How to Repel Bears While Camping
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According to the National Parks Service, there are an estimated 300,000 black bears in North America.
And while most black bear encounters don’t involve any contact with humans, it’s still important to take steps to avoid attracting bears while you’re camping.
Here are tips on how to do just that.
1. Keep Your Campsite Clean and Free of Food Scraps
Bears have a keen sense of smell, so they’ll be drawn to any scraps of food you leave lying around. To avoid attracting them, make sure to properly dispose of all food waste and keep your campsite clean.
2. Store Your Food Properly
Even if you’re cleaning up after every meal, bears can still smell your food if it’s not stored properly. Make sure to keep all food—including any cooking gear or utensils you’ve used—stored in a secure location like a bear-resistant container or suspended from a tree limb at least 10 feet off the ground.
3. Avoid Cooking Near Your Tent
The smells from cooking can attract bears, so it’s best to cook away from your sleeping area. If possible, set up your kitchen area at least 100 yards from your tent.
4. Don’t Sleep in Clothes You’ve Worn While Cooking
If you’re cooking near your tent, there’s a chance that the smells from the food will stick to your clothes. To avoid luring bears directly to your sleeping area, change into clean clothes before turning them in for the night.
5. Make Noise While You’re Hiking
Bears are more likely to approach you if they think they can do so without being detected. To avoid surprising a bear—and putting yourself in danger—make plenty of noise while you’re hiking by singing or clapping your hands periodically.
6. Keep Dogs Leashed at All Times
Dogs can attract bears because they may bark excessively or act aggressively when they catch sight or scent of one nearby—both of which can surprise a bear and lead to an attack. To keep everyone safe, always keep dogs leashed and under control while you’re camping or hiking in bear country.
7. Don’t Let Them Roam Freely Near Campsites at Night
While dogs should be kept on a leash during the day, it’s especially important to make sure they’re contained at night when visibility is low and bears are more active. If possible, crate them or bring them inside your tent so they’re not left unattended outside overnight.
8. Take Extra Precaution When Camping During Peak Times
Bears are most active at dawn and dusk, so take extra care during those times if you’re camping in areas with a high concentration of bears. Be sure to make noise often, keep dogs leashed, and store all food properly.
9. Don’t Run If You Encounter a Bear
Running may trigger a bear’s natural instinct to chase down prey. Instead, stand still until the bear leaves the area. If the bear does approach or attack, fight back by spraying it with pepper spray, hitting it with whatever weapon you have, or even just using your bare fists. Whatever you do, never play dead — that will only encourage the bear to continue its attack.
10. Be Prepared Before Heading into Areas with High Concentrations of Bears
Make sure you know what to do if you encounter a bear before heading into areas where their populations are known to be high. This way, you’ll be better equipped to handle the situation should it arise.
By following these simple tips, you can help avoid attracting bears while camping and increase everyone’s chances of having a safe and enjoyable trip.