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.
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