The possibility of seeing wildlife in its natural habitat is one of the reasons people visit the wilderness. Seeing a black bear is a rare and exciting experience remembered for years to come. But the very things that make bears fun to watch - their curiosity, acrobatic antics and large appetites - are the things that give bears the ability to ruin your wilderness trip. NEVER APPROACH A BEAR CUB; the very protective mother is probably close by.
There is no guarantee that a bear will not visit your campsite, no matter how careful you are. Black Bears will rarely harm humans. The following tips may help you minimize the possibility of negative encounters with bears.
KEEP A CLEAN CAMP. Bears have an excellent sense of smell and are attracted by food odors. Dirty dishes and garbage (especially bacon grease) may lure bears to your camp. Wash dishes immediately and dump the water away from camp (at least 150 feet away from any lakes or wetlands). Outside of the wilderness, leave your food in your vehicle, preferably in the trunk when you are sleeping or away from your campsite. When possible, burn all food scraps, left-over grease and garbage. Nonburnable garbage should be hung up with the rest of your food and packed out when you leave. Don't dispose of food in the wilderness latrines. Bears will still find it and may destroy the latrine in the process.
DO NOT STORE FOOD IN YOUR TENT. This just invites bears to your tent. When camping in the wilderness, hang your food pack high in the trees when you leave your site or at night. Bears can reach up 10 feet, so if you can reach the suspended pack chances are a bear will be able to swat it down with just a few good jumps. Remember that bears are also very good tree climbers and will climb out on a branch and reach down, or just climb the main trunk and reach out for your pack. Follow the illustration for the way to hang your food pack when camping in the wilderness.
LEAVE YOUR TENT OPEN WHEN YOU LEAVE YOUR CAMPSITE. Bears are naturally curious and may want to look inside your tent. It's no problem for bears if the tent is closed tight - they'll just make their own opening.
If you see a bear on the trail, keep calm and retreat slowly. AVOID BEAR CUBS. Mother bear is usually very close. Mother bears are not friendly. Normally, bears are afraid of you and will leave when they see you.
If a bear follows you down a trail, get rid of those snacks you are carrying. Toss all food by the side of the trail and keep on walking.
IF A BEAR ENTERS YOUR CAMPSITE, REMAIN CALM. Bears are usually easily scared away by yelling, waving and banging pans. Make sure the bear has a clear escape route, and then yell, wave or rush to no nearer than 15 feet from the bear.
"When camping in bear country, food should not be cooked or stored in sleeping quarters. Food and sweet smelling toiletries such as toothpaste, perfume and deodorant should be hung in a canvas bag or pack from a rope over a tree limb so the items are too far from the ground, the limb and tree trunk for a bear to reach. If at a campground accessible by vehicle, food should be stored in the vehicle where it is out of sight."
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