Bear Country Camping

Discussion in 'Trip Planning' started by Blaise W, Sep 28, 2012.

  1. Merlin III

    Merlin III Mean SOB

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    Bear protection may necessitate purchasing another Wolfman bag for the Bear Bangers, Bear Spray, air horn, Ruger Redhawk 44 Mag revolver, rope to hang food and cloths 200 feet away from camp, and for this http://www.udap.com/bearshock.htm
    :lol3

    Hell, it is easier and your are guaranteed a good nights sleep if you get a motel when in real bear country. :clap
    #21
  2. STUFF2C

    STUFF2C We Ain't Left Yet!!

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    Pull the trigger on the "bair horn" the guy at the sporting goods store sold you, while your in your tent.

    You'll sleep perfect, cuz you won't hear chit for hours. DAMHIK
    #22
  3. Hominid

    Hominid Been here awhile

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    I've spent more than a few sleepless nights fixating on every little noise when I may as well have been unconscious.

    Short of resorting to a hotel room while in bear country, following the advice on cooking and keeping a clean camp is a good start.

    A friend of mine refers to the Glock 10mm I carry as a "sleep aid".
    In practice, if a bear rips into my tent in the middle of the night my chances of getting off an effective shot are probably slim.

    As for bear spray, yes, the experts say it's a better deterrent, but not very feasable to use while inside the tent while a bear is swatting at you from outside.

    The key to peaceful sleep for me, I think, is to convince myself that I've done everything I can to minimize a bear's interest:

    Follow guidelines for food and 'smelly' stuff.
    Take the glock and bear spray 'sleep aids' to bed with me.
    The 'sleep aids' may not help, but they do provide some peace of mind, real or imagined.
    The glock is kept inside the sleeping bag along with a flashlight within emergency reach.

    After that I put the earplugs in to keep me from fixating on every little noise and hope for the best.
    If it's my day, well, it's my day.
    In general, I think I'm probably safer sleeping in bear country than walking through certain urban areas.

    A post dinner beverage or two and/or a little self medication doesn't hurt either :1drink

    Having said that, I did recently spend one sleepless night at a CG in Oregon worrying about bears:shog
    As it turned out I had nothing to be concerned about.

    A lot of good suggestions in this thread - take them to heart.

    One note of caution - if you're going to carry heat make sure you understand the rules for each and every state you will be travelling through; and follow them. For example, are there restrictions on mag size? Weapons charges are a big deal and completely avoidable if you know the regs. I'm good in WA for concealed, but my cpl does not transfer over to many states. I can't carry in Cali like I can in WA.
    #23
  4. sagedrifter

    sagedrifter Southern Explorer

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    I think non-lethal devices are better to have for two legged scum. Practice clean camping in bear country, that is usually enough. One time in all my years of back woods camping did a bear bother my tent. It was an adult black bear, I yelled at it, it pushed its nose on the tent, I pulled the hammer back on my sleep aid and took aim. The bear promptly left.

    I guess the fellow knew what was coming next. If your going to use a firearm, choose one that will actually stop a bear, big or small. The Alaskan by Rugger is one in say at least .44 mag, better yet a .454 or a .480 cal. Or a 5 1/2" S&W .460, that has enough weight to tame such a hot round. Practice often.

    I've found being ready and properly armed is enough usually. Never needed to pull the trigger yet. Its hard on the ears when you do. :rofl

    Try not to tempt them in the first place. Thats a challenge when your smelling ripe though. :lol3
    #24
  5. Hominid

    Hominid Been here awhile

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    Agree with everything here except maybe the philosophy on two legged scum :lol3

    What works on a black bear might feel like a bee sting to a griz or brownie.
    Good to know the population you're dealing with.

    In the end, do everything you can to prepare, be smart about it - then feel good about it.
    After that, you roll the dice - that's the reality.

    Might as well sleep soundly - when it's time to wake up, you will! :rofl
    #25
  6. charlesdarwin

    charlesdarwin Adventurer

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    Interesting discussion. I see alot of the same in the hiker community. I just finished a thru-hike of the Appalacian Trail. In five and a half months I probably slept in a tent in black bear country a hundred nights. Saw a few bears, one pretty close and curious. Slept with my food the whole time. One thing, bears are smart and will go where the food is. You are more likely to get harassed by bears if you camp where people are, in other words, in established camp grounds.
    #26
  7. YOUNZ

    YOUNZ Been here awhile

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    Why not just install a string (fishing line) a few inches off the ground around the perimeter of your site as a trip line, connected to noise maker........pots and pans or whatever? Claymore mines, etc.:evil Sleep tight!
    #27
  8. Advntr

    Advntr Dilbert

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    Cliff note version: Some bears are not afraid of humans.

