Tips For Traveling In Bear Country
When traveling solo there can be more than a few concerns when out and about in nature. By far however one of the most unpredictable and scary can be the presence of bears. It is not uncommon for many of the amazing locations you want to visit, some of the best overlooks and trails and even the most popular parks have more than a few bears lurking around.
It is important to always be aware of your surroundings and the potential of danger which is around every corner but more so when traveling solo because you do not have another person there to help if you happen to encounter something.
I have traveled through many areas of the country where bears are commonly spotted. As a tent camper I always try to be mindful of my location and sometimes opt out of staying in certain areas because of the movement of the bear population.
I had an amazing campsite scouted out when traveling through the east coast that I was so excited to visit. I had seen numerous reviews about the location, pictures sharing how beautiful it was and longed for the presence of waterfall within walking distance of my campsite. However the vivid images I had envisioned as perfect as they seemed were uprooted by the intensified warnings of bears in the area.
Now keep in mind, there are always bears in the area, but at this particular time of year they were moving around with their cubs and this creates a much higher risk to people in the area. Bears often move through camps looking for food, because they know people bring food and have become very intelligent over time, even knowing that coolers or shopping bags typically are vessels for tasty treats.
While a bear typically would not bother a person and in fact usually try to remain out of sight, when with cubs they become much more territorial in order to protect their young. This is usually when you have incidents of bears and people and find that many are not educated enough to know how to react, often times resulting in injury.
So what do you do if you happen to be in an area with a bear??
Fortunately for me, my experience with seeing a bear in person have been very limited. I have avoided certain areas, much like this one, during certain seasons, I have made sure to follow trail rules and I have tried very hard to not put myself at risk. But even doing so I have seen from a distance bears on two occasions, once in the Smoky Mountains and again in Telluride, Colorado.
If is a fact, you are in nature and they are too... so knowing what to do is important and relatively easy.
Avoid Hiking Alone
Sure this one is a little hard when you travel solo but when possible if you have a friend in the area or meet a cool trail buddy you can always lower your chances of danger when there is a larger group. Bear, much like other animals, see a pack and stay back.
If Traveling With Children Keep Them Close
Adults are much more threatening in appearance and size than children. For this reason children are much more likely to be attacked by predators not limited to bears. When a child is running ahead they can be hunted for their small stature and similar appearance to that of a small animal. Additionally their much more high pitched tones often mimic smaller animals.
As much as people think they need to be quiet and take in the nature around them, this is actually the opposite of what trail guides will tell you when you are in bear country. You want to make noise! Making noise allows the bear or other animals to know you are coming and have the opportunity to move so that they do not have an encounter of the people kind.
If you are traveling with others strike up a conversation. If solo, think about bringing a small speaker with you so you can play music, clap your hands or even sing aloud. Sure you might feel inconsiderate to others but you are doing what you can to lower your risk.
Stay On The Trail
We all love to create our own unique way to a spectacular location when we see the opportunity, however this is a HUGE mistake in bear country. Bears associate paths with humans and often steer clear all together. By leaving the path they are familiar with you are encroaching into their territory and are more likely to create an issue for yourself.
Hike During Peak Hours
While we all love a good sunrise or sunset moment, unless you are familiar with the area you are in and bear safety it is not recommended to hike during dawn or dusk. This is the time of day which bears are most active. Bears most often are looking to eat at this time and if you happen to stand in between them and what they want they are more likely to be aggressive as they are feeding.
Bring Bear Spray
If you do choose to be out solo or with friends in bear country you are always supposed to keep bear spray on you. Bear spray has a long range of spray and can deter a bear which might be taking interest in you or your group. If it really comes down to it and you need this you will be able to at least create an unpleasant interaction for the bear and more likely steer it away from you.
Use Bear Boxes
When you are camping in areas where bears frequent you want to not only take your food and place it in bear boxes but all of your things which might have a scent to them which resembles food. This means your grills, your utensils and dishes and even your sprays or lotions which might smell floral or like fruits.
You want to then camp at a distance from your box rather than placing your tent right next to it for convenience. This also is true for those in RVs, though you might think there is nothing to be concerned with in your unit, bears have been known to open doors on cars, reach in open RV windows and scratch unit when they smell food.
Just know if there is a bear box, you need to use it. They do not put bear boxes in places which do not have a problem with bears, just sayin!
Always Be Aware of Your Surroundings
While many choose to hike and let their mind wander this is the last thing you want to do when in bear territory. Focus on the path ahead of you but also the path behind you. Listen to the sounds around you and never hinder your ability to hear with headphones or earbuds.
This might seem counterintuitive with the rule of you making noise, but you can be an active listener and also maintain your dominance over an area through sounds.