How To Avoid Bears While Backpacking

how to avoid bears while backpacking

How to avoid bears while backpacking? Be aware. Keep your eyes peeled for bears at all times while on the trail. Keep an eye out for fresh footprints, droppings, other indicators (tearing up logs, digging, new claw marks on trees), and carrion in the region. Check with each park to see what sort of bears may be seen there and if any closures exist due to bear management. Stay away from these areas!

Although most bears try to avoid people while they are traipsing around their yard, you are leaving the door open for a bear encounter every time you go on an excursion into bear country. Bears are naturally wary of humans, but as the lines between people and bears become less distinct, bears become bold in our presence. 

This is especially true in areas where they are used to seeing us, such as hiking trails. Aside from always carrying your bear spray, there are a few more precautions you can take when going on hikes in bear territory. Follow these suggestions to lower the likelihood of a bear encounter:

Know Your Bear Country

Keep an eye out for excellent bear habitat. Bears like a habitat that allows them to feed, rest, and sleep comfortably—thick brush and massive trees, for example. Also pay attention to features that could easily conceal a bear, such as tall bushes, gorges, and boulder fields.

Keep an eye out for feeding or sleeping bears while hiking. Bears will be looking for food during the late summer and fall, which might make them harder to detect. Keep an eye out for large expanses of flowering plants or plants with fruit on them, such as berries. When exploring near water sources where bears may be feeding or quenching their thirst, be cautious. Tall vegetation can conceal bear activity in a variety of ways.

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Hike In A Group

Hiking in a group reduces the risk of surprising a bear and the danger of being attacked by one. A group of three or more hikers is more likely to prevent an encounter, and bears will be able to see, hear, and smell you better. Hiking in a group raises the chances that at least one person will be aware and notice a bear before it becomes unexpected.

Ignore The Conventional Wisdom

Only a fraction of it is based on solid research. When I was a novice 20 years ago in bear conservation, I assumed all of these [experienced] individuals had a good understanding of the subject. I began hearing things like “do not stare a bear in the eye.” They used to say you were supposed to wave your arms above your head.

brown and black short coated puppy
how to avoid bears while backpacking

In 2009, I was working in a corporate job and saw my first black bear while hiking with friends. It felt like destiny—after all those years of being afraid of bears, one has to see the enormous animal up close. We had grand plans for our trip: camping in an RV, loading it with food and beverages, going on hikes around the island—and then this beast appeared out of nowhere on Mt. McKinley! So that is what I did [see below].

Keep It Simple

Predators do not go through a list of potential replies, and you should not either. A beer will not ask itself, “Gee, do I attack or flee?” It just does it. My minimalist belief is that you should never enter bear territory unprepared. I mean all bear country, density is damned. You can not outrun them; you can not outthink them, and you can not outperform them. You will need some method to communicate with the bear and tell him that he is gone far enough.

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Make Noise While Hiking

Before you have the opportunity to surprise it, making noise on the trail might alert a bear to your presence. Talk with your companions and shout “hello” or “whoop! whoop!” every now and again to let any bears know you are coming. When approaching loud natural features like rivers, streams, or windy days, make a greater amount of noise. Make a lot of noise when you approach elements that make it difficult for a bear to see you (for example, a ridge in the trail or a blind turn).

Bear bells are a popular add-on to people’s backpacks, but they do not guarantee that you will be heard when you are in the area. The bells may not be heard until you are dangerously close. Shouting, clapping, and talking are more effective methods of informing a bear of your presence.

Never Surprise A Bear

If you detect a bear before it detects you, proceed cautiously and calmly away from the area, watching for the animal.

Be Vigilant Everywhere

The only predictor of bear attacks in Alaska, according to a study we wrote with Stephen Herrero, was bear density—not as you might think. The fewer the bears, the more likely the problem is. We have a saying: “Bears are where they look for you.”

Watch Out For Sows (Adult Mother Bears) With Cubs

If you encounter a cub or a pair of cubs, leave the area. Even if you do not see the sow immediately, she might be near and eager to defend her children. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO APPROACH CUBS. Never try to get in between a sow and her cubs. If you find yourself in this scenario, walk away from the bears slowly but confidently, keeping your distance and watching the mother.

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Easy Bear Safety For Hikers And Campers

1. If at all possible, walk in a group. A group makes more noise than a single hiker, making it easier for any bears in the area to hear you.

2. Never allow your little children to go ahead or stray.

3. To protect yourself from startling a bear, make a lot of noise by shouting, clapping, and singing. If he thinks a circus is on its way up the hill at any moment, chances are he will not stay on the trail. Bear bells may not be enough to alert a bear to your presence; as a result, do not rely on them.

4. Stay on the route. It may take some of the adventures out of your journey, but staying on the trail will reduce the risk of encountering a bear.

5. Avoid feasting on bear food. If you detect a dead odor, avoid the area. You do not want to walk on a bear’s dinner spot.

6. Always be aware of your surroundings. Headwinds, a turn in the trail, or thick vegetation all increase the risk of surprising a bear. Make sure to use caution and make lots of noise before approaching regions where bears may not hear you coming.

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