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  1. #1
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    Where is Bear Country?

    In last minute preparation for my tour (which starts in 1 week!) I have been reading up on hanging one's food in bear country. Actually, I've read a fair amount about what to do in "bear country." Problem is, everyone seems to assume that people just know where this bear country is. I don't. Where might I expect to find black bears or grizzly bears? When do I need to hang up my food?

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    pointless & uncalled for
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    Just so you know, there are a lot of gay innuendo jokes that could be made here.

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    You can expect to find black bears pretty much everywhere here in Canada. Grizzly bears, however, tend to stick to the mountain areas.

    Up here, you'd hang your food anywhere where you notice that the local garbage cans have been bear-proofed.

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    perhaps you can tell us where you are going so we can better inform you. Bears can be found in a lot of places....typically forested areas near mountains.

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    Bears can typically be found outside, however, some are found inside (zoos, parks, etc). Those are the places where you'll want to keep an eye out for them.

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  6. #6
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    hang your food from more than just bears, dontchyaknow?

    Hang the food, always. Sometimes hang the pots and pans right along with it.

    I saw a cougar on my tour last weekend. Cougars and their ilk scare me, more honestly, then bears. I saw a bear last summer on a weekend ride.

    its the little squirrels, racoons and their furry cousins that most often attack the food rabidly in the night.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  7. #7
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    Srrs -
    If I remember correctly you are heading across the Northern Tier, right?

    First off - raccoons and skunks will likely be more of a problem than bears in most places. The most important piece of advice - - NEVER eat in your tent. Never cook or have food in your tent. Raccoons will tear thru the sides of your tent to get in and investigate - so will bears - but it is just far more likely to be a small furry animal than a huge furry animal.

    As for bears - there may be a few in forested areas of Mich, Wis, & Minn where you will be, but you will not really be in bear country until you reach Glacier National Park. From there to the Cascades you can expect the be in black bear country. Grizzlies are only found in and around Glacier. You don't want to run into either in the middle of the night - but grizzlies are more aggressive and territorial.

    In Glaicer Park - hiker/biker sites are in developed campgrounds - so you'll be near other campers - plus there are metal bear boxes - - use them! In other campground in the West you will need to hand your food - learn how. (Also a good idea all through the trip unless you are in developed areas.)

  8. #8
    Papa Wheelie Sigurdd50's Avatar
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    Bears tend to be very shy

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    Be more like Muir hillyman's Avatar
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    Q: How do I keep bears out of my campground?
    A: Put up goalposts!
    The mountains are callung and I must go

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    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    You generally should avoid storing food in tents or panniers and should never leave food sitting out unattended. As has already been stated, you are more likely to have small animals get into your food than bears in most areas.

    Generally, when you are camping, you should suspend your food from a tree limb if no critter-proof storage is provided. There are plenty of resources on the net for instructions on the various methods for this. You should also suspend any non-food items that have odors such as toothpaste, deodorant, perfumes, etc. Animals are bad about not reading the labels before munching down on your stuff.

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    dbuzi123 - like jamawani says, i am taking the northern tier. i am, however, diverging from the northern tier where it hits adventure cycling's lewis & clark trail in willston, north dakota. so i'll be missing glacier national park altogether. so no grizzlies! good!

    it sounds like the advice is to not have any food in the panniers? i had been planning on dedicating one front pannier to stove/pans/food, and then just hanging that pannier every night. are y'all recommending that i just keep the food in a plastic bag on my rear rack or something, and then just hang that?

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    Quote Originally Posted by srrs
    it sounds like the advice is to not have any food in the panniers? i had been planning on dedicating one front pannier to stove/pans/food, and then just hanging that pannier every night. are y'all recommending that i just keep the food in a plastic bag on my rear rack or something, and then just hang that?
    This is exactly what i have been doing for years... works fine!

  13. #13
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    No - -
    You have to put your food and utensils in a pannier - usually two.
    I use only my front panniers. No food every goes in my back panniers.
    Since the front panniers are smaller and lighter - they are easier to hang.

  14. #14
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by srrs
    dbuzi123 - like jamawani says, i am taking the northern tier. i am, however, diverging from the northern tier where it hits adventure cycling's lewis & clark trail in willston, north dakota. so i'll be missing glacier national park altogether. so no grizzlies! good!

    it sounds like the advice is to not have any food in the panniers? i had been planning on dedicating one front pannier to stove/pans/food, and then just hanging that pannier every night. are y'all recommending that i just keep the food in a plastic bag on my rear rack or something, and then just hang that?

    It should be fine to devote one pannier to food and food preparation products and hang that pannier. Just don't scatter your food around in different panniers because they can pick up the smell.

    Devote a second pannier to other scented items like soap, shampoo, deodorant, etc. and hang that one too.


