Monday, January 25, 2016

Camping in Bear Country: What to do and what to avoid.

image from
After our first bear encounter in the Kaibab National Forrest, I spent the whole time of our journey from Death Valley to Yosemite reading articles, blogs and guidelines about bears. Now that I can dub myself an "bear expert" after hours of studying, let me share some useful information I found on the National Park Site and more. (** although I would most probably scream, throw my hands up and run in circle if I ever meet one again.)  

Read more about our Bear Encounter in Kaibab here

What to Do if You See a Bear

Bears naturally avoid humans. If they approach, they probably did not realize you are there.

1. Yell as loudly as possible to scare the bear away.
2. If you are with a group, make notice and stand together (to appear bigger).
3. Always inform a ranger/office about bear encounter.

If the bear noticed you and is already paying attention to you, It looks bad.

Prevent the situation from escalating!

1. Identify yourself as a human: talking calmly in a low tone, remain still and slowly wave your hands. Help the bear know that he is looking at a human, not a prey animal.
2. Know the bears' body language.

  • If a bear stands on its hind legs,
    It is curious, not attacking. Don't run at this crucial moment. It is taking it's time to identify you!
  • If a bear is acting defensively (woofing, yawning, salivating, growling, snapping their jaws, and laying their ears back).
    Continue to talk to the bear in low tones. Don't make sudden movements.
  • Make yourself look bigger
    Pick up small children immediately, stand together, move slowly to a higher ground or put your hands up. 
  • If the bear do not move
    move away slowly backwards or sideways. Do NOT run. 
  • If the bear follow you as you back away slowly
    stop and standstill. Do NOT climb a tree. 

3. If you successfully escaped, leave immediately!

If the bear attacks

Attacks are rare, but it WILL happen.
First, know WHO exactly are you dealing with!

a) Brown/Grizzly Bears (Big size, humped shoulders, white-tipped back hair, long claws, disk-shaped face)
PLAY DEAD. Lay flat on your stomach , hands clasped behind your neck, spread your legs and leave your backpack on for an extra layer of protection.Remain still until the bear leaves the area.
If attack persists, fight back for your life: aim for the eyes.
Use your Bear spray! It will buy you some time as you escape.

b) Black Bears (Smaller, no shoulder hump, short claws, and elongate dog-like face.)
DO NOT PLAY DEAD. They might see you as a chase-free meal.
Try to escape into building or car.
If it is not possible, fight back as hard as you could.
Use your Bear spray! It will buy you some time as you escape.
Bears with CUBS are the most dangerous. They will attack without hesitation if they see you as a threat.
A bear that attacks in tent or stalk you at campsite is also highly dangerous. It means that the bear sees you as a prey.


1. First thing to do when you arrive in a park, is always stop at the visitor center or office to ask about the bear safety information.
2. If possible, walk in a big group and make noises. That make bears stay out of your path.

Photo credits to Matt 
3. If you are walking alone, consider singing, or attach a small tinkling bell to your backpack.
4. Follow trails' marks, signs and instruction. Do not wonder off path into caves and hollow logs.
5. Have a bear container or simply do not bring food and scent items. Those things will attract bears.
Our Bear Container while backpacking Yosemite National Park.
6. Do not feed bears even if you encounter a cute one, they are not teddy bears! If a bear become comfortable around peoplr, they will lose their fear for us and eventually become aggressive sooner or later.
7. Throw food stuff into Bear-proof dumpster.
8. While enjoying your picnic, keep your food, trash, and other scented items within arm’s reach.
9. Always have a Bear Spray with you or anyone in your party. (Some National Parks prohibit it, check online!)

NOTE: This article above is an attempt (ONLY an attempt) to help you escape with minimal injury. However, not all bears are the same. If you meet a bear with atypical behavior, you should try this: PRAY.

Thank You for Reading! 
This post is based on my reading on my way from Nevada to California. 
Main source is from the National Park Service website. 
If you have a different information, feel free to share it with the readers!

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