SUBSCRIBE | NEWSLETTERS | MAPS | VIDEOS | BLOGS | MARKETPLACE | CONTESTS
TRY BACKPACKER FREE!
SUBSCRIBE NOW and get
2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on Backpacker.com


Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Ask A Bear: Scare a Marauding Bear

Got a burning ursine question? Ask our resident bruin expert in our new weekly feature, 'Ask A Bear.'

by: Bear


 Q: While sleeping this past summer, what I thought was a bear entered my camp. After the initial fear passed, I wondered: Should just sit quiet in my tent, or attempt to scare the bear away? —Steve, via email

p.s. I chose to leave the tent and scare the bear away, which turned out to be a tree stump.


A: Wow—that was a close one, Steve. You ever seen a tree stump victim? You'll wish I mauled you instead.

As for me (get used to this answer): It depends. If you know you're in black-bear-only country, you're best off grabbing your flashlight/headlamp so you can safely check out where I am, and then yelling or banging pots and pans to scare me off. That usually does the trick, and you'll be doing me a favor by associating a negative experience with both you and your tasty, tasty food. Don't ever approach me, though—if the noise isn't scaring me away, I'm likely too habituated. I'll probably eat your food, shuffle off, and rangers will deal with me later (gulp).

However, if you're in potential grizzly territory, you should probably stay in your tent and leave me the the hell alone. If I'm a grizzly, I won't scare easily when I get exploratory, and you shouldn't risk the chance of provoking a defensive or offensive attack. Most likely, I'll ransack your food, or simply cruise the scene and leave. Either way, report my presence to a ranger as soon as possible (gulp again—why am I telling you this?).

Of course, your first and smartest line of defense is to keep me out of camp in the first place. Check with rangers about bear activity before you head out, and avoid camps where I've picked up a taste for food and I'm a known visitor. Once you get to camp, employ proper procedures to keep me from messing with your Pop Tarts—park-approved food storage lockers or bear poles are usually best, followed by bear canisters, with bear bags behind those (I'm a black bear, I might know how to get to bear bags—they're practically teaching classes in Yosemite).

—BEAR

Got a question for the bear? Send it to askabear@backpacker.com.


Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip:
Email (req):
Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Jim
Sep 20, 2012

Cooking utensils in your sleeping site...good one.
Last thing I want is to walk through the wilderness listening to horns, don't do that.
Just wear the bells and string them up around the camp on a trip wire at night so you aren't surprised awake. If it is still to scary, vacation in the city...take your air horn.

Jerry W Doyle
Apr 12, 2012

If your food is stored away properly (bear canister cans, bear poles, etc.) I see no reason to exit your tent in black bear country since once the bear finds nothing of noteworthy interest relative to food, he or she will move on away from the camp site.

I agree fully with the commenter who wrote earlier on the use of freon air horns to scare black and brown bears. I use these air horns, but I use them "sparingly," such as a quick blast when approaching a creek with loud rushing waters or if I am in thickets of tall alders and feel a sense of presence that a bear is shadowing me. These air horns are extremely loud, with the sound traveling up to one mile away. So, one can see quickly why the horns should only be used sparingly, and why one never hears a ranger recommend the use of an air horn as a bear avoidance device. It would be terrible if hikers in the back country needlessly "blasts" these devices. They are, though, more effective then bear spray.

Anonymous
Apr 12, 2012

If a black or grizzly bear were to come at your camp at nite could you use bear pepper spray as well? Or is it better to bang a pot that should be 100 feet away from your tent?

Ikan Mas
Sep 12, 2011

Storing your pots and pans in your tent? What sort of idiot are you? You can't possibly make them clean enough in the wilderness.

Get a clue folks, get a bear canister and put all of your smellable in them. There is no other way. Until we all do this, there will continue to be bear problems.

Boomerang
Sep 10, 2011

green crayons

depier
Sep 10, 2011

When I worked in Prince William Sound, AK in the 80's, USFS personnel carried Freon Air horn as early warning devices on the salmon streams. A blast every 15 minutes would just about guarantee you wouldnt encounter a brown bear (grizzly). If you didn't use them, it was a certainty you would see bears, usually at very close range.
In a NP, you can count on waking everyone in camp, and probably summon a ranger (maybe a good thing.)
In a national forest the rangers will be around in a few days (to check things out.).

Russ
Sep 09, 2011

For years I carried my car keys on a metal ring which was then draped over the handle of a Sierra Club cup. Constant metal scraping and when necessary a really annoying clanging when I shook the entire arrangement like a castanet. Kept it within reach inside or outside of the tent every night,I never had a problem with any critter staying around too long after a good strong shake.

Andrew
Sep 09, 2011

Regarding pots and pans in the tent; if you wash them sufficiently, you can take them into your tent.

Ro
Sep 09, 2011

They sell bear poppers in Montana,,,not to be confused with bear pops (or moms). Wonder if they work?

sparky
Aug 04, 2011

Would hanging a wind chime at night help discourage any visitors?

Dan
Jul 30, 2011

Or what about some kind of air horn?

kevin
Jul 30, 2011

what are bear poles and can you rig an alarm system with lines attached to bear bells??

Argosinu
Jul 28, 2011

Of course what I thought was a stump was correctly identified by my 4-year old son as a bear. That stump did amble off. He got $20 for spotting a mother & cub together in Glacier.
Distinguishing between black & griz at night could be a problem.

Greg
Jul 28, 2011

Yea, but shouldn't my pots and pans be stored well away from my tent?

curt
Jul 28, 2011

fire crackers start fires! and are way illegal

curt
Jul 28, 2011

fire crackers start fires! and are way illegal

Old Pest Howard
Jul 28, 2011

Firecrackers and firearms may chase away the bear but also awaken and seriously disturb other campers for miles around. Some of ''my Scouts'' hang all 'smellables' in odor-proof bags, high and away from all curious, foraging critters. Bear canisters work but are a nuisance to carry except they do make suitable camp-stools in the interim. Cook and sleep in separate areas, too.

Jim
Jul 28, 2011

Made me laugh - Most of the bears I see at a distance turn into stumps.

Greg
Jul 28, 2011

Yea, but shouldn't my pots and pans be stored well away from my tent?

Curious
Jul 28, 2011

I've wondered if a small firecracker would work?

ADD A COMMENT

Your rating:
Your Name:

Comment:

My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

The Political Arena
Hobby Lobby wins case
Posted On: Jul 10, 2014
Submitted By: HighGravity
Trailhead Register
Life's Simple Pleasures (let's hear them)...
Posted On: Jul 10, 2014
Submitted By: buzzards

Go
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site MyRockyMountainPark.com.

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
City:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
State:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions