There are many safety strategies for hikers and homeowners, and they are very commonsensical. These are offered, not to scare you, but to give you the information you need to prevent negative or injurious interactions with bears.
For starters, though, bear attacks on humans are extremely rare.
According to the American Bear Association, "A person is 180 times more likely to be killed by a bee and 160,000 times more likely to die in a car accident. Most injuries from black bears occur when people try to feed, pet, or crowd them. Bears will nip or cuff bad-mannered humans, as they will bad-mannered bears. They are very strong and powerful animals; they should always be treated with caution and respect."
Thanks to the Be Bear Aware folks for the following tips:
When Hiking in Bear Country
•let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return
•carry bear pepper spray
•read all signs at the trailhead
•hike in a group, and keep children close at hand
•make your presence known (call out)
•hike during daylight hours and stay on the trail
•watch for bear signs: scat, claw marks, diggings, logs or stumps torn apart, etc.
•avoid taking pets, they may attract bears to you
•don't surprise a bear; black bears tend to be nervous and easily frightened - they can cause injury if suddenly startled, cornered or provoked
When Camping in Bear Country
•keep a clean camp
•use a designated camping area
•don't leave food out when not in use - store in bear-resistent storage units, a hard-shelled vehicle, or car trunk
•use bear-resistent trash receptacles
•set up tents with space between them
•keep pets on a leash
•keep your sleeping area, tent and sleeping bag free of food and odors
•don't sleep in clothes you wore when you prepared or cooked food
•keep a flashlight and bear pepper spray readily available
•select a campsite away from berry patches, spawning streams, and animal trails
•place sleeping tents at least 100 yards from food storage and cooking areas
•store all food and odorous items (including garbage) at least 10 ft off the ground and 4 ft from top and side supports
•strain food particles from dishwater
•pack everything out - never bury or burn garbage
•if a black bear is visible, but not close, alter your route so that you will move away from its area
•if a bear approaches, do not run. Remain calm, continue facing the bear and slowly back away. If the bear continues to approach, try to group together and pick up small children. Try to scare the bear away by shouting and acting aggressively
•if a bear attacks, it is suggested to fight back with everything in your power - fists, sticks, rocks, and E.P.A. registered bear pepper spray
•if the bear stands up he is not preparing to attack but is trying to get a better look or sniff
•if the bear lunges, snaps his jaws,slaps the ground or brush with paw, it means he feels threatened and you are too close
In Residential Areas
•should a bear wander through your yard, he may be just passing through or he may smell some potential food source
•don't panic, don't shoot, don't approach
•if he is treed, he is probably afraid. Leave him alone. Remove all threats and give him time to feel secure enough to come down and get away, which may not occur until the cover of night
•put garbage out on the day of pickup, not the night before. Store in sturdy buildings or place in a bear-proof trash receptacle
•do not leave pet food out
•take bird-feeders in at night or, better yet, remove them completely during active bear months of the year
•keep bar-b-ques clean and grease free and store inside a sturdy building
•pick all ripe fruit from trees and the surrounding ground as soon as possible
•vegetable gardens and compost piles may attract bears. Do not put meat, fish, or other pungent scraps in a compost pile. ADD LIME TO REDUCE ORDORS AND ACCELERATE DECOMPOSITION.
•an electric fence is an effective way to keep bears out of orchards, gardens, compost piles and beehives
Return to Bear Directory
Dr. Ellen K. Rudolph, Photojournalist and Educator
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