    And just so you know ... there are bears (black and brown) in the prairies too. I've seen them in Manitoba, so don't be surprised if you're heading through North Dakota or Minnesota and see one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Magictofu
    This is exactly what i have been doing for years... works fine!
    Hanging the panniers thing... it was not very clear

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    Google black/grizzly bear distribution and you will find quite a few studies and maps, many associated with the US Fish and Wildlife service.
    Grizzlies are more dangerous but geographically limited to the NW in "recovery zones".
    Black bears are found in the Eastern US as well.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Ziemas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bekologist

    its the little squirrels, racoons and their furry cousins that most often attack the food rabidly in the night.
    +1

    While touring in Australia I had a possum tear a whole in my tent for a stray clove of garlic. Yes, one tiny clove....

  18. #18
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    hm. so do i also need to hang my handlebar bag, if it's got any traces of food in it? like it had energy bar wrappers in it or something? or would that probably be ok?

  19. #19
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    When you are camping in areas that are posted "campground (or trailhead) closed - problem bear zone" you should take greater precautions.

    I have always taken reasonable precautions about food, toiletries as well as food packaging and garbage while touring and wilderness wandering, and i have been doing this stuff my whole life....

    you'll know when you've kept too much stuff in your bags when you find a hole chewed thru your equipment in the morning- no big deal, it just shows you were being careless.

    Antime you are wilderness camping, setting up a triangulated campsite, with tent, cooking/foodstorage and cathole zone all at far corners of a triangle- developed campsites, woods camping, even a KOA in Wisconsin, I'd personally find a way to secure my foodstuffs, and keep my panniers and bags clear of any food like stuff or packaging. In regular woodsy situations, 40 feet distance between the corners of the triangle. In bear heavy and Grizz country of Montana, Idaho, Washington or Canada/AK I extend the distance to more like 200 feet.

    i've seen many bear in the woods over my life; I've even camped in a grizzly bear repatriation zone in Yellowstone. Use appropriate precautions for the situation.

    To avoid a critter chewing a hole in your Arkels, actually go thru your stuff, and check your pockets nightly unless you've got the system dialed. using a bento box and a seat grab bag makes it easier to keep food snacks seperate. Oh yeah, one more bit....

    "Every campground has its critters."
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  20. #20
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    In my country bears are very polite … if you meet one in the mountain, you have to say it “Good Day” taking down the helmet and if the bear is in a nice mood, it will even give you a smile …

  21. #21
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    Bears are curious.

    When I lived in Jackson, Wyo. I biked into a remote area south of Togwatee Pass. Camped at 9000 ft., but hung my food sack 100 yds away. It drizzled during the night. I also had a visitor wander around the tent. The next morning there were dinner-plate sized tracks in the soft ground.

    I've also camped in extremely remote areas of the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. I prefer camping on river bars where there are good campsites, plenty of driftwood, and long sight lines. Since bears are hunted up there, they are wary of humans. I use smudge fires on the gravel to announce my presence. Plus it keeps down the mosquitos.

    There is no reason to be afraid of bears if you are prudent. Yes, freak encounters do happen, but I think your chances of getting hit by a semi in front of your apartment are better. And do people avoid roads because of trucks? Very few. A few pointers in order of risk from high to low.

    1. Female bears with cubs are the most dangerous. Never approach cubs.
    2. Bears are territorial - esp. males. Stop, then slowly move away from any bear you may see.
    3. Bears are more aggressive when there is a drought with natural food sources not available. Avoid backcountry areas where bears may be food stressed.
    4. Bears are smart as Yogi and will opt for food short-cuts - - like your jar of peanut butter. Keep your food stored correctly and NEVER in your tent.

  22. #22
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    I saw where you were planning on going through Williston ND. I have lived in NoDak for 30 years and have never seen a bear although a young kid was suprisingly treed by one in the North central part of the state (in the Turtle Mountains). What I am more concerned about around here if riding solo (especially off road) - are mountain lions. A couple of mountain bikers were being stalked by one in the badlands. If you stick to populated areas however (if you want to call Western NoDak populated) there shouldn't be any trouble - and depending where you are riding and how desolate the roads Eastern Montana can be pretty lonely - keep an eye out for rattlers sunning themselves on the road - although I have NEVER heard of a rattler attacking a cyclist but it may be a photo op moment - just use your zoom lens )

  23. #23
    Senior Member halfspeed's Avatar
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  24. #24
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    rather incredibly, i JUST got a lesson in exactly what you all are talking about! i had just left the computer and was thinking, "hmm, sounds like i'll have to be pretty careful about food storage," as i took a pan of brownies out of the oven and placed it on my (screened) windowsill. i went back in the kitchen five minutes later, and lo and behold there was a little squirrel face poking through the little squirrel hole he had chewed through the screen to get at the brownies! even after i shut the window he stayed around, maybe only a foot away from me, seemingly so hung up on the idea of chocolate that he didn't care about the danger of a big ol' human. luckily i got back in before he ate all my brownies, but still, point taken. hang the food if you're not physically looking at it, at that moment.

    did you guys hire that squirrel? it's just too much of a coincidence!

  25. #25
    Walmart bike rider gpsblake's Avatar
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    There are odd places were bears are common. Here in South Carolina, the highest population of black bears is in Horry & Georgetown County along the Atlantic Ocean. Horry is the county where Myrtle Beach is at far from the mountains. In 2003, 25 black bears were killed in car collisions in those two counties alone. With all the new construction there, it will only make things worse for the bear.

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