Hiking Tips: Backpacking in Black Bear Country

bears-dumpsterjpgAlthough black bears are generally shy and avoid contact with humans, it’s important to remember that bears are the state’s largest predators. Bears must be respected for their size and strength. Do not deliberately approach a bear or try to become chummy with one that’s coming to an established feeding site. Play it smart. Keep your distance.

If you camp or hike in bear country, you’re responsible for doing all you can to prevent close encounters and conflicts with bears. Your giving a bear food may serve as encouragement for it to approach someone else, someone not looking for a close-up opportunity with a bear. If the person doesn’t give the bear food, it could lead to an unpleasant and possibly dangerous experience. Never reward a bear for associating with people. It’s what’s best for you, the next person and the bear.

Here are some steps you can take if you’re spending time afield in Penn’s Woods:

  1. Keep your camp clean and odor free. Wipe tables and clean eating utensils thoroughly after every meal. Burn all grease off grills and camp stoves. In short, keep your tent, camper and sleeping bag free of all food smells.
  2. Store your food in safe or bear-proof places. Place foods and coolers in your car trunk or suspend them from a tree branch. Never leave food in your tent.
  3. Dispose of garbage properly. Use the camp receptacles if provided, or store trash in your vehicle. Pack out your garbage if you must, but never leave your garbage behind and people.
  4. If you hike at dawn or dusk your chances are greater of meeting a bear or other wildlife. In places where hearing or visibility is impaired (roar of fast-moving water, thick vegetation), reduce your chances of surprising a bear by talking or making noise.
  5. Leave dogs at home or keep them on a leash.

2 thoughts on “Hiking Tips: Backpacking in Black Bear Country

  1. My friends spotted a bear this past weekend, although I missed it. I’ve seen one on Rainier before, and scat on the trail outside a camp in the North Cascades.

    Out here we generally bear-bag our packs if we’re camping below timberline, and use a canister above. Sometimes you can bury your food in the snow, but this is pretty controversial.

    1. When backpacking the best option is a food bag hung over a high branch, but when camping at a state park or campground most of the time storing food inside your car is another option. Most bear can be seen more prevalent during the early morning hours just as the sun is coming up or at dusk. The prefer think wooded habitats and ridge lines of mountains. When they do venture into campgrounds it’s mostly to human error by purposely attaching them or leaving food and garbage easily accessible.

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