Bears and Tents in Alaska

Discussion in 'Americas' started by Bigguy136, Jun 24, 2019.

  1. Bigguy136

    Bigguy136 Been here awhile

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    Hi,
    I've done sever 2-4 week trips and remote camp everywhere. I typically stay in Canada but came to Alaska for Prudhoe Bay. I went up and was coming back. I was around 150 miles from Fairbanks and put up camp as I do every night. At 3:00AM, my tent shook back and forth. I thought it was the wind. 30 seconds later, a guy is honking his horn and chasing a black bear off. I see today my tent rain fly has claw tears in it.
    I have a bear box for my food, never prepare food in my camp and keep a clean tent. Any ideas if the bear would've continued if the car didn't chase it off?
    20190624_141130.jpg
    #1
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  2. jonz

    jonz Miles are my mantra Supporter

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    All kinds of stuff that isn't apparent can attract bears. I've heard of bears chewing up camera film. Also, toothpaste. Just the odor of food on your clothing might be enough. Who knows if it would have continued for sure but it's a definite possibility. Carry bear spray.
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  3. Bigguy136

    Bigguy136 Been here awhile

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    I always set up my tent, sleep 8 hours and leave. I would need to use bear spray inside my tent.
    In addition to my bear box, I had some almonds and a few protein bars in a plastic bag. It's my overflow food and also easy food for the bear. That was never touched.
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  4. Bigguy136

    Bigguy136 Been here awhile

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    And thanks for your input. I'm at a campground tonight but need to get my confidence with remote camping again.
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  5. jonz

    jonz Miles are my mantra Supporter

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    The recommendation is to leave the bear can a distance from your tent. Reading your post, it sounds like you're storing it in the tent
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  6. Bigguy136

    Bigguy136 Been here awhile

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    I actually don't have any bear spray. I leave my riding gear on (mosquitos), set up my tent, maybe 30 minutes of maki g notes about the day and sleep. When I wake, put tent away and leave. With that, the only bear encounter can only be when sleeping.
    Is it worth getting bear spray?
    I did have my deodorant and toothpaste in my tent and will leave that out with my food.
    Am I overreacting? Was the bear just curious or did it want something specific inside my tent?
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  7. Bigguy136

    Bigguy136 Been here awhile

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    As I continue to go over every detail, I remember eating dinner in coldfoot earlier that day. My riding clothes were in my tent. They are now also outside. I thought a bag of almonds kept away from my tent would draw the bears to it as a 'just in case' thing.
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  8. wellcraft

    wellcraft Long timer

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    No one really knows what motivates wild animals to do what they do, the bear could have been curious or could have decided you'd make a good meal. Is the bear spray worth it? Well I'd rather have it and not need it, then need it and not have it.
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  9. Strong Bad

    Strong Bad Former World's Foremost Authority Supporter

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    For in the tent I keep bear spray and a little marine emergency air horn. The last thing you want to do is spray bear spray in your tent! Trying scaring the bear off first.

    airhorn.jpeg

    A black bear is in your camp as an oportunist, which is completely different from a black bear surprised or defending cubs on the trail. You should be able to scare the black bear off. Now the big grizzlies are altogether a whole different kettle of fish, they'll eat you!! All of your screaming or horn blasting in the world won't make any difference and you'll have to go to the bear spray.

    Now as far as smells go:

    "Bears are thought to have the best sense of smell of any animal on earth. For example, the average dog's sense of smell is 100 times better than a humans. ... A bear's sense of smell is so acute that they can detect animal carcases upwind and from a distance of 20 miles away."

