canister placement relative to camp and winds is moot.  I am a VERY light sleeper.  I get awakened by bears surveying my camp almost every other night.  It seems they don't so much follow scent trails, regarding human food opportunities; rather they have a "route" they follow, like the garbage truck, checking where campers are known to frequent.   Keep in mind you may be fastidious and keep you camp scent free, but those previously using your spot may have left all sorts of telltale scents of food.  Thus bears are likely to find your camp regardless of canister placement, because they seem to utilize  memorized routes in addition to scent cues.  That all considered, it is still advisable to park you canister some distance from camp, to minimize the potential of a bear loitering in camp due to your canister's close proximity.

Ed

9:59 a.m. on March 5, 2016 (EST)
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Thank  you all for the abvice. I know about mountain winds having spent most of my life in WNC.  We only have black bears here some times they very in color. Brown to black and in between. We have a big black bear living in my woods next to my house. "Trash bears". City bears tend to get bigger than the country bears because of trash. A few years ago moma bear and cubs ate most of our chickens. I lost my head and threw a plastic lawn chair at her and got her in the nose. Yelling use to run them off. But they are smart creates.  And now they just sit and look at you like your an idiot.  I know what I did that night was dumb. And she could have killed me or put me in the hospital.

10:33 a.m. on March 5, 2016 (EST)
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Humans seem to be easily confused by bears.

9:52 p.m. on March 5, 2016 (EST)
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I think it's the other way around ppine.

11:18 p.m. on March 5, 2016 (EST)
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kinda off the topic but don't go around your campsite and hit trees with bear spray to keep them away. As it wears off it actually will attract bears. I've never used a bear canister,I've always had good luck hanging my food but I'm a light sleeper and I just never had a issue with black bears.

1:00 a.m. on March 6, 2016 (EST)
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tracker clayton 2 said:

I've never used a bear canister,I've always had good luck hanging my food

 Many places hanging is illegal and a canister is required.

8:53 a.m. on March 6, 2016 (EST)
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That's the case here tracker. I have to have one or take the ticket. I like a bear bag myself. Wish they would allow the bullet proof bear bag. They weight is less than that of a bear canister.  But guess bears need toys to play with too.

2:34 p.m. on March 6, 2016 (EST)
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I've honestly never checked into if you had to use a bear bag or container.  I'll look and see about fires and having a firearm and fishing regulations ect but never crossed my mind about what I put my food in. I'll use fishing line tied to a rock and the other end tied to paracord and use my slingshot to get it nice and high and tie off to a nice brachy tree and set a bell upto it. So many laws and regulations makes difficult to follow them all and keep track.

5:46 p.m. on March 6, 2016 (EST)
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I agree with you on the laws and rules. It seems the more people do dumb stuff. The more rules and laws they make. In my case it was someone storeing food in a tent and then running to the rangers to complain about their food getting stolen by the bears. The area they were in had warning signs about the bears. Anyway what's up with the bell tracker?

8:47 p.m. on March 6, 2016 (EST)
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oogway said:

I agree with you on the laws and rules. It seems the more people do dumb stuff. The more rules and laws they make. In my case it was someone storeing food in a tent and then running to the rangers to complain about their food getting stolen by the bears. The area they were in had warning signs about the bears. Anyway what's up with the bell tracker?

 The bell is so the bear can ring when he want dinner served or his glass refilled. LOL

10:11 p.m. on March 6, 2016 (EST)
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I set the bell up so that if something messes with it I can hear it when I sleep and go check on my food. The funny thing is I've only ever had a raccoon and his pal steal my bell. The funny part was for atleast a solid hour you could hear them playing with the bell. I keep some M80s or firecrackers and a road flare for bear, I do have a gun but I'm not shooting a.bear over some food. I seem to have good luck with bears and Mt.lions, snakes now that's a different story....lol. On a fun side note if you have a clear swimming hole to swim in bring some clear or whatever color glow Sticks you want and tie them to rocks and drop them in at night just take the line and.sticks with you when you leave makes those hot summer nights a bit more fun.Also if the site is still up check out swimmingholes.org. I just checked it is still up found a couple good camping spots there. My spot is not listed but it's not far from Big Medows and a bit off the beaten path.