    I have had an up close personal experience with an aggressive black bear in the dark of the night up in the mountains somewhere. When we illuminated the bear it was scary to see it unafraid and coming towards us rather than running away - so we made it go away.

    A neighbor had recently taken care of one as it tried to enter the house thru a locked screen door. That bear is now a rug.

    The most interesting part of this experience is the armchair experts who all tell me that black bears don't get aggressive and it never happened. Those same experts tell me there are no bears in my backyard here in the western NY flat-lands yet I have bear scat and sightings. Just like trying to "report" the aggressive bear "incident" to the "experts"-they would rather accuse you of lying rather than look at the facts of the situation with an open mind and be glad no one got mauled.
    #28
  9. Merlin III

    Merlin III Mean SOB

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    Spot on! I agree, game officials have conflicting motivations in cases like this. There are wolves in Northern Maine. The State and Fed deny this. About ten years ago, a hunter and guide shot a coyote. After viewing it up close, they had their doubts. They took it to the State lab and had it tested. It was a wolf. The Fed fined them 10,000 dollars and to this day still denies that there are wolves in Maine. The same applies to Mountain Lions.
    #29
  10. kellymac530

    kellymac530 motorcycle addict

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    Lots of good advice on keeping a clean camp.
    I have been an avid hiker, camper, ds adventurer and spent MANY nights in bear country out in a solo camp and in camp grounds.
    I have had a couple of bear encounters but no serious issues.
    1 event was when we were young and dumb camping in the Sierra Nat forest west slope and we had all been drinking and having a great time. We hit the sack and after a bit we all heard some rustling, my buddy jumps up, pulls his .44 Mag and jumps out of his tent to see Yogi sitting at the camp table eating the Oreos we stupidly left out. My buddy was 10' away and the bear turns just as surprised to see him with DUHHH RUT ROH look on his face and white stuffing all over his face.

    My pal was all set to shoot him but just said "ahh we caused it and he is not hurting anyone. We backed away a safe distance and gave hime some room, made some noise and he went away. We cleaned up, moved everything to a safer spot and went back to bed....a bit wary, but ended up sleeping some.

    The 2nd was a bit closer and scaryer. We were in the Los Padres NF behind Gorman OHV park in the Grapevine area of So Cal. We had a group of about 10 that did the 7 mile loop up and around the top of the mountain and were coming down. Me and a buddy were riding sweep, it was SOOO beautiful that day so we killed the MX bikes motors and were just quietly coasting down the fire road at about 30 mph with no noise but the buzz of the chain thru the guides.

    We round a corner with my buddy in front about 60' of me and a smallish black bear runs right accros the road in front of him. It was like he hid as the powered group went by and thought it was clear then just went accross the road....scared the snot out of my buddy...until he looked back and saw BIG Mamma bear run right between him and I....she did not seem happy to be separated from her cub by us....I was locked on my knobbys and cutting left...kickking the bike over as fast as I could...revving out the motor as soon as it fired and we HIGH TAILED it outta there and caught up to our group...safety in numbers I guess.

    The scariest time I had turned NOT to be a bear although I was SURE it was at the time. We were in Kennedy meadows in the Fish Creek camground overflow area. I had a truck back cab over camper on my truck but I let a friend, his wife and young daughter sleep in it since they needed more than I. Slept completely out doors near the lulling fire right on the ground in my sleeping bag. It was beautiful out under the stars.

    After a bit I heard what sounded like a big bear crunching something near me..I rustled around noisily finding my flashlight and flipped it on only to see NOTHING. I looked all over and nothing, no sign. Back to bed..within a minute or 2, same noise...bear crunching....again after a bit of rustling out of my bag...nothing...what? That bear is FAST.
    It will not get me again...I with my bag unzipped and my flash light pointing RIGHT where I hear the noise and my thumb on the switch....2 minutes later...CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH...flip on the light only to see a small field mouse or chipmunk something about 2 feet from my head munching on a couple of Dorito chips a kid had left near the fire...the terror look on that poor little guys face as I lit him up and my surprise that it was not a bear, not even a racoon, but a 3" tall rodent...I laughed my butt off, cleaned up a bit and went to sleep...soundly.

    CLEAN camp is the point of 2 of my stories, a bit of noise is the point of my other story.

    You have WAAAAYYY more chance of hitting a deer, an Elk, a Moose....or a stupid car pulling out in front of you or a dumb texter crossing into your lane on your bike than ANY chance of a bear...

    If you look at those stats on Wiki there that were posted, of 38 attacks in the lower 48, 16 of them were from captive bears and idiot owners or caretakers. Only 22 fatalities in 110 years from wild bears and many of those were in cabins or outside of cabins walking dogs and things like that. Not too many were people in tents...a few, but only a few over 110 years.

