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The DAILY DIRT - The nitty and the gritty of outdoor news

Ask A Bear: Will You Eat Me In Rocky Mountain NP?

Our resident bruin expert answers all your questions in our weekly feature, 'Ask A Bear.'

Q: How can I convince my wife you won't eat her if we camp in Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park and observe the rules? — David T. Connolly, via email

A: Awww...your wife shouldn't be afraid of widdle ol' me (though I can weigh as much as 400 pounds). Bear encounters that result in injuries or death in the park are extremely rare.

Which isn't to say they don't happen: Back in 1971, a black bear killed a man camping on the west side of the park. Things remained relatively quiet until 2003, when a problem bear mauled two men camping in separate tents. They both survived with a few deep cuts and scratches.

But even bear sightings in the park aren't overly common, and if you follow proper protocol, it's very unlikely you'll run afoul of me. That includes storing all food and scented items in bear canisters while in backcountry sites below treeline and in bear-proof lockers while in designated campsites. Make loud noises while hiking to alert me to your presence. If you see me on the trail, stop and don't run. Stay calm and pick up any small children with you. Make lots of noise, like shouting and clapping your hands. If I approach, haze me by throwing rocks or banging poles or sticks. Back away slowly and stand tall. If on the rare occasion I attack you, fight back.

The overwhelming odds are that you won't need those last bits of scary tips—you're far more likely to fall off a cliff or drown in a river than get any trouble from me. But it's better to know before you go, and nothing will empower your wife to handle a night in bear country more than knowing exactly what to do if I come around.

—BEAR

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

READERS COMMENTS

Ed
Oct 04, 2012

Wear bells and spray with bear repellent. Watch for bear sign to determine which type of bears are in the area. Black bear poop contains berry seeds and nuts. Griz contain little bells and smells like bear repellent.

Ed
Oct 04, 2012

Wear bells and spray with bear repellent. Watch for bear sign to determine which type of bears are in the area. Black bear poop contains berry seeds and nuts. Griz contain little bells and smells like bear repellent.

Lostfalls
Oct 04, 2012

To all of you who 'backpack' in the back country and 'hike or camp' in "bear country" and think they are experts on dogs & bears: I LIVE in bear country. A blissful 70 miles away from the nearest city. Dogs don't attract bears anymore than anything else does. You know what attracts bears?? Bird Feeders, garbage, FOOD in general, and inattentive people. Don't worry about taking your dog hiking. I would be more concerned about a wolf wanting to investigate your dog than bear any day. Going on 35 years in bear country with dogs at the house and out on the trail with me and I can't say that I have ever once witnessed a dog bringing a bear in.

Chris Holmberg
Oct 04, 2012

My husband and I have been backpacking and hiking in RMNP for over twenty years. We have only run into a bear twice. Both times the bear saw us and then turned around and went the other way.

Tell your wife to relax and have fun. Chances are, you aren't going to see one even if you are trying!

Chris Holmberg
Oct 04, 2012

My husband and I have been backpacking and hiking in RMNP for over twenty years. We have only run into a bear twice. Both times the bear saw us and then turned around and went the other way.

Tell your wife to relax and have fun. Chances are, you aren't going to see one even if you are trying!

Ikan Mas
Aug 14, 2010

One more thing: Dogs = Bear Bait around habituated bears. Leave Fido home. He's not legal in Yosemite backcountry at any rate.

Ikan Mas
Aug 14, 2010

Either learn to follow the correct procedures or just stay home. If your wife is scared, she probably won't enjoy the vacation and you should have booked her a Canival cruise. I see way too many people in the wilderness that have no clue about their actions on wildlife. Frankly, they make things bad for the rest of us.

Here is a bear prevention story from week before last. My brother and I were backpacking northern Yosemite and were staying the night on lower Matterhorn Creek. Lots of good fishing for stunted brook trout, but as I was bringing the last of my limit of brooks back to my camp, I found a big pile of very fresh (1 day) bear poo within site of our tents. No fish fry tonight. I could visualize my frying pan sending off clouds of odor and attracting our furry friends. I took all of the fish I had caught and disposed of them well downstream of our camp. I was careful to minimize fish odor on my possessions. We spent some extra effort buttoning up camp that night and warned our neighbors visiting from NZ. That night, my brother heard the bear go by. Behavior of a pack team that went by early in the morning verified his presence. Yes, he was there, but we didn't have a problem. We weren't afraid, just careful. That was good enough.