6:35 a.m. on March 7, 2016 (EST)
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Yea, the bear rings the bell" Garson, oh garson, could you pour us some more wine? Ha ha that's funny John. Thank you for the ideas tracker. Be thankful that it was just a bell they stole. Our scout troop goes to Hunting island. I've never been able to go. But last year the raccoons tryed to steal a cooler. It's a mid size one. They pushed it to the edge of camp. If our charter rep hadn't been a light sleeper they would have gotten away with it.

10:27 a.m. on March 7, 2016 (EST)
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if you wanted to know. I got my slingshot at flipping out slingshots they put out e hesome nice products. mine was a  limited edition but only $35. The ranger is the next one I'll get.
20160121_082815.jpg

4:22 p.m. on March 7, 2016 (EST)
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some nice products....apparently I couldn't spell earlier.....lol

10:43 a.m. on March 8, 2016 (EST)
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there is another trick to alert you and scare a critter away that works well. dig a small hole and and make it the half the depth or less than an air horn, if the air horn you get won't allow a dead fall type trap to set it off shave it down till a relatively flat rock will fall on it setting the air horn off, For the trigger you can tie one end to whatever tree you choose and leave extra cord and tie it to your dead fall stick and leave a bit of slack but not too much. There are alot of ways to pull this one off so use any idea you think of just test it also it can work as a perimeter alarm.

4:42 p.m. on March 8, 2016 (EST)
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Thanks tracker, but that one might get me killed by other campers. But I do like the idea.

7:03 p.m. on March 9, 2016 (EST)
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it's really a trick for back country or where aggressive bears are a air horn would not make others happy, but they may also appreciate it. Just something from the bag of tricks.

11:53 p.m. on March 9, 2016 (EST)
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And yet the canister makes all the tricks unnecessary...

12:13 a.m. on March 10, 2016 (EST)
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whomeworry said:

More about wind considerations:

To some degree all the fuss about canister placement relative to camp and winds is moot.  I am a VERY light sleeper.  I get awakened by bears surveying my camp almost every other night.  It seems they don't so much follow scent trails, regarding human food opportunities; rather they have a "route" they follow, like the garbage truck, checking where campers are known to frequent.   Keep in mind you may be fastidious and keep you camp scent free, but those previously using your spot may have left all sorts of telltale scents of food.  Thus bears are likely to find your camp regardless of canister placement, because they seem to utilize  memorized routes in addition to scent cues.  That all considered, it is still advisable to park you canister some distance from camp, to minimize the potential of a bear loitering in camp due to your canister's close proximity.

Ed

 Ed, very good point about previous campers leaving scent from improper food handling/storage, etc. In the Great Smoky Mt. NP, camping is allowed only on specific and numbered sites and must be reserved in advance with a permit. With a very large black bear population inside the park, the bears know and frequent "the spots".

Last summer, a 16 year old boy was camping with his dad in the western NC part of GSMNP, and was pulled right out of his hammock and severely injured by a black bear (but made a full recovery).

The father and son reportedly did indeed follow proper food storage (using bear cables to hang their food I believe) but were attacked nonetheless.  It was probably just like you said, the bears were "just making the rounds".  

Like you, I have heard bears right outside my tent also, and have mastered the art of "sleeping with one eye (and ear) open".

Here is a link to the news story of the attack last summer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltLQWDzoVHA

  

1:03 a.m. on March 10, 2016 (EST)
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i really just don't think most people aren't prepared for a bear attack and it may be caused buy so many reasons,food,you suprise them, get to close to a cub lots can.go wrong with cubs involved, it may be injured or sick, the list could keep going.When your in the outdoors your not the highest on the food chain just like the ocean. You can come up with alot of good ideas to atleast wake you up if a bear comes. A axe.handle.and.road flare can go.along way and if that fails a 10mm,44mag,500mag, and many other rounds with the right ammo will do the job.

6:49 a.m. on March 10, 2016 (EST)
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I remember  the attack.  The rangers hunted down and killed the wrong bear. It's made for a sad news  story. DNA proved it was the wronge bear they shot. What kinda of Decrepion they have. " Be on the look out. Large black bear,with sharp claws and teeth. Last seen roaming  around the woods?" I know something had to be done. But they had to know that there was more than one bear in the area. I don't think they ever got the bear that pulled that kid from his hammock. 

9:34 a.m. on March 10, 2016 (EST)
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Balzaccom I've hiked and camped many years hanging my food I'm not going to carry a bear bucket. Just not gonna happen. That's like telling me I can't camp with a.firearm it's gonna.happen legal or illegally ..

11:08 p.m. on March 23, 2016 (EDT)
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My last comment involving my firearm statement should not have been said and I apologize. I do have a permit and can carry in most of the US but I'm trying to get all 50 and US territories. Again it was not appropriate and I'm sorry.

10:07 a.m. on March 24, 2016 (EDT)
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Tracker:   the national parks in California require the use of bear canisters, and their use has enormously reduced the need to remove bears from areas that backpackers frequent.  They're a very good solution to human problems--and that most humans aren't careful enough about their food, and consequently accustom the bears to getting food from backpackers. 

 

Same is true with food storage in your car.  Now that the part service strictly enforces the "no food left in your car" regulations, the incidents of bears breaking into cars and gone down by about 90%.  That's good news for the cars, but it's even better news for the bears.

 

 

11:41 a.m. on March 24, 2016 (EDT)
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Balzaccom, slight extension to your comment to Tracker about canister requirements  -

It is not just National Parks in California that require canisters, specifically ones that have been tested and are on the approved list. A number of the National Forests in California have the same requirement, as well as a similar fine. Several other western National Parks and National Forests have the same requirement, Yellowstone and Denali for 2. And at least one area in New England requires canisters.

There are 2 testing locations which I am familiar with, that use problem bears that have been captured and placed in zoos. One of these is in Sacramento, CA.

Bear bagging works in some areas, Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico for one. At Philmont, though, you should be aware that the use of bear bags is not simply any random person can toss a rope over a branch and haul the pack up - you must place the bag in a specified location at a specified height (the locations have steel cables and "blockages" that do a good job of preventing the bears from accessing the bags.

The Ursak story is a good one. The company has been trying to make improvements to their kevlar bags, with the goal being to have a very light system that can be stored in a small part of your pack when not in use. So far, certain species of bear have learned to mash the bags to break the food packaging inside and in some cases get them open, the minimum being your food gets thoroughly mixed and inedible inside the bag.

Bears are really smart. Over the years in Yosemite, the bears (black bears in that area) learned how to get bear bags down (both counter-balance and tied-off, steel cable and rope, one style of retrieval including the "kamikaze bears"), how to break into cars, and the "mugger bears".

In the Lake Tahoe area (California-Nevada border), people have problems every year with bears breaking into cabins and heading straight for the refrigerator and pantry, despite many years and much effort to educate the cabin owners.

Personally, over the years, I have had no negative encounters with bears, both black and griz. My brother-in-law, on the other hand, twice lost all his food, in one case 2 days from the nearest trailhead, the other 3 days out, the really bad part being that he was backpacking with his very young sons in each case. In both cases, he was following NPS requirements at the time, using steel cables strung by the Park Service for the purpose of making "safe" bear bagging.

As others here on Trailspace have noted many times, you have to know and understand the behavior and habits of bears. Macho and bravado won't do it. Firearms just kill the bears and do not teach them to avoid human interactions.

One of my encounters, a big brown in Alaska:


DSC_0120.jpg

2:02 p.m. on March 24, 2016 (EDT)
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Hi Bill

I've lost some of my food (and had my pack seriously damaged) by a bear near Merced Lake some 45 years ago--and that pack was in the middle of a group of five hikers and a dog, all gathered around a campfire and making a whole lot of noise.  The bear paid no attention.  Happily, we were able to sew up the pack and continue the hike with reduced rations. 

But that was before the bear canister regulations. 

I haven't had a negative interaction with a bear for many years now, not since a big momma bear ripped the sunroof off our Volvo in Lassen National Park.  The next year they installed steel bear boxes and the problems pretty much disappeared.

At the same time, we use a bear can all the time now.  It is so much easier and more convenient than hanging your food and toiletries--somehow, we always got the damn stuff in the air, and then remembered that we hadn't brushed our teeth--or that we had a snack bar in our shirt pocket. 

If you love nature and the wilderness, then the last thing you want to do is be responsible for a bear's death, whether that be by accustoming the bear to seek food from hikers, or shooting it in "self-defense" after you've attracted it with your food. 

