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Thread: Bear Country

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    Bear Country

    Looking to be crossing SD, MT, ID, WA, OR coast, CA (coast to Mendocino, then west to east ), NV, UT, northern AZ, northern NM, northern TX, camping all the way. In which areas should I be on the lookout for bears while camping? I plan to be camping in private and public campgrounds, minimal stealth camping. Thanks

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    If camping in official camp sites there are usually bear boxes in the places you need to worry. In most campgrounds there is someone to ask whether there have been bear problems in the past. If not, the type of trashcans and or dumpsters is usually a dead give away. When in doubt hang your food if there isn't a bear box. Once in a while there will be no trees and no bear box. In those cases I just double bagged the food and toiletries and kept the a ways away from the tent.

    I have camped a good bit in all of those states except SD and with reasonable care and some common sense bears were never a problem.

    In some of those areas raccoons will be a bigger problem. On the Oregon and California coasts they were a nuisance, but the state parks had boxes to put your food and toiletries in.

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    Use the advance search function and search for "bears" in post titles.

    There are bears in parts of all of those states. Hell. There are a decent number of bears in New Jersey. The chances of you having problems with them are minimal, especially if you take the proper precautions. I would bet that in most places your chances of having problems are minimal even if you don't take proper precautions.

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    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    bears are all over the place. they're pesky creatures ( i think of black bear as pesky, overgrown racoons) that nonetheless deserve our respect and help not becoming conditioned to human food.

    Here's a catch-22:

    Bears like campsites.

    I've seen a lot of bear. Probably over a hundred times. Mostly out in the woods, some on the beach (believe it or not) and plenty in campsites.

    like others have said, if you take precautions your chance of problems are minimal.
    Last edited by Bekologist; 11-03-12 at 08:15 PM.
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    I am more concerned about critters when I'm in developed areas. Stealth camping, not so much. Great advice above about checking out the condition of the on-site trash. Black bears are a nuisance, but grizzlies worry me more (though that's probably a personal phobia). I'm way more attentive in MT and WY.

    By the way, I believe more stuff gets damaged by rodents and birds than by bear. At least that's been my experience.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bekologist View Post
    bears are all over the place. they're pesky creatures ( i think of black bear as pesky, overgrown racoons) that nonetheless deserve our respect and help not becoming conditioned to human food.

    Here's a catch-22:

    Bears like campsites.

    I've seen a lot of bear. Probably over a hundred times. Mostly out in the woods, some on the beach (believe it or not) and plenty in campsites.

    like others have said, if you take precautions your chance of problems are minimal.
    This!! Secure your food at night, wash dishes and dispose of grey water properly and you'l never know that they are there. They are NOT interested in you unless you pose a threat by a sudden encounter.

    I've also seen many black bear when riding on road or mountain bikes, the bears disappear so fast!, It's amazing how fast they are at getting away from humans.

    I'm a lot more worried about Dodge Ram trucks than I am about bears.
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    Bears prefer Easterners - - they are especially tender.

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    Fraser Valley Dave
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    Most of my 56 years of outdoor activity, including cycling, backpacking, canoeing, and horseback riding, has/is in bear country. Some of the advise given here is good, just remember bears have an incredible nose. The cardinal rule is always place any foodstuffs, including cookware that might have the faintest residual odor, either up high, in a secure bear-proof box, or failing that, far from your sleeping quarters. Never cook your meals close to, or in your tent. Remember that even your clothes can retain cooking smells such as grease, and never store snacks with you in your tent, even wrapped candy bars etc. Bears accustomed to human activity and campgrounds where they have found food in the past are the most potentially dangerous. (My brothers and I camped several times in a high risk area frequented by numerous black bears and were never molested, we believe because of practicing the 'cardinal rule', and we also found a large old stump far from camp and dumped the oily contents from a sardine can into the hollow center. This entertained the bears for hours.)

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    eternalvoyage
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodysroad View Post
    Looking to be crossing SD, MT, ID, WA, OR coast, CA (coast to Mendocino, then west to east ), NV, UT, northern AZ, northern NM, northern TX, camping all the way. In which areas should I be on the lookout for bears while camping? I plan to be camping in private and public campgrounds, minimal stealth camping. Thanks
    Once they see or smell food, they often go for it. I've had them make physical contact with me in the process, though that is unusual. Usually they just try their best to get out of your way. Unless they see or smell food. Then some of them (those who are less afraid or more accustomed to humans) will go after the food.

    You might consider Ursacks or bear canisters, or making good use of campgrounds' available bearproof lockers. It's best not to have food scents or residues on panniers, tents, sleeping bags, clothes, etc. Bears do have an extraordinary sense of smell -- way beyond dogs, which are themselves way beyond humans.

    They can easily smell food that is in plastic bags inside panniers.

    And they can quickly narrow down the exact location. And they are very good at opening (destructively if necessary) non-bearproof containers and materials. There are many photos of automobile trunks, for example, that they have bent open like sardine cans. Their strength is beyond Olympic weight lifters, and their claws are like crowbars.

    Risk of bodily harm is exceedingly low (as long as you don't do something exceptionally inaccurate). Risk to food and gear is higher unless you take the accurate precautions.

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    Better to have a tent you have never eaten sitting inside.

    Their Noses are Better than yours and that is what the use to smell food..
    and spilled stuff is still going to smell like food.

    Bear Box aloft in a tree, and state campgrounds with welded steel food lockers.

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    Everything said above is good. I use a drybag to hang food, less scent from a drybag than other types of bags. Quite frankly squirrels, chipmunks, etc., have been a bigger problem for me.

    I was in grizzly country this past July. At one of the parks the ranger told me that if I saw a bear while on my bike, to try to get in between the cars and keep going.