    Everything about you smells, what you cooked and ate for dinner is all over your clothes. Although you may have cooked and eaten some distance from your sleeping spot, your clothes still stink. Your stinky clothes won't attract a bear from a distance like cooking and eating will, but if a bear happens (for what ever reason) to wonder by your camp, your clothes will be investigated by the bear. You just ain't going to be undetectable/invisible, but you should make every effort to try. Not having anything in the tent not only keeps the bear from investigating, you'll hear the bear investigating (tearing apart/trying to destroy) the stuff you left outside and you may be able to get out of the tent with the spray.
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  10. Bigguy136

    Bigguy136 Been here awhile

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    I'm convinced. I will get some bear spray and a horn tomorrow.
    I kept my riding gear in my tent because it was to add warmth to my sleeping gear on real cold nights. I will keep everything outside now.
    Thanks for all the great info!!
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  11. Strong Bad

    Strong Bad Former World's Foremost Authority Supporter

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    Enjoy the rest of your trip!
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  12. Alcan Rider

    Alcan Rider Frozen Fossil Supporter

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    Many bears, especially young (2-4 years old) are just curious, a lot like puppies. So they will check out something unusual, which for most bears a tent is. With a loud horn, blasted just a few feet from the bruin, you will generally scare the varmint out of your area. Be careful if you are camped right next to your buddy, as the bear might take the most direct route through/over his tent. :uhoh

    One of my neighbors was in the backcountry around here, along with her husband to bring their horses in for the winter. While sleeping in their tent, something brushed the canvas side. Being new to the country at the time, she was a bit alarmed, but he told her "Just an owl hitting it with its wing."
    The next morning they could see the muddy track left by a grizzly where it had made an exploratory swipe to see what this strange object was.
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  13. Fast1

    Fast1 Twisted Throttle

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    From my experience hiking, climbing, backpacking and hunting in the mountains that are inhabited by both Grizzlies and black bears I'd suggest this (especially in or near Yellowstone National Park or Glacier National Park in the lower 48):

    Bears sense of smell is extremely keen.. much better than you can even imagine. Wind can easily carry a scent miles that will provoke their nose.

    Cook all food at least several hundred yards down wind of your planned sleeping area.
    Keep all items several hundred yards down wind of your sleeping area at all times.
    Change into sleeping clothes, that which are not what you cooked/ate in.
    Be sure to set up your tent with clothes that you did not cook food in.
    Only have your tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, headlamp, bear spray and nothing else in your sleeping area or tent.
    Hang everything in a tree 200 yards downwind of where you will sleep. That means everything you have should be suspended from a bear pole or tree branch with rope. Again, hang everything you have no matter what it is or how ridiculous it seems.

    Never , ever set up your sleeping area in spot that someone preceding you may have cooked and ate food in. (there was an evening I failed at this caution in Glacier National Park at Cracker Lake out of Many Glacier due to arriving late to the limited number of tent sites that were all taken by poachers. As a result, I set up my tent with my girlfriend on a bluff overlooking the lake several hundred yards away while the sun was going down. Little did I know, that many day hikers used this vantage point to eat snacks at and sometimes feed the small rodents before hiking back to Many Glacier. The Grizzly that was sniffing my head like a dog 6" away on the other side of the tent fly in the middle of the night is something I don't wish upon anyone. My girlfriend had woke me in the middle of the night telling me a bear was outside the tent. I tried to calm her down and get her to fall asleep thinking that she probably heard some rodents outside moving around until a minute later when that grizzly started sniffing my head. I gave the loudest, most blood curdling yell I could while simultaneously banging all corners of the small tent with my feet and hands in an attempt to stay alive. This was not a planned strategy but rather an out right natural bodily reaction in an attempt to hopefully survive. It did work, however the girlfriend spent the entire night with the head lamp shining out the tent door scared to death looking for eyes. There was no where to retreat or go for safety. When the sun rose in the morning, she went to sleep and I found the grizzly bear tracks in the dirt all around the area and below the bear pole several hundred yards away.