 

 

5:04 p.m. on March 24, 2016 (EDT)
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Tracker about 4 months ago I asked about the different bear canisters and the people posting on this post educated me on them..I been a hanger but it's not an option where I am going in June on the east coast...Also the ATC is suggesting that AT thru hikers use a bear canister from Georgia to Virginia,,,,Bear activity has increased because of campsite sanitation and shelter sanitation.....There worth looking into...

5:42 p.m. on March 24, 2016 (EDT)
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Bill S said:

..Macho and bravado won't do it. Firearms just kill the bears and do not teach them to avoid human interactions...

When pot banging and bright lights fail to send them on their way I have an M80 firecracker (actually more like a small bomb) waiting for them.  I saw this hack used once in the early 1980s at the Twin Lakes car camp ground near Mammoth.  Very effective, the bears made haste for the high country.  I have yet to resort to such measures myself, as bears usually are out of my camp before one can raise a fuss, and others were not in imminent danger.

Ed 

6:05 p.m. on March 24, 2016 (EDT)
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I'm glad all I have is black bears. And the city trash bears. How get much fatter than the wild bears. City bears will not run around here for nothing. My best freind who lives like two houses down from the city limit sign. Shot up in the air last Saturday. The beer that was in his trash. Jumped back a little and just gave us an eat sh##. Look and dug again. The next shoot the bear just grabbed a bag of trash and walked off. They are way too use to humans in Asheville.

6:55 p.m. on March 24, 2016 (EDT)
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While we don't have the "big bear" issues you westerners have, the southeast has some annoying black bear issues in heavily used areas. I spend a good bit of time in what a biologist friend with the Wildlife Resources Commission calls one of the most heavily bear populated areas in our state. I have had no issues due to using strong LNT practices and never staying at a previously used campsite. I have camped several hundred feet away from regular sites and watched bears go through a camp like it was my local grocery store. Late last year off the AT I watched a bear pass by my campsite and pay me no attention while heading up the trail toward more populated areas.

I traditionally have hung bear bags, but in areas where I must camp in used sites or areas with cannister requirements, I have complied. On a last minute trip last year I actually left the cannister at home and delayed my start by a day to pick up a new one at the local REI. While I never liked them, I am getting used to the necessity where required. They make good stools, and it is good to know that if we all comply with the rules there is potential for the species to "unlearn" behaviors over the generations. The flaw in that plan will be those who choose to break the rules that well meaning wildlife management experts are putting in place where they think it necessary.

10:59 p.m. on March 24, 2016 (EDT)
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Ive never had a bear issue and would hate to shoot 1, I also carry m80's to scare them away and road flares. I see a fair amount of bear but never had one raid my campsite or show aggression. Now me and coyotes have gone at it a time or 2.

8:07 a.m. on March 25, 2016 (EDT)
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10:26 a.m. on March 25, 2016 (EDT)
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That's funny John I guess I need to hike with people more LOL

2:24 p.m. on March 25, 2016 (EDT)
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denis daly said:

That's funny John I guess I need to hike with people more LOL

 I thought so to nephew in law sent it to me

10:14 p.m. on March 25, 2016 (EDT)
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Correction I have M60's not M80s.

11:48 p.m. on April 2, 2016 (EDT)
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I've used road flares with great results especially if you can get the smoke to get them right in the face. I don't know if it's the smell or what but they hate it. Now these were city trash bears at my buddies house we had tried everything including bean bag rounds from a shotgun. I never want to kill a animal I'm not going to eat with the exception of hogs and coyotes. I've always cooked things like trout away from my campsite and using my slingshot I can get my food really high up. Now raccoons and skunks seem to like to visit me but bear keep a distance I'm fine with. These bear cans are something completely new to me and I honestly don't think I've ever seen one. Are they water tight? could you submerge one? 

7:47 a.m. on April 3, 2016 (EDT)
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No they are not water tight. There's no need to submerge it -- you aren't trying to keep the bear from smelling the canister's contents, nor are you trying to keep the bear away from the canister, you're allowing the bear access to it, and the smells from it, so that it learns that a bear canister is just a big tease, no way to open it. You're using the bear's own intelligence against it. After it runs into a few bear canisters, or its mother teaches it about canisters, the bears then will forever leave a canister alone because it is a total waste of energy for the bear to mess with it.