    Pretty good odds. MILLIONS of Nat Park and NF visitors every year in major bear country and still only a few deaths. Ride smart, camp smart and clean and sleep well. Get some bear spray if you think that will calm your fears some, but remember firing that off inside a tent that a bear is rustling around will likely ruin your night ALOT more than the bears...:puke1:rofl
    #30
  11. Merlin III

    Merlin III Mean SOB

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    Kelly, you are 100 percent correct, but one thing to note is that those are fatal attacks, not just attacks. Note when they took place. A quick glance at the stats indicate that they mostly happened in the last 20-30 years. Bears are naturally shy, but over the last 25 years the number of people entering their domain has greatly increased. Also, they are now starting to come back to areas where they haven't lived for over 100 years.
    #31
  12. kellymac530

    kellymac530 motorcycle addict

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    Merlin, I understood that they were deaths, not just attacks. I was going off of the wiki link that was posted. The lower 48 states is what I was refering to. and using this chart from that site page:

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    Locations of fatal bear attacks in the United States
    [​IMG] <SMALL>Gold: Wild Brown Bears
    [​IMG] Black:Wild Black Bears
    [​IMG] Blue: Captive bears (all species, includes Polar Bear)</SMALL>
    <SMALL></SMALL>
    <SMALL></SMALL>
    <SMALL>I hope that comes out right when this posts. That is at the bottom of the wiki page.</SMALL>
    <SMALL>If you look at that page there is a break down from 1900-2012 for all of North America. There were only 38 deaths in the lower 48 according to that page anyway...I do not know for sure though. The point still was that MANY of them were captive bears so that lowers the total wild attacks quite a bit.</SMALL>
    <SMALL></SMALL>
    <SMALL>The thinking for me is that out of MILLIONS of campers every week in all of the USA and only a few attacks per year and only a few deaths per decade the odds are MUCH higher for a riding injury than a bear injury.</SMALL>
    <SMALL></SMALL>
    <SMALL>For me, and I can ONLY speak for me-others of course need to make their OWN informed choice, I refuse to live my life afraid of what "might" happen and miss out on what WILL happen if I just try.</SMALL>
    <SMALL></SMALL>
    <SMALL>We surf here in sunny so cal and there is always a risk of shark attack. My absolutely gorgeous 18 yr old daughter surfs every week at least once. Do I fear that an attack is a possibility? YEP. But I know she loves it and the odds are very low.</SMALL>
    <SMALL>Monday I went snorkeling in La Jolla SD Ca and was out about 1/2 mile swimming with a few Sea Lions on the kelp bed edges, a known Great White hang out....I love it though and feel refreshed out in my ocean, alive.</SMALL>
    <SMALL></SMALL>
    <SMALL>BE CAREFUL, be informed, be SMART....but LIVE life.</SMALL>
    #32
  13. kellymac530

    kellymac530 motorcycle addict

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    #33
  14. cmohr

    cmohr Perma-n00b

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    Been living in S.E. Idaho for 35 yrs, backpacking in Yellowstone for over 40. Have had several bears in my camp and met while fishing. No "close encounters" yet..... Some additional suggestions are:

    - Do not camp near trails, streams, or lakeshores - bears use trails (especially at night) and patrol waterways for chow.
    - Where permitted, camping away from popular campsites is a good idea.
    - Do not approach winterkill or other carcasses - bears gnaw on winterkill for weeks and often sleep nearby to protect their (somewhat rank) dinner. If you see coyotes or ravens/eagles on the ground, stay away from that area (yes, eagles will scavange)
    - Make noise while hiking, especially where visibility is limited (or autumn berries are present). This is sometimes overdone to a comical degree.

    Pilot/guides on bear-viewing tours in Katmai carry railroad flares instead of weapons or pepper spray. Of course, forest fires may be worse than bears.

    To the best of my knowlege, Rocky Mtn bears (especially in the Yellowstone area) don't associate people with food and generally avoid humans, unlike the Sierra black bears.
    #34
  15. aquadog

    aquadog Dude Buddha

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    Be aware that wolves and coyotes have been breeding in the east (Canadian maritime provinces have reported cases), which gives you a bigger aggressive coyote/wolf cross. Wolves are not necessarily all that aggressive by themselves (and not nearly as big as myth has it), but coyotes are pretty opportunistic. Glad to see this thread focused on the reality of bear encounters, not deteriorating into "which gun".

    It's important to remember that animals have individual differences, so there can be exceptions to the general rule - yes, most black bears will run, but not all. Most grizzlies will ignore you, but not all. I've had a grizzly walk through camp (10' from me) and it was apparent that he was making a point. Never turned his head to look at me (I was pointedly being ignored), but I moved camp, it was apparent that he considered that spot his. They do have personalities. Hopefully you don't meet the Freddy Krueger bear!

