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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

How to Keep Bears Away

Learn your black bears from your brown bears then figure out how to keep them away from your camp.

by: The Backpacker Editors


Tell black from brown: A black bear has a light-colored muzzle, and is generally smaller and lacks the muscular shoulder hump and dish-shaped face of a brown bear (grizzly). Browns can be found only in remote areas of Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, and western Canada.

Cook wisely: A bear's sense of smell is 7 times greater than a bloodhound's. Prepare meals at least 100 yards from camp. After your meal, change clothes and secure food in a bear bag or a hard-shell canister.

Discharge pepper spray: Aim for the bear's eyes and face, and pull the trigger when a charging bear is within 40 feet. Most canisters create a visible 30-foot cone of spray. Once the bear is disoriented, leave the scene as quickly as possible and report the incident to local authorities.

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READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Aaron
Jul 11, 2014

I carry a .45 daily, in town or on drives. Don't plan to change that in the backcountry. When did we move from firearms to bear spray, and why?

Doc Savage, Outpost Outfitters
Sep 18, 2010

If you have already thwarted a bear attack with pepper spray, chances are you won't feel very comfortable sleeping in the same spot anyway. Bears are a very curious species but chances are good that a generous snout full of pepper spray should detour any further curiosity and the same bear should normally not give you anymore trouble, but I always says to err on the side of safety. Best to go ahead and find a new camp site if it is convenient considering location, time of day, weather, safety and other factors.
Be safe and have fun.

Ila Vaquez
Jun 15, 2010

What if the bear is in the vicinity of your campsite & you need to discharge the pepper spray? Still leave, or report the incident & stay there?

Ila Vazquez
Jun 15, 2010

W

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