Essential Bear Safety Tips to Keep in Mind When You're Camping

Bear sitting down

If you are planning a trip in bear country, knowing how to be safe from bears when camping or hiking is imperative.

Staying Safe From Bears When Camping or Hiking

Before You Leave

Before leaving on your camping trip, it is a good idea to call the park rangers office and find out if there have been recent bear problems. In times of drought or lack of food, bears get more persistent in seeking food from people in their territory. Park rangers should know the history of the bears in the area and how to avoid them.

Hiking in Bear Country

How to be safe from bears when camping or hiking includes precautions when you are traveling in bear country. You should learn to recognize the signs of bears so you will know if there is one in the area. Read books or look at photos on the Internet of what their droppings and footprints look like. Also, look for signs of clawing, diggings, and feedings. If any of the signs look recently made, it is best to leave the area and take a different route. Bears are creatures of habit and tend to travel the same route. A bear trail will likely be a low tunnel through bushes and trees, but the path will be well worn. Stay away from these paths.

Camping in Bear Country

If you plan to camp in bear country, you must prepare to keep your campsite in such a manner that bears will not be attracted to it. Bring bear resistant storage bins to store your food, or keep all your food in the trunk of your car. Keep in mind the following when camping around bears:

  • Do not camp near or on a bear trail
  • Camp away from berry patches or a bear's food source
  • Don't camp right near a stream where bears may fish or drink
  • Pitch your tents at least 100 yards away from your cooking area
  • Keep your camp clean
  • Throw your trash away in a bear resistant container
  • Store your food in a bear resistant container or your vehicle
  • Leave space between the tents so bears can easily leave your camp and not feel trapped should you confront them
  • Keep your pets leashed
  • Never leave or keep food in your tent
  • Change your clothing before going to bed if you prepared food in them
  • Keep a flashlight and bear pepper spray near your sleeping bag

What to Do If You Encounter a Bear

Bears are just as scared of you, as you are of them. Usually a bear will know you are in the area and flee before you even see him. But if there should come a time when you are face to face with a bear, do the following:

  • Back away slowly
  • Do not run; you cannot outrun a bear
  • Remain calm
  • Understand the bear's body stance; for example, a bear standing on his hind legs is probably just curious
  • If there is more than one person, group together and pick up small children to make yourself look larger
  • If the bear is approaching calmly, then talk calmly and let the bear know you are human
  • If the bear runs at you, hold still; he may charge within a few feet and then stop and turn around
  • If the bear continues to come toward you aggressively, shout and wave your arms aggressively in an effort to scare him away
  • Do not growl like a bear
  • If the bear attacks, fall to the ground and play dead; lay flat or curl up, but do not move
  • The bear might leave if he feels the threat has passed
  • If the bear is biting you without stopping, fight back vigorously, attacking the eyes and nose if possible

Final Tips For a Safe Trip

How to be safe from bears when camping or hiking is important because bears are dangerous, especially when hungry, afraid, or angry. It is best to just stay out of their way. Following are a few more tips for when you are traveling in bear country.

  • Inform people before you leave where you are going and when you will be returning
  • Carry pepper spray made to repel bears
  • Hike in groups and keep children near-by in camp
  • Read the signs at the trailhead
  • Be noisy so bears will know you are around and you won't surprise them
  • Hike only during daytime hours
  • Stay on the human trails
  • Its best not to take pets on your trip as they may attract bears
  • Watch out for signs of bears
  • Keep food locked up and out of sight and smell of bears
Essential Bear Safety Tips to Keep in Mind When You're Camping