Headed Outdoors? Bear Safety Tips – Part One

Whether you’re going for a day hike, out for a jog or a bike ride, headed to a campground or just taking your dog out for a stroll, being BearWise outdoors can 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

Traveling quickly and quietly makes it easy to surprise a bear. Sometimes bears don’t respond well to surprises. Stay alert and aware of your surroundings; try not to disappear into “the zone.” Talking to your group or making noise now and then is good; listening to music or talking on the phone is distracting. Bear spray is tough to get at if it’s buried in a backpack but fits nicely into a bike’s water cage or hip or 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.

  • If you’re away from home, talk to your host or the locals about bear activity. Local outdoor stores and visitors’ centers can be great sources of information.
  • If you’re headed to a park or forest, visit their website before you go and then stop in at the visitor’s center and talk to staff and check trail conditions or closures. Some visitor’s centers and trailheads have wildlife activity signboards you can check. Many parks and forests have food storage guidelines and other regulations, so be prepared and know before you go.
  • If you’re heading into the backcountry, it’s even more important to familiarize yourself with the local food storage regulations and recommendations before you go. 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.  Check the expiration date before you leave home. And brush up on the bear spray basics so you understand how to use it effectively. Local regulations on using bear spray may vary, so know before you go.

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.


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