Bear Aware in the Big Sky

While on the topic of the great outdoors, it is important to point out that a vast majority of the state is “Bear Country.”  This means that while enjoying all the outdoors have to offer, it is important to be Bear Aware!

Yellowstone

Yellowstone

So, Question One: What attracts bears?

  • Garbage
  • Dishes/Pots
  • Coolers
  • Food
  • Pet Food/Bowls
  • Camp Stoves/Barbeques
  • Toiletries/Sunscreen/Bug Spray

Bears are attracted to humans and their campsite for several reasons.  Foreign objects and scents tend to spike a bears curiosity.  This curiosity may lead to them approaching the area to gain a better understanding of their environment.  Generally speaking, bears want to meet you about as badly as you want them to be in your campsite, in other words they don’t.

Question Two: What can you do to avoid an encounter with a bear?

  • Make lots of noise while hiking, make your presence known!
  • Stay on the trails. Bears will avoid heavily trafficked areas.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Make a conscious effort to notice things like berry patches, bear scat, recent rub markings, and other indications of bear activity.
  • Let people know where you will be hiking/camping, and avoid taking trips by yourself.
  • Don’t leave your packs (with all of the wonderful scents) unattended in the middle of the woods.
  • Keep a clean camp
  • Never take food into your tent
  • Keep food and other scented possessions in
    • A bear resistant container
    • A vehicle
    • Suspended 10-15 feet off the ground, 10 feet from the nearest tree, and 100+ feet from your campsite.
  • Pack out your trash, don’t bury it.
  • Camp and Hike with Bear Spray
    • Bear Spray is known to: limit human injuries caused by bears and limit the number of bear deaths due to self-defense.
"Bear Spray" by James Brooks. From Flickr.com

“Bear Spray” by James Brooks. From Flickr.com

Question Three: What do you do when you come across a bear?

Fish Wildlife & Parks has a great resource available for what to do in case of a bear encounter.  Follow the link to find out more: http://fwp.mt.gov/recreation/safety/wildlife/bears/bearEncounter.html

It is important to remember that all wildlife can be dangerous (big our small) and you should avoid approaching or feeding the wildlife.  Feeding can lead to bad habits and expectations and create a great problem in the future.

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