As we approach another heavy camping season there are some precautions that we must take when camping and kayaking in areas where bears frequent. I will be going into more backcountry this year and would like to know the rule of thumb when dealing with bears. What do you do when certain behaviours are exhibited?

depends on the type of bear.
BEST rule of thumb is to ask local officials(rangers,ect.) They can tell ya the best way to deal w/ the bears in the area ,also any problem bears that may be around. Have fun.

Mama & cubs
Common sense , try to avoid a bear and her cubs. I ran into this on the Delaware river. What I did was slowly walked away and did not run. She gave a signal and they left the area.


Linda, I did a
’google’ search for “bear attacks” and found a lot of resources for you. The best one was a Government of the Northwest Territories publication called Safety in Bear Country. It gives a lot of tips for both grizzly and black bear. I assume that you are only to be going into black bear country.

If anyone would know about bears, it would be the people of NWT.

Well…I’d ask the “Bear Expert” Timothy Treadwell…hmm…err…that might be difficult since he got eaten. Perhaps just sticking with the common things like making a bunch of noise when you walk, hanging food, and carrying pepper spray should work. :slight_smile: It’s funny because my girlfriend and I do TONS of camping and hiking and while we’ve come across signs of bears, we’ve never actually encountered one. Well, a couple months ago down in Myrtle Beach, my Dad and brother were out playing golf on the golf course my brother is a golf pro at…and they are sitting in their cart on the 4th tee in the wee early morning and out trundles a bear from the woods. Go figure…they skipped the hole (probably put themselves down for birdies too…)…


Choose your campsite wisely
Some advice from my experiences with black bears:

  • Don’t set up camp where there is bear sign: claw marks going up trees, bear scat, shedded food wrappers laying around camp, shredded packs, send more tourists the last ones were delicious!
  • Don’t camp where the previous occupants have been slobs leaving food around. Keep your camp as free of food odor as possible.
  • Choose an island campsite well away from the mainland over a mainland site, but keep in mind bears swim very well. I once intercepted a bear swimming across a half mile of open water in the Quetico. He was headed toward my campsite. I was easily able to paddle faster than he could swim, blocked his advance route, and convinced him to turn back.
  • If a bear comes into camp, have everyone get out of the tents standing up and confront it yelling, banging pots, throwing sticks and rocks. Make sure you leave a large exit route for the bear.
  • If the bear doesn’t scare off or if it returns a short time later, you’ve got a problem. Basically at this point you have 2 choices: If there’s enough daylight consider breaking camp and moving somewhere else. If breaking camp isn’t an option

    start making firewood and plan on a bear watch vigil the rest of the night to keep the bear out of your food. Make sure two of the group are on watch at a time.
  • I noticed last year Park’s Canada had advice in their Quetico Wilderness Guide that should a bear attack, to fight back as hard as you can going after the bears eyes and nose. This is a change from their message in previous years.

it is their space…
some folks tend to forget that. I carry a banger in case they get aggresive. Never had to use it thankfully. We camped at a spot in Riding Mountain National Park last year that was so strict about cleaning up your site and not leaving anything around that would attract the bears that if you did, you were escorted out of the park. I came upon one at the wood pile (about 20 feet away)… I think he was more scared than I was (yeah right)!

I have had many bear encounters…

– Last Updated: Feb-11-04 11:00 AM EST –

having lived in Alaska 24 years...The basics of bear encounters are somewhat different for black bears than they are for grizzles...Learn to identify the difference between the two...probably where you are from there are only black bears...Worst case scenario is comming upon a sow with cubs or a bear on a kill..If you come upon a sow w/cubs best to back up and try and put as much distance between you and the bears..if the sow sees you and is not charging, back up quick and give them room to get away...If you see one or two adult bears on a trail or come out of the woods if they don't see you, let them/it know you are there..I usually say hey bear!!..most of the time the bear will go away by simply walking slowly or sometimes at a run...I have been followed by black bears ( young first time away from mom) that simply are courious about me that case I try and intimidate the bear by yelling and waving my hands to appear larger and more threating..If attacked by a black bear NEVER play dead..YOU MUST FIGHT the bear with all you can muster, black bears only (grizzlies you must PLAY DEAD curl into a ball and protect the back of you head with your hands)..they can be discouraged easly..they are opportunity eaters and if the meal is to much trouble to kill/eat they will look for an easier meal...I love watching bears and only once in 24 years have had a black bear charged me for real...most charges are bluff charges and you should hold your ground yell and wave your hands..Don't fear them..respect them

Have been around black bears quite a bit and the only advice I have is that unless they are cubs, the only interest they have in you is FOOD. So… be very careful with any food items, trash, anything that has an odor which might attract them including toothpaste, flavored lip balm, etc. If you have any items which smell good to eat, they will be coming your way. That much I know for sure.

Grizzly vs Black
Sometimes what you do in response to a bear depends on what species it is. Not always easy to tell; for instance, color is not a definitive point. To find out what type of bear you have encountered, go up to the bear, kick it in the butt, and then climb the nearest tree. Black bears will climb the tree and eat you. Grizzlies, which can’t climb, will knock the tree down and eat you. :slight_smile:

BWCA 2003 black bear experience

– Last Updated: Feb-12-04 9:19 AM EST –

we did get the ranger bear report and no encounters were reported on our destination lake.
we paddled into a BWCA small lake with two close by campsites, set up camp and fished from shore. the same day park rangers stopped in to check our permit and advised us to make sure we hang our food paks/cooler and if a black bear is seen - make loud noises and toss big rocks at it. after breakfast the next day (oatmeal and coffee) while early morning fishing from our campsite shoreline - a cinnamon colored black bear grabbed our army duffle dry food bag next to our tent and ran into the brush. i heard the bear rifling through the bag about 50 yards away and decided to packup and leave immediately, i felt he would back for seconds. i got the canoe and paddles ready to go on the the shore, put on life jackets and began packing up. an hour later one of our party seen the bear again come out next to our tent, we jumped into the canoe and paddled out, waited till it left and quickly finished breaking camp and left a warning note to the next campers. the lesson i learned from our encounter is this: bears are not always black in color and look a lot larger close up, always hang food before fishing and do not get over-confident because you canoe and camp frequently. it was a memorable experience.