Road flares can start a fire, burn you or the animal, possibly enrage the animal and provoke an encounter that will have you on the losing end. It is a dangerous and irresponsible approach to something that has a much more effective and safe approach available. A bear canister placed away from camp might attract a bear but not directly into your camp. You just leave the bear alone and let it learn its lesson at a safe distance. If you're concerned about a close encounter then bear spray is much safer and more effective.

11:44 p.m. on April 3, 2016 (EDT)
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I was just more curious about it being water tight ect. I've never had a issue with road flares I said that they were city bears so we had a hose ect if his yard would have been set on fire.In the city I don't carry bear spray and I've stated many times I don't see black bear as a threat. I just said it was at my buddies house so I'm not running around the woods with a flare. I was armed and sure I could have shot the bear and so could my buddy but I don't want to kill a bear. The flare worked and DNR eventually set bear barrels and removed several bears. I do what works if you can't handle a road flare without getting burned or you let the animal get that close it gets burned then that's another issue. Bear spray is worthless just as normal pepper spray is....meaning if I got to use it I probably need my firearm not a spay that may or may not work. Again I have no fear and never had a issue camping or hiking with black bear. I've seen them they've seen me and no issues. My way may not be everyones way everyone has there own way if you don't like my way it's okay. 

9:39 a.m. on April 4, 2016 (EDT)
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Tracker, you state bear spray is worthless, but there seems to be a lot of evidence to the contrary -  http://www.bearsmart.com/play/bear-deterrents/bear-pepper-spray/ 

Bear spray, according to this source, results in less injury to the human in the encounter than the use of firearms.  I must say that use of a road flare (speaking from the perspective of an old fire fighter) makes me very nervous, although it depends on conditions.  A lot of the time, a road flare will get you in the headlines....

11:46 a.m. on April 4, 2016 (EDT)
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As far as what you do in your back yard I'll leave that up to the local authorities and your neighbors to condone or condemn tc, but this being a backpacking forum we try to stick to discussing approved practices for back country pursuits. There are in fact right ways and wrong ways of doing things in that context.

This being a beginners forum it is especially important that bad practices are not left unchallenged. We don't want someone to come in here and read your posts about using flares and guns to deal with bears and think that is something they should emulate rather than storing their food appropriately.

You may actually want to do some research on prevailing practices rather than relying on local custom. There is a lot of wisdom out there if you can filter out the bad information from people who just want to be heard rather than actually having something to say. I know my trips continue to be more enjoyable the more I learn and I hope I never stop doing either of those things.

4:40 p.m. on April 4, 2016 (EDT)
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Again you may not like my way of doing things which is fine. I'm not the almighty know it all but people are allowed to make their own choices if you don't like flares don't use them. I'm sorry if I offend sensitive people but beginners should be given multiple choices not just your way. I think my posts need to be read again as the flare and gun was only talked about with a city bear in a non back country situation. This will be my last post on this subject as I see it going no where else positive for me. 

5:06 p.m. on April 4, 2016 (EDT)
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hikermor.....I will address you before I drop this topic. When I said it's worthless like regular pepper spray I ment if if I got to spray an attacker human or animal I should have pulled my firearm and taken no chance. An attack can happen so quick and from any direction that I'm not gonna rely on a spray to stop a angry bear. Now again I have just black bear to deal with that will mock charge and huff but that's about it I don't worry about them one bit. By now I've stated enough black bears don't scare or bother me one bit I'm very used to them.

As for the road flare no they aren't for everyone you have to know when and where and how to use one so you have to be competent, if you are they are safe if you have no experience with them then no not something you need to mess with. If the ground is dry it will fry....if the ground is wet your set. pay attention to environment if it's dry and there is no moisture in the soil don't light that thing up...common sense can go along way.

