The outdoors have a powerful healing power — there’s nothing quite like it to reconnect with yourself, stay healthy, and make memories with friends and family. The powerful views and enchanting wildlife call us to the trail day after day. Unfortunately, though, many people choose to stay indoors because of their fear of bear attacks. With these bear safety tips, we hope you’ll feel confident hitting the trail.

Bears are curious, intelligent animals that want nothing more than to be left alone. Thousands of people see wild bears every year without incident and knowledge is key to these successful encounters. Bear safety isn’t to be taken lightly, but it’s a lot easier than you might think. Knowledge and preparation will keep you safe on the trail.

Make Noise

Avoid startling a bear. Bears are more likely to attack if they don’t know you’re in the area and become startled by your presence. It’s important to make noise as you hike by talking, clapping, or singing. You can also carry a noise-making device like a bear bell, but your voice is actually one of the most effective tools available.

A bear will usually get out of your way if it knows you’re there; most of them are quite timid and will do anything to avoid crossing your path.

Hike in Groups

There’s always safety in numbers on the trail. Not only is it a lot easier to make noise in groups, a group is more intimidating to a bear.

Bring Bear Spray

Bear spray gives us peace of mind when we’re on the trail. It’s lightweight, relatively inexpensive, and, most importantly, effective. We always carry it in our outside pocket where we can quickly reach it.

However, bear spray should only be used as a final defense against an attacking bear. A charging bear should be successfully discouraged if you’re able to use the spray from 10-15 feet away. It’s been shown to be more effective than a gun in defending against a bear attack.

Keep Your Distance

Never, ever approach a bear. Bears are wild animals, no matter how “tame” it may seem. Some bears are used to human presence, especially if they frequent campsites or other heavily populated areas which can make them especially dangerous. Food-conditioned bears — ones that have previously been rewarded with food by humans — are more likely to attack. Observe bears from a safe distance using binoculars or cameras.

It’s also very important to not come between a mother bear and her cubs. Respect the family and leave them alone.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Don’t hike absentmindedly. Watch the trail for animal scat, paw prints, carcasses, and claw or teeth marks on logs or trees. These are signs that a bear may be in the area and that you should be wary.

If you see a freshly dead animal, immediately leave the area (but don’t run).

Pack Out Your Food

Always pack out your food and garbage — including biodegradable items such as apple cores, orange peels, and seeds — because it attracts bears. Remember, a fed bear is a dead bear and is more likely to cause issues with humans.

Recommended Gear

Bear Spray

We always carry bear spray on our hikes. The wilderness is full of wild animals and it’s always more important to be over-prepared than under. In BC, bears, cougars, and other large animals call the mountains home. While our bear spray helps us feel secure when we explore, it’s important to remember that there’s a lot more to bear safety than just carrying bear spray.

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Backcountry Bear Basics: The Definitive Guide to Avoiding Unpleasant Encounters (Mountaineers Outdoor Basics)

Jacob and I like to learn everything about, well, everything. Since we spend so much time in the outdoors, we like to know as much about the wildlife as possible, especially the large animals like bears and cougars. Since you’re here, we know you’re interested in learning more about of hiking and camping safely in bear country, too. This is the book for you!

Backcountry Bear Basics lays out practical strategies for steering clear of dangerous situations, debunks common myths and fears about bears, and highlights new research.

There are no myths, rumors, or horror stories in the newest edition of Backcountry Bear Basics. It provides tested strategies to help you avoid conflict with black bears and grizzlies.

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