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Ten Ways to Avoid Bears While Camping

If you are travelling in bear country follow these ten ways to avoid bears:

  1. Keep your cooking areas and sleeping areas separate (100 yards or so is the rule of thumb).
  2. Hang food and items with strong odors (ie, toothpaste, bug repellent, soap, etc.) at least 10 ft above the ground or use airtight, bear-proof containers.
  3. Don’t wear clothing with cooking or food odors to bed.
  4. Be clean –  wash dishes, and people in the cooking area well away from the sleeping area..
  5. Don’t surprise bears while hiking, make some noise! Talk, sing or shout especially when close to rivers or streams whose sound may mask your approach.
  6. Travel on established trails.
  7. Travel in a group of three or more.
  8. Travel during daylight hours, avoid dawn and dusk when bears are most active.
  9. Look for tracks, scat and signs of bear activity.
  10. Be prepared! Study the facts and train your group before you go.

I’ve seen big grizzly bears in the Alaskan wild. I’ve been uncomfortably close to Kodiak bears (grizzly or brown bears) on a mountaintop on the island that gives them their name. They are magnificent, dangerous creatures.

I’ve caught rare glances of black bears in the forests of Pennsylvania but I’ve encountered their tracks and signs much more often.

Just spotting a bear in the wild is uncommon, bear attacks are even rarer and injuries or fatalities from attacks are rarer still. Most bear attacks are usually attributable to human error rather than inherently aggressive bears.

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Center for Wildlife Information

There are two kinds of bears in North America:

Black bears have taller ears, no visible shoulder hump and a straight face profile.

Grizzly bears are typically medium to dark brown but some are nearly black to light blonde, they have a shoulder hump, a ‘dished’ profile (there’s a depression between the eyes and the end of nose), and short, round ears.

avoid bears

Tracks of grizzly and black bears are differentiated by examining the placement of the smallest toe as described above.

Should you encounter a bear:

  • Stay calm, avoid sudden movements.
  • Keep your distance, don’t attempt to get closer to any bear
  • If the bear doesn’t see you get its attention talk in a normal voice, don’t keep quiet.
  • Never feed bears.

As with any risk we encounter while camping knowing the facts and applying preventative measures to mitigate risks is a reliable way to stay safe.


Author Stephen Herrero’s (doctor of animal behavior and ecology) book Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance  has been described as the authoritative work on the topic.