Planning a Camping Trip? Be Bear Aware

PROMO 660 x 440 Animal - Black Bear - Wikimedia - Public Domain
Published Saturday, August 4, 2018

Media reports of bear interactions with people or around homes have frequently been shared this year.  The Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) websiteprovides valuable resources for those exploring the Colorado outdoors.  Learn how to be "Bear Aware" and enjoy a safe hike, camping trip or unexpected encounter near home.  If you are camping or hiking west of Interstate 25 there's a good chance you are in bear country.  According to the CPW website, "Bears that learn that people have food routinely visit camp sites, picnic areas and resorts in hopes of finding an easy meal.  If you want to avoid problems for yourself and the bears, make sure there's nothing to attract bears to your camp."  Below are Bear Aware safety tips from the Colorado Parks and Wildfire to make your next excursion in the Colorado backcountry a safe one.

Be Bear Aware Camping Tips: Secure Your Trash and Food

  • Never intentionally feed a bear
  • Stash your trash. Use bear-proof trash containers when available. If they're full, double bag trash and lock it in your trunk or RV. Never leave trash outside.
  • Store attractants safely. Store food, beverages and toiletries in bear-proof food lockers. 
  • Keep a clean tent. Don't bring anything with an odor into your tent, including foods, beverages, scented toiletries, gum, toothpaste, sunscreen, candles and insect repellent. Don't sleep in the clothes you cooked a meal in.
  • Lock RVs and vehicles. Close windows and lock your vehicle and RV when you leave your campsite and at night before you go to sleep.

Be Bear Aware Camping Tips: If a Bear Enters Your Campsite

  • Do not turn and run. Yell, wave your arms and try to appear larger.
  • Make it feel unwelcome. If the bear continues to approach, throw rocks or sticks toward it and continue yelling.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. When hiking in the woods, be on the lookout and avoid surprising a bear or other wild animal.
  • Notify authorities if you encounter an aggressive wild animal.  Immediately report any conflicts to the nearest Colorado Parks and Wildlife office.

Be Bear Aware Hiking Tips

  • Do you see tracks?Tracks, bear scat and shredded logs mean you are in bear country.
  • Be alert at all times.Be extra cautious at dawn and dusk, when the wind is in your face, visibility is limited or you are walking by a noisy stream. A firm clap or quick shout warns bears that humans are in the area.
  • Keep dogs leashed.  Exploring dogs can surprise a bear or bring an irritated bear back towards you.
  • Never approach bears or offer food.  If your presence causes the bear to look up or change its behavior in any way, you are too close.

Be Bear Aware and Bear Encounters

  • If you surprised a bear on a trail:
    • Stand still, stay calm and let the bear identify you and leave.
    • Never run or climb a tree.
    • If you see cubs, their mother is usually close by. Leave the area immediately.
  • If the bear doesn't leave:
    • A bear standing up is just trying to identify what you are by getting a better look and smell.
    • Wave your arms slowly overhead and talk calmly. If the bear huffs, pops it jaws or stomps a paw, it wants you to give it space.
    • Step off the trail to the downhills side, keep looking at the bear and slowly back away until the bear is out of sight.
  • If the bear approaches:
    • Stand your ground. Yell or throw small rocks in the direction of the bear. A bear approaching a person could be food-conditioned looking for a handout or, very rarely an aggressive bear.
    • Get out your bear spray and use it when the bear is about 40 feet away.
    • If you are attached, do not play dead. Fight back with anything available. People have successfully defended themselves with pen knives, trekking poles and even their bare hands.

Information in this blog came from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.

Safety Resources

White River National Forest Order with Bear Safety Requirements