Want to see bears?

Seeing a bear in the wild is an unforgettable experience. If you’d love an opportunity to observe bears, early morning and early evening are good times for viewing and photography. Enjoy bears from a safe and respectful distance. Keep at least 50 yards – that’s ten car lengths, or half a football field – between you and the bear. If your presence causes the bear to change its behavior in any way, you are too close.  Through a good pair of binoculars is the safest way to watch bears close-up.

Safe Ways to Watch and Photograph Bears

Your vehicle is a great place to sit quietly and observe or photograph bears. Pay attention to parking restrictions, and don’t block the road. Many bears that live in and around national parks, wildlife refuges and other areas with lots of bears and lots of people may seem almost tame; that’s because bears have had to learn to tolerate people in order to get on with their daily lives.

All bears are wild animals and can be unpredictable and potentially dangerous. You can roll down the window but stay in your vehicle. Never approach bears or offer food in hopes they’ll come closer (feeding wildlife is wrong and usually illegal). Bears are powerful animals; you don’t really want a curious bear to come check you out. Trying to snap a selfie close-up or take a video with a bear is not just irresponsible, it’s asking for trouble. Bears find being stalked and approached threatening and may react accordingly.

Why Did the Bear Cross the Road?

bear killed on the roadUsually because it’s the only way to get from here to there. Hundreds of bears are killed on America’s roads every year. Collisions with bears are scary, dangerous and not always covered by insurance. Black bears on black roads can be hard to see, especially at dawn, dusk and at night. If you slow down you’ll avoid many problems and see more birds and wildlife. Put someone on bear watch, stay alert and scan the roadsides. If a bear crosses the road, stop and wait and watch for cubs before you drive on. If you do hit a bear, don’t approach or try to help it. Cubs often refuse to leave their mom’s side and moms seldom abandon dead or injured cubs, so stay in your vehicle and call 911 or report to authorities as soon as possible.

Stash Your Trash

Trash and garbage along roadsides, sidewalks and trails gives off smells and looks appealing (to a hungry bear.) Every year items we discard lure bears onto roads and into danger. Even seemingly harmless items like apple cores and banana peels tempt bears to venture into the roadway or hang around trails and picnic grounds. Get in the habit of keeping a sack in your vehicle for trash and recycling. If you’re hiking or picnicking, pack it in, pack it out – don’t leave anything behind. Use bear-resistant containers wherever they are provided, and please be sure to close and latch up after you stash your trash.

Dogs Are Not Into Bear Watching

If you really want a chance to observe bears being bears, leave your dog at home. Even though a bear could easily injure or kill any size dog, bears generally try their best to avoid both people and canines. Most dogs, on the other hand, are not inclined to leave bears alone.

Many encounters with bears that people perceive as aggressive are actually defensive responses to barking, lunging dogs. Dogs can easily be injured, or even killed; people who come to their dog’s defense are often injured as well. And even though the bear was usually provoked into defending itself, out of an abundance of concern for human safety, the bear involved may be killed.

If you still choose to walk your dog in bear country, keep your pet on a non-retractable leash whenever you are outdoors, even if you’re just going to the car or letting the dog out in an unfenced area. Letting your dog approach or bark aggressively at a bear might make you feel safe, but in reality you’re putting yourself and your pet in danger.

Thanks for being BearWise and keeping bears wild and people safe.


BearWise®. Created by bear biologists. Supported by State Wildlife Agencies.
Dedicated to helping people live responsibly with black bears.
Copyright © 2018-2021 BearWise | All Rights Reserved. To reprint, redistribute or excerpt without changing or altering content in any way, please credit: Courtesy of BearWise® |  www.BearWise.org and notify us where this article will be used. To request written permission for any other use, please contact us
Recent Posts