Experienced
Aug 12, 2010

Dogs might be a good idea when hiking, but don't forget that some adolescent grizzly males are very curious & that dog could lead the bear right to you. Chances are you'll be fine, but it's still something to keep in mind.

Bill Edwards - not smart advice. Bears are killed because of human interaction whether that means some moron is speeding through Yellowstone NP or because someone didn't report careless behaviour to a ranger. Grizzlies are NOT the only dangerous bear - do your research. Bears can become dangerous to humans when they start to associate humans with food. It's not gonna happen all the time and yes, waving your arms will often work, but not in all situations and not for all bears. Just because your behaviour is responsible it doesn't mean you won't become a target.
You shouldn't give such bad advice when you don't know every situtation.
Leave the advice to people who have done a lot of research.
Perhaps Backpacker needs to clear this up once & for all so no more people write only from their experience or from one point of view & not from facts.

Will Mackinnon
Aug 09, 2010

I know that there has been a lot of comment and advice from experienced hikers, but really there is no absolutely definitive answer to the fact of going in to the wilderness.
The whole point of such an endeavour is to experience the "Wild". And, above all, that means some risk. (and sometimes a high risk!)

There is no sure safeguard against wild creatures, especially bears, but please remember that every negative experience that you have, and that you later complain about, endangers the very existence of these creatures. They don't have any alternatives, this is their environment that you are entering, it isn't some amusement park or holiday resort; it is the real world! There are no guarantees.
If you are not prepared to accept the risks without complaint then do not go!

It angers me beyond belief that so many people complain about how their "vacation" was disturbed by an encounter with a bear or wolf or moose or cougar or skunk or raccoon or squirrel (or as I heard from one irate hiker, an eagle!)

I have found that a dog (well trained) is a good early warning system, and a reassuring presence, in a wilderness camp.
The national parks always tell you to keep your dog on a leash because a free roaming dog disturbs wildlife. In reality all the experienced hikers and campers that I have ever talked to have never said that they keep their dog on a leash, they let them run free and, as I can testify on many occasions, they detect the presence of a bear long before you ever will.
And that can make all the difference between you remembering your trip as a life-enhancing experience or as a life-changing trauma.
Wild means just that; you might get injured or killed and you, or your surviving relatives, can't sue or blame anyone if you do.

Disclaimer: This message is not from a bear nor is it endorsed by any bears.

true religion sale
Aug 08, 2010

Just got back from the park, there is a problem bear in the Mill Creek Basin area that decided to pay me a visit at 2:45am. I woke up to him rubbing against my tent and then he just walked off. Either way I didn't get much sleep after that point, if any.<strong><a href="http://www.brandsjeansonline.com/">true religion mens jeans</a></strong>

wheelwalker
Aug 07, 2010

Fight back; the bear is only about 4 times bigger and a lot stronger than you; one swipe from a griz will take your head off. If you're going into bear country; don't. Only expert hikers and campers know how to deal with bears, lions, and wolves. This comes from years of experience. Stay on the KOA, or go with someone who is experienced. Still there is no guarantee that you won't be maimed or killed. Enough of that; the highway is much more dangerous; think; skinny blonde in an Escalade---texting.

Bill Edwards
Aug 07, 2010

You guys are killing me! Narc to a ranger, what the eff??????? You should be glad those other idiots are there, they make better bear bait than you!
IF YOU SEE A BEAR AND YOU WANT IT TO GO AWAY, WAVE YOUR ARMS AND SCREAM AND YELL AT IT, AND IT WILL RUN AWAY! Works everytime. Not sure what all the fuss is about, we see at least 10 bears here every summer, usually they are sniffing around for our garbage, which we keep locked in the garage. And no, we don't have any grizzlies, those are the dangerous bears.
Bill
Conifer, Colorado

Dianne
Aug 07, 2010

Make sure your camping neighbors are following the rules too. We were told there were bears running around our D-loop. Before we went to bed, we yelled to each other, loud enough for the entire campsite to hear, "Did you lock the food up?"
If you see someone breaking the rules, confront them, or nark to a ranger. Being a snitch is better than seeing a bear get into trouble. The rangers can't be everywhere at once, and appreciate the extra eyes.
(Same go's for people feeding chipmonks..."Did you see that sign at the park entrance? Wonder how much the fine is?!")