12:12 p.m. on April 7, 2016 (EDT)
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@tracker: Let me preface this by saying that I'm a gun owner myself, so I completely understand where you're coming from. I'm new here and after reading this thread with interest I just wanted to offer a couple of thoughts on firearms vs. bear spray. I took my wife and our three young kids camping/hiking in Yellowstone last summer; I had been six times prior, and I've spent plenty of time in bear country, but this was my first time there with kids, and my wife hadn't been in that environment. So, I really wrestled with whether to carry, and if so, what to carry. I ended up deciding not to, for a variety of reasons, one of which is that the evidence (such as it is) suggests that spray is actually a more effective defense against bears than are firearms. I'm not trying to provoke a should/shouldn't carry debate at all; I just think it's worth pointing out. My first inclination was to carry .45 ACP, but it had been a long time since I'd been out there; the last time I was in brown bear country bear spray didn’t even exist. After reading up on it and re-reading accounts of various  human-bear encounters, it became pretty clear to me that bear spray was more practical and more effective. Most encounters happen so fast that it's useless to carry unless it's in a open chest rig. I don't know about you, but I'm not going to hike in a crowded national park like that (although in the backcountry with no kids I might). Bear spray is lightweight and you can attach to the front of your backpack harness for quick access. Also, defending yourself against a bear with a gun means that once you commit, you'll have to keep firing until the bear is dead (or retreats) and I'm not convinced anything other than .44 mag would be much good, which presents a number of obvious issues. Anyway, it's a tough call, but I think in such a scenario pulling a firearm is not necessarily taking no chance.

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts....  

11:08 a.m. on April 8, 2016 (EDT)
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This issue of bear spray has been dealt with on other threads. However, I think it important to dive in again. Bear spray is a proven effective deterrent. The most effective deterrent is knowledge of bear behavior. Regarding canisters, I have used them where they are required, and I have also hung my food. However, in the North of Canada, canisters are not practical given the long trips I frequently take. As well, hanging is not an option as the trees are small(land of little sticks). Most of the issues discussed above, occur because the bears are habituated. On my trips, I carry bear spray and possibly an air horn, if I expect to meet bears. As far as firearms, as nice marmot says above, they can make a potentially dangerous situation even more dangerous. And while a .44 Magnum round can kill a bear, so have .22 short rounds, but I would trust neither as an effective defense against a bear. As far as flares, in Canada, Bear Bangers are sometimes used. These are a projectile with an explosive charge. Their use is being discouraged in some areas because they have started wild fires. While many will prepare themselves for a bear encounter they may never have, I have had many bear encounters(except for polar bears) over my sixty plus years. I have never had to use bear spray, nor kill a bear, nor wish I had a shotgun. Again, knowledge of bear behavior is one's best defense. Leave the bear myths at home.

As this was a beginners forum on bear canisters, some will ask what we did before they were invented, or people thought up the idea of hanging food. I never worried about bears, but always made certain I did sleep with my food, and would often just put my pack(with pots on top) off the trail in the bushes. Again, knowledge of bear behavior, not fear and buying into myths. On my long canoe trips, it is the same. Put the food barrels(which are not bear proof) in an alder thicket or something similar, and I have never had a problem, even after waking up and finding bear tracks leading through the camp.

9:32 a.m. on April 9, 2016 (EDT)
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Lately I have run into several people that claim that bear cannisters are required on "National Forests in California" or on the "Inyo NF."  This is not accurate.  They are required in some National Parks and some wilderness areas on specific NFs. I have never used one.

It is worth mentioning that the Craighead Brothers in the early 1970s invented the use of telemetry to track bears in Yellowstone, and figured out that the trash dumps created serious problems for bear management in many NPs. Hiking in a place like Yosemite was totally different in say 1974 than it is today. We used to see bears all the time.  The Park Service is much better at reducing human/bear interactions than they used to be. 

I like to hang my food.

Bear spray is a great tool to have especially for close encounters.  Make sure it is in a holster on your belt or on your pack strap. When you need it, you will need it right now. 

I carry firearms for peace of mind, but plan to never use one.  Most backpackers would benefit from learning more about bears and less discussion about firearms.

 

11:03 a.m. on April 9, 2016 (EDT)
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Bears can are required for all backpacking in Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia, as well as certain other areas in the Sierra.  

And Ppine is right.  Controlling human behavior, both in the front country and In the back country, has made a huge difference over the past twenty years.  The new system and regulations are working.  Please don't "choose your own path" on this stuff.  It not only endangers the bears, it can cost you a LOT of money.

11:35 a.m. on April 9, 2016 (EDT)
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ppine, the Inyo National Forest website says the following about food storage:

Food Storage and Refuse

  • Food and refuse must be secured in containers designed to prevent access by bears in the following areas: Bishop Pass Area, Duck Pass /Purple Lake Area, Fish Creek Area, Kearsarge Pass Area, Little Lakes Valley Area, Mammoth Lakes /Rush Creek Area, and Mount Whitney. Maps of the specific areas are available on the Inyo National Forest web. Links are on each trail page.
  • Areas that do not require use of food storage containers still have requirements for you to store your food and refuse in a manner that does not allow bear or other wildlife access to food or trash.
  • Do not feed wildlife. It is not acceptable to burn or bury food or trash.

Note that the second bullet requires food and refuse be stored "in a manner that does not allow bear or other wildlife access". This could mean storing in the car, maybe in a bear bag (but bears in the area have been known to retrieve bear bags), or in provided steel boxes located on-site, among other things. 

For practical purposes, though, for backpackers, canisters are the most practical method.

11:35 a.m. on April 9, 2016 (EDT)
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There used to a program at the U of WA on "wilderness management."  The whole concept used to really bother me.  As it turns out, it is a legitimate concept, but I have never liked to spend time in places that are carefully managed.  I reserve the right to camp in a place that feels right at the time. I reserve the right to come out on Wed or Thurs or so.

9:41 p.m. on April 9, 2016 (EDT)
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The majority of the Inyo does not require bear canisters and that is my point. Hanging food works just fine.

10:19 p.m. on April 9, 2016 (EDT)
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Ppine:  hanging food works just fine in some areas, and with some people, and with some bears.  When you get enough people and enough bears in the same place, it doesn't work-- not enough trees+lazy people= problems.  Bears are so smart--and people can be so stupid!

Fair enough that you choose to visit areas that don't require cans.  We do too sometimes.  But i don't think you mean to make it sound as if NOT using a can is a legitimate option in those areas where that is illegal.  

7:36 a.m. on April 10, 2016 (EDT)
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Bill S said:

Note that the second bullet requires food and refuse be stored "in a manner that does not allow bear or other wildlife access". This could mean storing in the car

 Storing food and smellables in a car is not a way to prevent access by bears...


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9:51 a.m. on April 10, 2016 (EDT)
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Thanks to JR.  The Lake Tahoe bears are notorious for their car opening skills.  They love convertibles, but have figured out how to remove windshields just the like the photo above.  They sleep under people's decks and in culverts.  Many of them know the garbage collection schedule and grow to huge sizes as in 500 pounds.  They are habituated to people which makes them dangerous.

There are people stupid enough to feed them, and to follow the NV Dept of Wildlife traps around and trip them when no one is looking.  The whole thing is a lesson in what not to do.  Some people get what they deserve. Then they take the problem bears and airlift them to the mountains behind my house.

11:14 a.m. on April 10, 2016 (EDT)
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Yes, having spent a lot of time climbing in Yosemite, I am well aware of the bears knowing how to break into cars, get bear bags down from the trees (and steel cables). However, these skills seem to be pretty much limited to the Valley and some Tuolumne bears (students and graduates of "Yosemite Bear University", the really smart ones who are taught by their mothers from birth - that's only partially a joke). In most areas far from Yosemite and a few other places around North America, a simple bear bag or placing the food out of sight in the car works. However, considering the expansion of Bear Internet, the simple methods may not work.

In the Lake Tahoe area, the local bears have figured out how to break into cabins and houses, usually at the kitchen door, where the bears can see the refrigerator through the kitchen window. This is NOT a joke. And as ppine notes, they also learn the garbage collection schedule and will raid the garbage cans, including the recommended garbage shelter structures.

1:05 p.m. on April 10, 2016 (EDT)
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All good comments here. As I said earlier, the best defense is learning bear behavior. They are not stupid and learn well. ppine is correct that discussion of firearms does not contribute to bear awareness when the discussion is about what to do when bears attack. From my perspective, a more effective discussion should center on avoiding a bear attack. Bears do not attack without reason. A couple of years ago, a group in Alaska was attacked by a brown bear after they had crossed a stream. The issue was that they startled the bear, they were downwind and the bear could not hear them because of the stream. I make noise when I hike. I also look for signs, bits of fur, trees scratched, smells, prints and scat. Keeping bear spray handy is a good idea. However, knowledge of why a bear might attack can prevent many negative situations.

