Bears in the camp!

Our scout leader was telling us the other night about a kid who got drug away with his tent by a bear. He ended up with a bunch of stitches.

My question is what are we to do with these “tame” bears?

How about a few bags of rat poison?

Guns are not an option for a scout camp.

Is there a bear-proof tent?

How do you defend yourself?

Keep a clean camp
and don’t worry. As long as you keep a clean camp; cook away from your sleeping area, clean fish and dispose of entrails away from camp, be careful not to drop food around camp or in the tent, never eat in your tent and properly store (hang or bear barrel) your food and other scented item you will likely not even see a bear. Black bear encounters are very rare and usually not a threat. Just have fun and don’t worry.

bear fence
I’ve seen on TV where they will use an electric fence around a camp in the acrtic to keep polar bears away - it may help to deter the bears, and also might give more warning time. Not a cheap solution though, nor lightweight as I think that that system used solar charged batteries. You could probably google for bear fence or something like that to find info.

Scouts getting pulled out of tents or sleeping bags happens usually a couple of times a year in Colorado.

I’ve always suspected that it is probably related to kids maybe having candy bars and stuff like that in thier pockets, which may add that scent to the clothes, and wiping food off the hands onto a pair of pants or shirt sleeves. So aside from keeping a clean camp,and not ever bringing any food into a tent, sleeping in a clean set of clothes and washing up before bed may help avoid smelling like a meal to a bear.

There are bear canisters
but the common blue barrels are not bear proof.

I just do not store food anywhere near my camp. The barrel gets put in the bush with a piece of flagging tape out of the way maybe 400 meters away.

Odor proofing is your best defense as well as avoiding campsites that have been habituated by bears.

What the previous camper has done impacts you greatly.

It’s gotta be impossible to keep all the smells away. Are we supposed to sleep in bear barrels?

What about sleeping up high in the trees?

Bears climb much better than
you can.

How many here have seen a bear in the wild?

Its not impossible to avoid odors. Dehydrated food helps. Its in vacuum bags and that in itself contains odors.

Moreover its lighter to carry for those multiweek trips.

Many have given good advice. My addition to emphasize is no food or smelly things in tents. I don’t even take unscented Chapstick in a tent. In Griz country it is even advised to not take clothing in the tent you cooked in. I’ve had black bears come into camp, sniff around and leave. A clean camp thwarted them. A couple of times I had to make some noise to scare them off. One time I had rocks in hand to throw until the noise must have become unbearable and it ran. One time when I was backpacking alone in the BWCA I had a black bear sniff (more like a hog sound) around my tent. I let my hair stand on end for a bit and then make loud clapping sounds with shouts. It ran. There were no smells to make the bear want to tear its way in. Run a clean camp and either hang food the correct way aways from camp (don’t use the obvious tree everyone else does as bears know those as pinatas) or “hide” it a ways from camp in a plastic barrel in bushes (not off a ways from camp on a game or other trail that bears probably use). These are needed to stop mice, raccoons, etc from destroying packs too.

Smelly things include the obvious plus spilled food on clothing, soap, fish smelling hands, washed cook kits, etc.

When you hear any animal in camp make noise (clap hands, holler, bang something together - two scout leaders would work , ha -, sing some disco - my wife sang once to scare a bear that wanted to go the direction we were coming from on a path (long story)) and they will run. Unless its a nosey Canadian Jay.

bears in camp
definitely depends on what kind of bear you’re talking about.

I have a lot of experience with just black bears. The wild ones generally run away with clapping or yelling at it. The humanized ones just aren’t scared of man.

Campgrounds can be bad just because people can be idiots and will dump their food on the ground. Hanging a bear bag in a tree can be a fun activity and is about all you need to do apart from not sleeping with food wrappers.

i’ve heard of people stacking throwing-sized rocks by their bags. and if the bear doesn’t scare easily, start chuckin’, which will help.

What about using a good slingshot to scare them away?

you have to carry around with you

– Last Updated: Jan-07-10 11:48 PM EST –

all the time whatever deterrent you are going to use.

It does no good if you dont have your weapon at hand.

You must practice with it whether it be a slingshot or bear cannot afford to spray yourself or pelt a human.

I have had several bear encounters. All were on the trail walking and in the daytime. Having your group make noise in this case does make sense.

I may have had a sniffing bear next to my tent once. I didnt get up to check. It went away.

Put into perspective the most dangerous thing about a camping trip is the drive. There ARE predatory bears but they are rare.

Even the bear that my husband hit with a car and did not kill ( but it could not walk) did not attack him.(Of course he had to check what he had hit. A 350 lb rug)

I’m a long-distance hiker and I’m up to seeing 27 in the wild so far (just black bears). Been arms-length from a couple (obviously not by choice).

it’s extremely rare to be attacked by a black bear, so consider yourself lucky if you do get to see one.

I’ve run into a handful of ones in New England that weren’t scared of humans. they were mostly apathetic that I was there. don’t look it in the eye, turn your back on it, or run (good luck getting kids not to freak out, though). back away somewhat slowly and you’ll be just fine.

and don’t pitch your tents right below your food bag, which for some reason i’ve seen people do before.

Most bears are after food, and most
can be deterred with noise and arm-waving.

On rare occasions, a black bear has started to regard people as food. Reportedly, such a bear will bore right in on you, not roaring and standing like a grizzly, but with a focus indicating you may become dinner. If you don’t have firearms, violent counterattack may be your best option. Get a club, smack him, scream and roar, or you may be dead.

