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Preparing for and preventing bear encounters

by Timothy Martinez Jr.

The inexperienced (and occasional experienced) camper might think that only bears who wear a necktie and hat are interested in stealing picnic baskets.

However, the risk of running into a bear is very real and sometimes dangerous. With hibernation season ending and summer in full swing, the chances of seeing a hungry bear increase drastically.

A quick search through the news reveals dozens of cases of hungry bears tearing through campsites, devouring bird feeders and even digging through trash cans. That’s why now is the time to prevent and prepare for possible bear encounters while camping.

Keeping bears away from your campsite

There are a number of things you can do to prevent bears from wanting to pay you a visit, but the easiest is to keep your campsite clean. If bears smell something delicious, they won’t stop until it’s in their belly, so you should also throw old food scraps in sealed containers.

Another easy way to ward off bears is to avoid sites they’ve already been to. Despite their reputation as oaf-like creatures, bears have a surprisingly good memory, so if they find food at one spot, they’ll keep returning for more. Avoid areas with droppings and overturned trash cans.

What to do during an encounter

A few years back, someone invented an iPhone app that replicates the sounds of clapping hands and ringing bells to thwart angry bears, but by the time you take it out, launch the app and use it, you’ll probably be in its stomach. And there’s no app for getting out of a bear’s belly (that I know of).

If you encounter one, follow these steps: stay calm, face the bear, wave your arms and slowly back away. Most of the time, that works like a charm, but on the off chance they charge, you should stand your ground because they’re probably bluffing. If they’re not bluffing and they attack, do your best to play dead.

For more tips on bear encounters, check out this article.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that knowledge is always the best tool against anything. So, before going on a camping trip, check to see if there are bears in the area and remember these tips because even though a bear encounter makes a sweet camping story, you don’t want to end up telling it in your obituary.