3:38 p.m. on April 10, 2016 (EDT)
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Bill, I knew I was safe in assuming you knew the distinction, but this being a Beginners forum that should be focusing on educating newbies and keeping advice straightforward and simple, I wouldn't want anyone to read your comment about keeping food in a car and then parking a car with food or trash in an area where bears *do* know how to peel open a car. Yes, there are areas where bears have not figured out how to get into a car...yet.

.

They are not stupid and learn well.

And this ultimately is the best pathway for deterring bears from human interaction (which is to say to deter them from trying to get our food) -- secure the food in a way that lets the bears get at the container and then learn on their own that it's wasted effort. Effectively use their intelligence against them so that they learn to avoid human food, rather than us trying to come up with more elaborate ways to try to keep the food out of their reach that are fraught with operator errors and that bears have been clever enough to defeat.

10:55 a.m. on April 11, 2016 (EDT)
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Those with bear experience, might find this interesting. In Canada, there are bear garbage containers, basically steel containers with sloped lids and covered handles, securely bolted to a concrete base. I have not seen the same thing in the US. I have seen a number of these with claw scrapes up in the enclosure that covers the handle. The bears obviously know that's how to open it, but can't. Until they develop an opposable thumb, we're safe.

11:47 a.m. on April 11, 2016 (EDT)
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Yosemite and some other areas do have steel "food lockers" in the campsites. There are signs telling everyone to get your food out of the car and into the lockers. These lockers are rectangular "boxes" and have latches that bears cannot get their paws into (yet??). The garbage containers are more like the Canadian ones with sloped lids. Unfortunately, every so often someone will leave a food locker or trash container open, and a young cub will manage to get itself into and not be able to get out until the rangers bring extraction gear. Hopefully, the cub learns its lesson.


One other thing about the Yosemite bears - they have learned that certain make and model cars are easier to break into than others, particularly the ones with windows that are not in a full frame. They hook the top of the window with their claws going over the window glass and under the rubber seal, then give a good pull. The installation of the steel food lockers has helped reduce the incidence of breakins of those cars as well.

I have witnessed several instances in the roadside campgrounds on the east side of Tioga pass of people fishing in the river, then cleaning the fish on the table at their campsite (a convenient 20 ft or so from the stream), then having bears cross the stream and take the fish off the table. In one case, I told the fisherman that he would likely lose his fish, leaving it on the table. He assured me that this would not happen with him standing there. I  told him to turn around, which he did in time to see two yearling cubs trot up to the table, grab the fish, and head back across the stream. Some people never learn.

6:46 p.m. on April 11, 2016 (EDT)
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Bear boxes work great and I am a big fan of them.  The same with dumpsters and trash cans that are bear proof.  They work.  When lots of people camp in the same place each summer in campgrounds, bears will figure out how to open coolers and vehicles.

Backpacker camps in remote areas move around a lot and are in low density.  How exciting can freeze dried food be compared a cooler full of fresh food?

I am working really hard to lighten my pack and hate the idea of adding 2.5 pounds back into it. I have never lost any food by hanging it in over 55 years.

9:59 p.m. on April 11, 2016 (EDT)
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I am working really hard to lighten my pack and hate the idea of adding 2.5 pounds back into it. I have never lost any food by hanging it in over 55 years.

I hear you...just when I got my pack down to what I felt was a good weight for my knees and back I started heading into a couple of areas with cannister requirements. After a long run with no issues hanging (although only half or so of your history), it stunk to lug the bloody great can around. Two things made me feel better...being part of a collective effort to try to retrain bears, and that it made a fair to middling stool. Not necessarily in that order...

11:26 a.m. on April 12, 2016 (EDT)
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I have lost food, but only once, and it was in Yosemite in 1988. Just west to Tioga Pass, very high up. Two spring cubs and a mom. Did everything we could to get rid of them. Mom and one cub left but the other cub was persistent. Mom did a feint charge a couple of times, so we figured the game was over. Came back from an early morning climb to find the bag and contents consumed(except for the draw string and the aluminum packet the freeze dried chili was in.) Nothing else was touched.

1:06 p.m. on April 12, 2016 (EDT)
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I have had dinner with bears countless times and lost the meal to them several times, but so far they have never managed to get into the main food supply.

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