Headed Outdoors? Bear Safety Tips – Part One

Whether you’re going for a day hike, out for a jog or bike ride, headed to a campground or into the backcountry, or just taking your dog for a walk, being BearWise outdoors will help you have fun, stay safe and keep bears wild.

It’s Better Together

Walk, hike, jog, cycle and camp with others when possible. You’ll have someone to share the fun with and pitch in and help out if something unexpected happens.

Through the Eyes of Children

There’s nothing quite like seeing the great outdoors through the curious, wondering eyes of a child to make us grownups stop and really appreciate the wild world around us. Keep kids keep close by and within sight, and make sure they each have a safety whistle just in case. Talk to them about what cool animals bears are and what to do if they see a bear. Then practice before you go.

black bear on trail

Tune in to Nature

Stash your earbuds, silence your phones and listen to Mother Nature’s 24/7 podcast; it will be music to your ears. Being distracted in the outdoors can be just as dangerous as driving distracted … accidents happen when you’re not paying attention. You’ll be surprised at all the interesting things you’ll notice when you take time to stop, look and listen.

Leave No Trace

Double-bag food and snacks, or pack in a dry bag. Be sure to include a bag you can use to pack out all food and trash; don’t leave anything behind, including seemingly harmless things like apple cores, banana peels and trail mix. Food or trash left along the trail teaches bears and other wildlife to associate trails with food. Plus, many snacks formulated for humans contain levels of sodium and other ingredients that can be harmful or even lethal to wildlife.

dog facing bear

Special Precautions for Dogs in Bear Country

Bringing your dog into bear country? Chances are good that sooner or later your dog may encounter a bear. Understanding why some encounters end peacefully and others end with dogs and people injured or killed can help keep people, dogs and bears safe.

Bears don’t like to be chased or cornered; letting a dog chase or bark at a bear is asking for trouble. The bear may feel threatened and respond by defending itself. Why put your dog, your family and yourself at risk? Keep dogs leashed at all times, even in camp, or leave them at home. For lots more information, download our free BearsWise bulletin about bears and dogs.

BearWise Jogging and Cycling

Moving quickly and quietly increases the odds you could surprise or literally run into a bear. Bears don’t like to be surprised, so talk or make noise now and then to warn wildlife you’re in the woods and give it time to avoid you. Stay alert and aware of your surroundings; zoning out, listening to music or talking on the phone is distracting. Bear spray fits nicely into a bike’s water cage or a hip / fanny pack.

Do Your Homework

Standing at the trailhead isn’t the best time to discover that the trail you picked goes through active bear country and you left your bear spray at home.

  • Away from home? Talk to your host about bear activity. Local outdoor stores and visitors’ centers can be great sources of information. Even better, do your homework before you leave. Read Vacationing in Bear Country and download the free Vacation Tips fact sheet for more.
  • Headed to a park or forest? Check out websites before you go. Many parks and forests have food storage guidelines and other regulations, so know before you go and be bear-prepared. Visitor’s centers often have trail maps, wildlife activity boards and are usually staffed with knowledgeable locals familiar with trail conditions and closures.
  • Trekking into the backcountry? Food storage requirements often vary by region and jurisdiction (national park, national forest, state lands). Check with all agencies if your trail passes through several jurisdictions. National scenic trails like the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail have their own food storage regulations; check their websites for info and advice. Safe food storage is a must; losing all your food on day one will take all the fun out of a multi-day adventure.
  • Carry bear spray and know how to use it.  Bear spray has been proven to be the easiest and most effective way to deter an approaching bear. Local regulations on using bear spray may vary, so know before you go. Check out bearwise.org for lots more on how to (and how NOT to) use bear spray.

Bears everywhere thank you for reading up on how to be BearWise outdoors. Have fun, stay safe and thanks for helping to keep bears wild.

READ PART TWO: More safety tips on hiking, camping and what to do if you encounter a bear.

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Dedicated to helping people live responsibly with black bears.
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