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

Ask A Bear: Break A Stick to Scare Away Bears?

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

Q: I read that breaking a stick scares away bears. Is that true?—Jim K., via email

A: You humans and your reading. Sometimes I think your higher intelligence gets you into more trouble than its worth—give me a sunny day, a field full of berries, and a river loaded with salmon, and I'm happy.

Nevertheless, what you've read isn't totally false; as usual, it depends on the type of bear. Black bears are notoriously skittish, and a snapping stick might be enough to startle me and make me high-tail it away from you (some Forest Service regulations recommend breaking sticks along with yelling and banging pots and pans to scare away a black).

If I'm a grizzly, a stick is enough to certainly make me snap to attention, but it might not be enough to let me know you're human. Bear researcher Tom Smith got brown bears in Katmai to respond instantly to a pencil breaking, but they didn't exactly make me take off.

In both cases, stick-breaking isn't nearly as efficient as the human voice. It's more likely to blend in as a natural sound of the forest, get drowned out by rivers or wind, or possibly elicit my curiosity because it's not explicitly a human noise. You're better off singing, yodeling, or talking loudly to get me moving on.

Besides, it seems like be a pain to constantly find and break all those sticks when the alternative is simply using your voice. But what do I know—I don't even have opposable thumbs.

—BEAR

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

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Dec 18, 2010

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sierracanon
Dec 17, 2010

That makes me think of the old Hayley Mills movie "The Parent Trap," where the kids have their dad's girlfriend hitting sticks together to "scare away the mountain lions." Hehe.

Dick W
Oct 09, 2010

I have walked into range of black bears going about there business in various parts of the country. Most recently, in the Catskill Mts. of NY, a yearling black bear was coming up slope in my direction, where I was standing on the trail taking a breather. Before he got to close to my position, I simply 'clicked' my hiking poles together a couple of times to draw his attention to what he was walking into. That action was enough, in this case, to bring him, or her, to a hault, where he stood up to take a look around, and once it spotted me at 70 feet or so, he quickly exited stage left. In my experience as a forester and backpacker, I have never run into a bear that was more than willing to change direction provided that it was given an ample warning about what it was potentially running into.

Ric U.
Sep 23, 2010

Question:

Reportedly, the black bear in my area, northeastern PA (Pike County), are said to live in a rocky area cohabited with Rattlesnakes or such. Would there be any truth in a bear being able to unaffected by a bite of a poisonous snake?

Ric U.

Ric U.
Sep 23, 2010

Question:

Reportedly, the black bear in my area, northeastern PA (Pike County), are said to live in a rocky area cohabited with Rattlesnakes or such. Would there be any truth in a bear being able to unaffected by a bite of a poisonous snake?

Ric U.

Ric U.
Sep 23, 2010

Mr. Bear,

Living in a rural area of northeastern PA, I have seen Black bear frequently. They have crossed Interstate 84 in front of me in a construction zone. I have walk through the woods to where I live and just stand there unphased when I revved the motor and honked from the old truck. (I turned away and moved away quickly.) So sticks frighten these cousins? You would know.

Ric U.

Scout Leader
Sep 23, 2010

Your writing style is really quite refined, which suggests that you have spent a lot of time in schools in order to learn the written language so well. Did you go to Cal or UCLA or Montana? They have Bears there, and clothing with pictures of Bears and other items and slogans, like ''Go Bears''. I am just curious....

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