    Another point, it's all about cost/benefit and risk/reward for animals, they have a tough life as it is. That's why studies have shown a disinclination to attack a group of people - too risky. Therefore the recommendation to be in groups or hold something over your head or otherwise make yourself look bigger and riskier to attack. Make it difficult or appear risky and you decrease the odds of problems. The bear will look for an easier opportunity.

    Teenage bears that are "trying it on" are a bit of a problem. They don't know the rules yet, are used to being in a powerful grouping (Mom & maybe another cub) and having their way...they'll test you and are one of the few exceptions where you may want to be aggressive yourself. Look for the "big head" (some mistake this for a big bear) as the body hasn't grown to match the head yet. Expect some goofiness. A bear with a small looking head is often a big guy and confident in what he/she is doing.
    #35
  16. Big Bamboo

    Big Bamboo Aircooled & Sunbaked

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  17. Ghostyman

    Ghostyman Been here awhile

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    I've had about half a dozen encounters with black bears around the Lake Shasta area. Most of those were bears trying to enter my campsite but one was a bear boarding my houseboat.

    The rule I've always used is that you can do just about anything to discourage the bear until it gets your food. Then you leave it alone.

    So I've stood about 20' from a black bear, throwing rocks and pine cones at it while waving my stick and yelling... felt like one of the more dangerous things I've done but the bear left each time. Happened at night one time, we scared it away and it went over to a nearby campsite where the family tried to be quiet and ignore it. We heard screaming when it started pawing around the tent and ran over to help. Those folks packed up and boated out that night.

    This is just my experience with California black bears. I have heard that it doesn't apply to brown bears but haven't had the pleasure of encountering one yet.
    #37
  18. nordicbiker

    nordicbiker Been here awhile

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    This is really good reading! I am currently planning a three-month trip trough Canada right now (actually checked out flight connections before coming in here) and it seems like there are some easy measures to keep bears away.

    I can only hope that those of you, who carry a firearm on a public campground and start shooting around in the middle of the night once somebody falls over your tent lines, doesn't hit another fellow camper! Bear spray seems to be the much better choice and will be the first thing on my shopping list, after arrival!
    #38
  19. aquadog

    aquadog Dude Buddha

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    Bear spray works, will generally be more "accurate" for the average person to use than a gun (unless you go to the range frequently), and will actually be on your person when you need it. It's great stuff. Living in the Yukon bush, I have bears around my place frequently and don't worry about it, they have just walked on by. Bears need a reason to do something, unless they're habituated or have some problem. That typically makes bears in wild areas "safer" than those in popular parks, etc. where they may have a learned behaviour.

    On the other hand, here's what they can do. My GF cabin outside Dawson City got hit a couple weeks ago, we just got back from boarding it up. Note, those 2x4 are snapped off or split lengthwise, not a big deal for a big grizzly. No attractants in the cabin, it might have learned the behaviour somewhere it got lucky.

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    If you're travelling through Canada, don't worry about firearms. We have lots, they're legal, but treated as tools - not around unless there is a defined need. For instance, since the bear that did this damage might have still been around and proven to be aggressive, I did bring a 12 gauge/slugs to hang on the wall while we did repairs, but that's a real exception. Normally, I don't bother with a gun, too heavy and awkward. Handguns are ineffective except in the very large calibres mentioned by someone earlier, which take lots of practice - and then you need to carry around a few extra pounds! Dealing with most bears is common sense. Be reasonable, use the precautions mentioned by several people above, and have fun!

    Oh, and as for climbing trees, I'd be surprised if you can climb a tree (or hang food in one) that a bear can't deal with. Here's a mother with 2 cubs up some willows to eat leaves in the spring. No way I could have climbed that. There may be exceptions, but...

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    She never turned her head as we went right on by, just kept munching. As long as we weren't an apparent threat, it was all good.
    #39
  20. Pecha72

    Pecha72 Long timer

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    "Bear spray works"

    - have you personally sprayed a bear with it, and if yes, what happened then (I do not doubt that statement, but ask, because I haven't)..?

    And even more stupid questions: what exactly does "bear spray" contain, are there different products, and are they widely available in your country, or you need permit to get them?

    My curiosity is because I sometimes go to the woods near my fathers house, very close to the Russian border, and in the past few years bear sightings have become much more common in the area. Bears over here aren't as big as yours, but I still would not want to wrestle with them! I always make some noises, when deep into the woods, and actually never seen a bear in the wild, but they are there, plenty of feces around nowadays, and very close to where people live, so I've thought maybe carrying something (but not a gun) might be good in the long run.
    #40