Safety Tips for Going into Bear Country

Tips & Tricks

by BaseMap Staff
This year, there has been a significant increase in grizzly bear attacks. Encounters have become more prevalent in recent times and serve as a sobering reminder to take caution and be prepared when recreating in bear country.

Know the Regulations Before Entering Bear Territory

Bears are intelligent, curious animals with a tremendous sense of smell. While bears will usually avoid interactions with humans, their fine-tuned noses and growling stomachs may get the best of them if they think there is an easy and tasty meal nearby. The likelihood of a bear/human interaction can dramatically increase if adequate precautions are not taken when traveling in bear country. Many of the most popular hiking, backpacking, hunting and camping locations are on federal lands and have regulations about food and refuse storage. These rules and regulations vary by area with some incurring a hefty fine if not properly followed. Before packing the car or backpack, you will need to know the specific food storage rules for your chosen area. BaseMap’s latest layer – National Land Food Storage Restrictions layer – brings together all this valuable information.

Using the BaseMap App as a Tool

To access this information, open the BaseMap app and click on the Layers tab. Under the “Land” category, select the Federal Land Food Storage Restrictions layer and the app will overlay areas with these restrictions or recommendations. A simple click on the red, highlighted area will bring up the chosen area’s rules for storing food while in camp, in vehicles and even in buildings such as a cabin. This includes what items must be stored, what type of storage container to use, garbage disposal protocols, vehicle storage and even seasonal changes to the regulations. The info displayed also contains links to park websites and the regulations and safety pages.

Follow Guidelines to Stay Safe and Avoid Tickets and Fines

This knowledge is critical to staying within the guidelines. Many campers have returned to their campsites to find a park official writing a costly ticket for not following proper protocol. Properly storing food and disposing of garbage helps keep human/bear interactions to a minimum. Once a bear finds an easy meal due to negligent campers, he may become more aggressive towards the next group he encounters. Other considerations and precautions include cooking at least 100 yards away from your sleeping area. Be sure to change out of the clothing you wore while cooking as well. Bears attracted to more than food and garbage. Pet food, cooking pots and oils, cosmetics, insect repellents, lotion, sunscreen, toothpaste, stove and lantern fuel and even unopened canned beverages can also lure them in.

Know What to do if a Bear Encounter Does Occur

Black bears are known to be less aggressive than grizzly bears and can many times be scared off by waving your arms to make yourself look larger while making noise. If you have bear spray, have it in hand with the safety clip removed. Slowly move away while facing sideways so you can see the bear and avoid tripping. Do not turn and run, as this could trigger its predatory instinct to chase. If the bear charges or gets closer than 30-40 feet, spray short bursts towards the bear’s face. If this does not turn the bear away and it attacks, fight back with anything available, focusing on the muzzle and face. Brown or grizzly bears are much larger, and humans are no match in a fight. Most experts agree that the best response is to lie on your belly to protect internal organs and cover your neck with you hands to protect arteries. Do not fight back. Many times, a grizzly attack is defensive and may back off if you play dead to remove the perceived threat. If the bear continues its attack, it is probably looking to make a meal of you. In this case, fight back with anything you can, once again, concentrating on the muzzle and face. Being prepared with critical knowledge of the best food storage practices and practicing safe travel is one of the best ways to prevent a bear encounter. With the help of the innovative BaseMap app, outdoor adventures can be a safe and enjoyable experience.

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