Bear Awareness

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Bear Facts

  • BEARS ARE OMNIVOROUS, meaning they eat animals and plants. Their natural diet is mainly vegetarian and includes leaves, berries, nuts, grasses, roots, insects, fish, carrion and occasionally mammals such as deer. Bears have insatiable appetites and require large quantities of food.
  • BEARS GENERALLY AVOID HUMANS. However, a hungry bear will enter a backyard or campground if lured by the smells from food or trash.
  • BEARS ARE NATURAL SCAVENGERS. They will remember an easy source of food and will keep returning if food is available.
  • Black bears have a flat, "Roman-nosed" profile and no pronounced shoulder hump.
  • Bears' sense of smell and hearing are far superior to humans and their eyesight is at least as good. 
  • BEARS ARE FAST. A bear can run 60 percent faster than the world's fastest sprinter.
  • BEARS ARE STRONG. They have been known to pry open car doors and windshields in search of food.
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Recreating in Bear Country

More and more habitat is being shared by humans and black bears. Follow these steps to help avoid encounters in bear country.

  • KEEP FOOD SECURE   
    • Use bear-proof food containers.   
    • Store food and trash in your locked vehicle.
    • Tie all food out of reach.
    • Never store food in your tent.
  • KEEP A CLEAN CAMP
    • Don’t let trash accumulate.
    • Clean out fire pits after use.
  • COOK AWAY FROM WHERE YOU SLEEP
  • REPORT BEARS that hang around people and campsites or get into garbage.
  • KEEP A CLOSE WATCH ON CHILDREN, and teach them what to do if they encounter a bear.
  • KEEP DOGS ON A LEASH and under control. Dogs agitate bears and can lead them back to you.
  • HIKE IN GROUPS and stay close together.
  • MAKE NOISE (wear bells or other noisemakers or sing) to avoid a surprise encounter.
  • STAY ALERT AND WATCH FOR BEAR SIGNS INCLUDING:
    • Claw marks on trees
    • Tracks
    • Bear droppings
    • Overturned rocks
    • Broken-up rotted logs (can be a sign of bears foraging for insects)

Bear Encounters

Although black bears rarely attack, they are very powerful animals and are capable of injuring or killing humans. These steps may be helpful if you encounter a bear.

  • If you see a bear in the distance, make a wide detour or leave the area.
  • Do not feed or toss food to a bear.
  • Pick up children or put them on your shoulders.
  • Never approach bears – they are dangerous wild animals. If a bear changes its natural behavior because of your presence, you are too close.
  • Give a bear plenty of room to pass, and it usually will.

IF A BEAR APPROACHES YOU:

  • Don’t run.
  • Back away slowly.
  • Face the bear, but don’t look directly into its eyes.
  • Keep it in sight.
  • Make yourself look bigger by waving your arms and yelling.
  • Make lots of noise and stomp your feet.
  • REMEMBER, YOU CAN’T OUTRUN A BLACK BEAR. They are extremely fast on the ground or climbing a tree.
  • WARNING SIGNS OF AN ATTACK INCLUDE: a steady glare; ears laid back; smacking of the jaws and stomping of the front feet. If the bear attacks, fight back with anything available. Act aggressively. Throwing rocks or hitting a bear with large sticks has been effective in some cases.