    If you plan on using a side arm for protection, where legal, a 44 mag would be a minimum caliber for grizz. Best to empty the rounds for maximum stopping force and aim for lethal locations. Penetration in the frontal (boneless soft) neck can break the vertebrate minimizing the chance of charge and sever main arteries. Penetration into the vitals requires proper bullet selection and capability to penetrate through bone for stopping force. When they stand to smell is the time to squeeze for the frontal neck. Bear spray might be a better and preferred choice since being confronted by a bear in the dark provokes many to falter with their aim and the target might not be standing still waiting.

    Stay safe out there. I've personally witnessed two individuals, a few days after an unprovoked grizz attach in Glacier.. and it was not a pretty site but they survived albeit with many permanent visual reminders.

    Learn to recognize the difference between a black bear and grizz. Just because a bear has black fur doesn't necessary mean it is not a grizz.
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  14. X-wing fighter

    X-wing fighter Do or Do not, There is no try!!!!!! Supporter

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    Airhorn and bear spray! I have a little can of bearspray I wore on my wrist when I slept and kept the horn near me......don't spray the bearspray while you are IN the tent, that would not be fun!
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  15. tntmo

    tntmo Oops, I did it again.

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    I messed up so many things camping last year, surprisingly had no bear encounters. Just use the information already given here, it doesn’t mean you won’t have an encounter but it should minimize the chance.
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  16. rick.r.calvert

    rick.r.calvert Adventurer

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    Been around bears both black and grizzly(brown). They are basically very curious but lazy animals. Great to be diligent about keeping food locked up and none in tent. Bears have great noses. No matter how diligent you are with keeping tent, sleeping clothes and food separated you will always have some residual smell. Really the only bears that are dangerous are starving bears, startled bears, and bears who have had people food. Personally I don’t believe bear spray is much good. An air horn is far more effective. Remaining calm and talking to the bear doesn’t hurt either. Open up your jacket and hold it up like wings to look bigger is good. Contrary to popular belief a female with cubs is not the most dangerous bear, that’s imprinting human characteristics on bears. A young male is far worse because the mothers chase young males off sooner than female cubs. They tend to be hungrier. They don’t get as much training from the mother. Female cubs may hang with there mother for an extra year or so.

    Personally I don’t carry bear spray, or an air horn and very rarely a gun. I do carry insect repellent. On average there are 1-2 incidents with bears in North America 200-300 people in North America die every year from insects.

    If you would have let out a loud F off. The bear would have been gone, never to be seen again.
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  17. rick.r.calvert

    rick.r.calvert Adventurer

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    Read some of Dr Herrera’s books on bears. I think he has a very good idea what motivates bears to do what they do. He is a very respected bear biologist who I had the opportunity to learn from.
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  18. Alcan Rider

    Alcan Rider Frozen Fossil Supporter

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    :thumbup Herrera's and also some by former guide Andy Russell, who also has had quite a bit of experience with the critters, both serious and humorous.

    Something riders really need to be aware of - far more people are killed by moose than by bears. When I see two or more riders traveling down our rural highways in relatively close formation, I cringe. Until you have witnessed it, you have no concept of how quickly one of those huge, long-legged animals can get from the concealing brush on the side of the road to the lane right ahead of you. And if you're close together, instead of one rider going down there will be two (or more).

    Several years ago a rider was zipping along one of our highways when a moose ran out in front of him, too close to even slow down. All he could do was duck and pray. As a result, he and the bike went under the moose's belly, opening it up. A friend was on the ambulance crew that went out to get him to the hospital. He said the rider was so covered with moose stomach contents that they didn't really want to put him into the ambulance! But at least he lived.
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  19. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

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    Lots of good advice here, but I would also recommend a change in tenting choice.
    In bear country I prefer to pitch the tent at established campgrounds.
    They usually have bear proof storage lockers.
    Any recent activity is usually posted.
    If the worst happens, someone will be around to notify the next of kin.
    Though preferably, you can be the notification provider. :lol3
    Also remember that when with company, you don't have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun the other guy. :deal
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  20. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

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    Bears don't like farts? that's a new thought for me and should be a reason to worry not for me.:lol2
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