Kyle
Aug 06, 2010

Brett, good to hear you guys didn't have any up close issues with that bear. Honestly after that night I slept as hard as a rock without a worry. Did you guys make a successful summit of Long's? I know the weather wasn't great on your planned Wednesday summit.

JJ
Aug 06, 2010

Here's a solution to the goo in your dreadlocks - get rid of them! Research has shown that even "washed" dreadlocks retain untold amounts of unhealthy bacteria, etc. which also often leads to skin outbreaks. Easier to hike through the undergrowth without getting tangled as well!

mtnmaniac
Aug 06, 2010

problem bears or problem humans?

Scott
Aug 05, 2010

Just so you know, there are not any Griz in Rocky Mountain National Park. You have to go West and North toward Yellowstone before they are a risk. So if you are attacked my a bear in Rocky, fight back. This is also the right thing to do if you are attacked by a lion (I personal trust them way less than a black bear). Your bigger risk are moose and elk. Just don't approach them or have a dog that barks at them and you should be safe...most of the time. I did once get between a moose and her calf....they were like 500-800 feet apart and moose was 500 feet from me, and as soon at it saw me, it charged. Turns out the calf was behind me in some brush and I did not know it was there. To say the least, I moved fast and once I was no longer beteen the cow and calf, all was well. Personally, I would camp any day any time in Rocky with black bears...just be smart. I would not for a million dollars sleep in a tent in Yellowstone or Glasier...if I did I am sure I would not sleep for a minute. When I was yonger and knew less I did it for a month, but I am old enough now to know the risks and unpredictability of griz. Just in case you think I am chicken, I have been at a camp on the coast of Alaska and had a Griz sniff my foot....like 6 inches away. I was not scared. I was with 12 people. I have never heard of a bear attaching anyone in a large group. And this bear was full of fish. If I was with only 1 or 2 people, I would not have been within 500 feet of it.

S
Aug 05, 2010

We had a bear come right up to our tent and look in at us a few weeks ago at a backpacking site. It smelled our packs, knocked them over, got curious about us, then ran for the bear canister off into the woods. Never did we feel like we would be food as we are not typical food for a mostly veggie eating black bear. We also were carful not to escalate the situation so as to freak out the bear. We grabbed our hiking shoes and slowly, calmly, backed away from the scene. No damage done, except for a few scratches to the canister which had all of our smelly things in it. We were just fine, though we wish we'd have brought the mace just in case. The reason we'd gone without it for that particular site was because the backcountry office had told us there were no bears in that area-always just come completely prepared for bears! Luckily, we did take all of the other precautions and were fine. We're definately going back again!

chel
Aug 05, 2010

It's not as simple as saying fight back if it's a black bear & play dead if it's a grizzly. Read up on this. Black bears generally aren't going to be startled by you or be protective of their food or babies and then attack you. However, a black bear can STALK you as prey. If you see the same black bear a few times then this could mean he wants to eat you. Grizzly bears are protective of kills & their young and could also attack you if you surprise them. That's when you play dead! If a grizzley comes into your camp at night - it's looking for food & you fight back because you don't want to end up being drug 25 feet away from your tent in the middle of the night & found the next day.
Read 'Bear Attacks: Their Causes & Avoidances' by Stephen Herrero. It's very educational & it will teach you to to recognise the difference between black & grizzly bears (some black bears are brown color & visa versa) and how to differentiate between types of attacks & why it's not always best to climb a tree.
I read a lot of books before living in Yellowstone NP for a season & I felt confident that even if I encountered an aggressive or hungry bear I could use my head & survive.

MH
Aug 05, 2010

@Jerry: You are supposed to fight back if it's a black bear and play dead if it's a grizzly.

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