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Backpacker Magazine – August 2008

Danger Signs: Bear Country

Hiking where bears are present (that's more than 40 states) always requires precautions, like hanging food. But these three signals demand extra vigilance.

by: Jason Stevenson

(Photo by Chuck Graham)
(Photo by Chuck Graham)

>> Campsite signs
Scratch marks in a fire pit, garbage at the site, or nearby scat mean the area's bruins might have learned to associate campers with food. Avoid problem bears by pitching your tent elsewhere.

>> Forage
In late summer and early fall, bears are out gorging on berries and nuts during the day. Avoid surprising them by clapping or singing near dense thickets, especially if you're downwind.

>> Scat
Runny, hairy, and smelly droppings indicate a bear is eating meat, which might mean a carcass (which a bear would defend) lies nearby. Leave the area.

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Apr 20, 2010

I think if u r hiking bear country, you should assume some bear activity will probably happen. So, would you care to b dead or carry a weapon? They run so fast, why chance it? Shoot first to scare if far enough away, then if still charging, shoot to kill, for your life. Would u go to a dangerous part of town without u cell phone or somekind of weapon? America is a dangerous place on many levels and although I am a treehugger,I am wise enough to know that I am an easy mark. Take precautions, take a gun,gernade,bearspray, or go walk on the beach.

outdoorsy girl
Sep 10, 2009

Just a thought....we have shark suits, what about a, bear suit?
Or, what aroma does a bear despise the most? If, there is one...uh, scratch that idea, they're garbage eaters.
I guess education & awareness is our best protection.

lady of the woods
Jun 18, 2009

Shining a flashlight in their eyes and banging tin pans together has worked well for me. Jumping up in the air about three feet and screaming worked well also.

Jun 10, 2009

i like to bring a harmonica out with me it's small light and load. besides it gives something to do when u start to get a little bored on a 3 day trek!!

May 27, 2009

Does anyone have any input on the use of a whistle in bear country. Would a single blast be any help at all?

May 24, 2009

YEA OK! The only diff between black bear poo and grizzly poo, Black bear poo is full of nuts and berry's, Grizz poo is full of bells, and smells like pepper.

May 20, 2009

Just hike with 2 teenage boys. Their constant chatter , stick snapping, howling and arguing will scare away anything!:)

May 14, 2009

Lewis Otto
May 13, 2009

I think bear bells are great! I heard it all the way down the hill when the bear took my pack. What a glorious sound:(

May 13, 2009

Has anybody effectively used an air horn to scare away a bear?

Apr 30, 2009

Bear bells are a big waste. When in bear country you need to clap & sing loudly, or even yodleing is good. The investigation on the bear bells showed that bears generally ignored them.If you see tracks or scat, be smart & go the other way. If there is a meadow nearby, going AWAY from the tracks, you can go that way. You can also spot bears more easily in a meadow. Stay at least 200 yards from a bear. Sometimes bears act like they don't know you're there, but 99 % of the time they know you're around.Bears are not our friends, and you should never feed them. They are magnificent animals. But they are wild & unpredictable, so don't put you or your family in danger. Bears prefer to be left alone.

Mar 30, 2009

I thought bells would work at one time, but the Hey Bear, singing works better. It helps if you are familiar with the signs and areas bear most likely will be. Like Berries patches, High grass, thicket. etc. Bear bells will scare way everything else you may be lucky enough to see. Deer, birds, bobcat, hare etc.

Double Cabin
Mar 23, 2009

I can't deal with the constant ringing of bells. I carry bear spray and an airhorn, and when sight distance is limited I certainly do make my presence known.

Given the evolving schools of bear precatuions I think it would be a tremendous service to us all if backpacker held a summit and included the susbstance of the actual "tests" that have been run on which species of bears before they listen to anyone of the " just don't worry about it" school. Don't worry, but exercise ALL rational precautions.

Two Buck Chuck
Mar 02, 2009

The Rangers in Glacier National Park say that the bells are best used for Christmas ornaments. Not loud enough. Clap and/or yell "Hey, Bear" is what they recommend.

Chuck Van Zant
Oct 06, 2008

I would recommend wearing bells on your boots as you hike. The constant ringing will alert bears to your presence. We use the bells in the mountains of Northern Georgia near the AT.
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