Thanks for all the great info! I do not live in bear country but want to have an insiders understanding for when we go next summer.

the scout leader was trying to impress a lesson on you.

The first one being: NO FOOD IN TENTS.

The second: Keep a clean campsite.

Scout camps, and scout troops in general are notorious for violating these. Our troop was adamant about this and we never had a problem. They’d wander through and keep going. Camps in norther MN and WI.

I’ve had two go through my campsite at Sawbill. They sniffed a bit and moved on.

Bears in Scout Camps
Most camps will rid themselves of aggressive bears. The Adirondack camps where i have spent summers all have bears during camps season. Any tent raided by a bear had items stored that were not supposed to be in a tent. Illicit candy stashes are the #1 cause of bear damage. But candy flavored toothpaste and mouthwash are also attractive to critters. Squirrels and chipmunks have chewed thru packs and duffels to make off with mint flavored Crest.

Food smells will be all over a patrol cooking site, so no tent is more attractive than another. Keeping a clean cooking area and table are essential and will be taught in every Scout Camp. Keeping clean tents and storing the scented items away from the tents is the troops responsibility and guidelines for this will be taught.

Don’t worry that your boys will be hauled away. I had only one tent entry in 16 years of summer camp. That boy had put a whole bag of Snickers miniatures in a sweaty sock and doused it with cologne and stuck it in his sleeping bag; a trick he said he aquired from his cousin who went to Salvation Army camp. It worked for his cousin because that camp has cabins and had not seen a bear for 50 years. Even then the bear just pulled the sleeping bag from the tent, opened it with his teeth and took the sock, candy and all. The boy made his escape out the other end of the tent when he heard the bear poke his head into the front. Cabin tents on platforms in Scout camps are open around the bottom edges of the canvas and bears can put their heads underneath and boys can slip out similarly.

Enjoy the camp experience, follow the rules, and don’t worry.


It would be a great idea to have a sleeping bag that opens on two ends so if a bear comes in one end a kid could crawl out the other end!

I go to the extreme
of taking everything out of my kayak that has scent as well. I cant imagine waking to the noise of fiberglass shattering was a bear pouches on my kayak to get at toothpaste!Would suck really bad if your on a island somewhere!

I use my dry bags and hang all my food as per and have only a couple run in’s with bears.

Once on Wade Island in Georgian bay. At last light we had noticed a large blackbear on a island across from us about 100m. We were following the GLSKA volunteer fire ban and were sitting around on chairs talking in the dark. By the time we noticed the bear he was about 10 feet from us. I dunno who was startled more. As soon as we stood up and yelled he took off.

I’ve had issues with humanized bears who were not aggressive…but didn’t give a crap I was there either. And thats dangerous. Time for me to leave at that point!

Electric fences?
Yeah, right. I knew an outfitter who used those in Wyoming to corral horses. It didn’t work. We ended up chasing horses. Bears have heavy hair coats. That little shock would mean nothing. Best medicine I found while guiding in bear country was a riot gun stuffed with deer slugs. Who said scouts can’t be around firearms? Where is that written? Seems like respect for firearms and safe handling of weapons are things that should be taught to scouts, first and foremost. The Remington Marine Magnum 12ga is a fine choice for expedition canoeing, and you can even get one into Canada, although not easily.

Anyone ever hang their boat up in a tree?

Bears! Bears! & More BEARS!!!
Over my 55 years plus of backpacking, mountaineering, river running and expedition canoeing I have come in contact with many bears. All of the problem bears I have encountered lived in three places, Yosemite National Park, Mt. Rainier National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. Interesting that all those places are in the National Park System where uneducated people come into contact with wildlife and forget that the wildlife is called “wild” for a reason. Black bears, by nature will beat a fast retreat when confronted by humans unless three situations arise:

l. Continued exposure to humans in their


2. Food Sources left out where bears can

get to them.

3. Sows are with cubs and humans get too close.

Grizzlies are a different story. They are territorial, and by nature, not likely to be impressed by an aggressive human. Problems arise when people:

1. Travel through berry thickets or areas the

grizzlies are feeding in.

2. Humans don’t secure food and keep scents

down that grizzlies are attracted too.

3. Humans surprise the bear by approaching

from downwind without making any sound.

4. Humans sleep on trails or campsites that

the bears regularly travel through

5. Individuals encounter grizzlies just out of

semi hibernation in the spring when they

are grumpy and aggressive.

Polar bears, like grizzlies, do not fear humans and in some cases will at times stalk people as food. In the High Arctic no one goes out on the ice without a large caliber rifle or shotgun.

At an established scout camp the best defense against a black bear problem is limiting smells and sources of food the bears will be interested in. Scouts should be trained to put all candy, goodies, etc in Bear Proof Barrels and the barrels stored away from sleeping areas. Clothing that scouts wear while cooking should be changed out of before bedtime and stored away from sleeping areas. If a “people” bear begins frequenting a camp the Forest Service Ranger for your area should be contacted and it then becomes their problem.

Some communities have resorted to shooting “people” bears with bean bag rounds which don’t hurt the bear, but definitely give it the message it isn’t wanted in the area.

I am sure if you contacted the Rangers at Yosemite, Glacier, Yellowstone, Mt Rainier or any other of the western national parks they could provide you with a list of things to do to limit your bear problems.

The number of incidents in Yosemite have dropped dramatically since they instituted their bearproofing program about 18 years back.

Take Care!