Lots of Good Imfo

– Last Updated: Feb-11-04 11:07 AM EST –

But, remember, bears are individuals. The only one that knows what a particular bear is going to do is the bear himself, and THAT response can vary according to the situation and environment. Besides the good imfo already given, I might add BE AWARE when in bear country. Give them a wide berth and they will usually do the same for you. And if one tries to enter your tent at night, black OR grizzly, the intent is typically predacious in nature. Fight back for all your worth. Playing dead in this situation just might get you there! WW

I also always carry bear spray besides doing all the things mentioned previously except for throwing rocks. I would think that could piss the bear off.

In bear country always secure your food, either in a bear proof box (if one is available) or by hanging it in a tree (at least 15’ up and 10’ out from the trunk)

Always stand your ground if the bear charges or moves toward you, try to make yourself look as big as possible (hands in the air, holding your coat, pack etc high in the air)

Never stare directly at the bears eyes (this is a challenge to any bear)

Make lots of noise!

Never run from a bear! (you won’t win a foot race with a bear) (the exception to this rule is if you are with someone who is a real slow runner)just kidding!!!

When you know you will be in bear country, plan ahead and carry either or both a whistle & Bear spray.


Smile and say “Hey,nice fur!”…Small jest. I carry an airhorn ,a small one, inexpensive from walmart. Real LOUD. Keep it with you in your tent or stick it in your pocket. It’s lighter than carrying pots & pans with you everywhere. Also an excellent signalling device. Besides you have to carry a signaling device, by law,in your boat anyway.

I think that if you see a bear you’ve beaten the odds.There not a common sight.

habituated bears
Linda----There is an increasing problem with bears that grow up in areas where they see people a lot. Clacking/smacking mouth behavior is a warning. Lowered/swaying head while keeping eyes on you and/or presenting a shoulder is a warning. Do not try to ‘communicate’ or ‘warn’ by imitating them or barking like a dog. My friends in Montana who make their living studying bears have some funny/scarey stories about interactions like that. Probably best to leave your dogs at home. Habituated bears are less predictable. They may not give any warning because they aren’t afraid of humans.

Besides the suggestions from the other posts, here are a few more ideas. Keep your food sealed in ‘smellproof’ containers, always away from your tent. Don’t put your food or cooksite between you and your escape route. Don’t use any perfumed toiletries. Avoid sites that smell fishy or have signs of fishing/fish cleaning activity. Avoid berry patches. Generally be observant and aware.

Bears are only one of the species that have become habituated. As an animal lover, it is tempting to see how close you can get to wildlife. Unfortunately, many animals see humans as a source for ‘handouts’. People talk about bears, but it is good to know that moose can be protective of territory and young. They swim fast and are very large. Also, we were warned about cougar activity. They are stealth hunters, so you don’t get the warning that you do with a bear.

We wear bear spray in a holster and have a very large knife. We figured this would be more useful in close quarters. So far, the bears have been happy to leave when they hear us coming. We have some cool pictures of bear tracks from a bear that was fishing in the TwoHearted River and left as we came around the bend in the river.

Bear ID
It’s a good idea to wear a little bell when in bear country. The sound will alert the bruin of your presence and you won’t startle or surprise him.

To identify bears by their droppings, look closely at the feces. If the scat contains seeds, nuts and berries, a black bear has been your way.

In grizzly bear terrain, the droppings contain little bells.

Nice post
You’ve said it all.

To sleep well under my tent, I do need my axe. Then I’ll snore soo loudly than no black bear can stand it.

Good Comments
Pamskee, who do you know in Montana that is studying bears?

There is a lot of good info. comming out on this thread. How ever there are several things that need to be clearified.

  1. It has been proven that whistles and bells don’t work. In some cases bells have attracted bears.

  2. Grizzly and Brown Bears can climb trees. The bigger the bear the worse climber it is. But they can do it. I’d bet on a bears climbing ability more than mine any day.

    Also, don’t forget when we have encounters what we are teaching bears. If the first thing you do when a bear is sighted is hop in you canoe and let it have the camp site. You are teaching the bear that when it comes into contact with people they take off and leave food to eat.

    You have to look at each encounter by itself.

    Being aggressive with black bears in an interesteing topic. I’ve yeld, thrown rocks, bean bagged, rubber bulleted, and cracker rounded my share of bears. But you do so with calculeated risk. It works and is most beneifical to both people and bears (bears have a negative association with people) but it can still be a risky activity.

    Bears have there own personalities, and size isn’t always an indicator.

    The only sure advice to to give black bears respect and give the grizz/brown bears a whole lot more.

friends in Montana
Mike and Vickie Madel. My brother and I went to high school with them. Brother stays in touch.

One other comment about Forest Service info:

They say that if a bear threatens, never drop your pack or leave food behind. It teaches the bears to seek out people for their food. OK. I understand that. But if the bear isn’t leaving and wants my food, I’m probably going to throw the pack and head in the other direction.