    I think this was a black bear, in that area they had both black and brown bears, but I chose to stay far enough away that I could not tell the type of bear it was with any certainty. (This camera has a powerful zoom, I was a lot farther away than the photo suggests.)

    20IMGP3664.jpg

    You might want to avoid getting too close:
    http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/26/us/ala...ack/index.html

    I carried a bear bell on my bike strapped to the top tube when in the areas with bears, but I suspect it did little good. I did not hit enough bumps for it to ring very much.
    Last edited by Tourist in MSN; 11-04-12 at 01:28 PM.

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    I'm a Southerner; raised on lard, poke salad, and fatback. I don't know if that qualifies me as a tender Easterner though.

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    Lawsy, chile!
    If dat bear sniffs any cornbread o black-eyed peas, you is as good as a goner.

    On a more serious note, I've spent hundreds of nights in the backcountry of the Northern Rockies.
    (And also lots of time in the Canadian West and Arctic - alone.)

    First and foremost - NEVER - eat in your tent. Not in Alabama, not in Montana.
    Once you have food odors in your tent, a bear will be able to smell them.

    Learn to hang your food by the rope hang method.
    50 ft of light climbing cord and a carabiner will suffice.
    http://www.nps.gov/noca/naturescience/bear-safety.htm
    (Yosemite NP doesn't allow hanging packs any more.)

    Finally, where there are bear boxes, use them.
    Avoid leaving anything out for any length of time.

    I've had grizzly tracks around my tent the next morning.
    I've had loud, deep sniffing sounds on the tent itself in the middle of the night.
    I'm still around to talk about it.

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    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    All of the above and, don't forget to put your toiletries (shampoo, toothpaste etc) in here too!

    Yellowstone NP

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    You are more likely to have bear problems in campgrounds than anywhere else. The wilderness, and rural areas, and stealth sites are pretty safe. Areas like the Smokies are far more likely to give problems than the West, due to density of bears and campers. Black bears are more likely to get you than grizzlies, mostly because there are so many of them, but there are also personality factors. I'm more viscerally scared of grizzlies though.

    I live with bears all summer on my property, I don't even see them. Their sign is all over the woods, and even at our compost heap. The only one I have seen was crossing the road about 20 miles from my place, and ran into the side of the RV ahead of me.

    Wild bears are not a problem, even the ones that live in my yard, where there are all kinds of food smells and options. Habituated bears are a problem and that is mainly a campsite thing. You are more likely to get ticketed for breaking bear related laws, than to have trouble with the real smoky the bear.

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    Don't pee near your tent they are attracted to the salt content. Know what bear poop looks like. If you see a big fresh steaming pile it might not be a good place to stop for lunch. No food ever goes into my clothes pannier. No open food goes into my other pannier. I carry a small "six-pack" cooler for honey, chocolate and open food. In bear country the cooler is the first item to be secured in a bear box or hung from a tree. Only keep food out for as long as it take to prepare and eat. Clean up immediately and hang or store everything edible or used for food prep like your stove, pots etc. If you have bear spray have it on your person and not buried at the bottom of a pannier. I keep my bear spray next to my sleeping bag in the same place every night. I have never been bothered by a bear while sleeping. If a bear decides to join you for dinner don't argue, be polite and leave the table. You will not have to worry about any left overs.

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    I recall a memorable backcountry trip i took to Yellowstone in the 80's.

    My buddy and I hiked right into a "grizzly bear repatriation area" (where they dumped the problem bears, apparently, by what we read on the sign) and had to camp in the area that night.

    We practiced such a meticulous set of campsite practices that still stick with me to this day - make your safety triangle quite large (100 yards on each side in grizzville), spend the extra time to cook and hang food well away from where you sleep.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MassiveD View Post
    You are more likely to have bear problems in campgrounds than anywhere else. The wilderness, and rural areas, and stealth sites are pretty safe.
    I agree with that. Habituated bears in campgrounds are the worst.

    Quote Originally Posted by MassiveD View Post
    Areas like the Smokies are far more likely to give problems than the West, due to density of bears and campers.
    I don't know about the Smokies being worse than out west. Yosemite and Sequoia seemed worse to me.

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    Bear sign

    Quote Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
    I carried a bear bell on my bike strapped to the top tube .
    You can tell the type of bear by their scat. Black bears may have blackberries, blueberries etc. Grizzlies will have bells.

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    HomeBrew Master! Gus Riley's Avatar
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    During my ride toward Yellowstone from Grand Tetons NP I had a bit of a close call with a Grizzly. He was on the road and so was I. I had a little comfort knowing that this might work... luckily I did not have to test it. Bear Spray I bought when I got to Pueblo. (TransAm 2012, E-W)
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    Last edited by Gus Riley; 11-12-12 at 12:40 PM.
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    HomeBrew Master! Gus Riley's Avatar
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    When setting up my tent, I don't think I was thinking that day! ...and this was hours after my near miss with a grizzly! Dumb! (My TransAm 2012, E-W)
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    Fraser Valley Dave
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    I would caution those that use bells trying to announce their presence. I have used them while backpacking in the mountains and still have surprised bears with my sudden appearance. If you are near noisy streams, in windy areas, or dense bush, bell tingling doesn't carry far, and even if heard, sounds much further away than they are. It is better to be verbally loud by talking or singing in a high volume. I'm serious, but by doing this you also will amuse other tourists when they hear you talking or singing in a loud voice to yourself.

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    http://www.mvermeulen.com/dalton/big/overview_04.jpg - photo taken on bicycle tour down the Dalton Highway.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Airdog320 View Post
    You can tell the type of bear by their scat. Blac bears may have blackberries, blueberries etc. Grizzlies will have bells.
    And grizzly scat smells like bear spray.
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