Seeley Swan to Welcome

Communities | Recreation | Real Estate | Events | Lodging | Local History | Churches | Businesses | News & Features


Staying Safe in Bear Country




August 5, 1999
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana


Jay Gore, National Grizzly Bear Habitat Coordinator for the U.S.D.A. Forest Service says that many problems which occur with bears can be prevented. Gore says, "If you live, camp or recreate in bear country, there are common sense precautions that you can take to avoid problems with bears." The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, with the assistance of the Center for Wildlife Information, has prepared a list of suggestions to help people stay safe in bear country.

Following suggested precautions while in bear country will not only help to keep you and your family safe, but will also help protect the future of the bear. You can help to keep bears from becoming "problem bears" that must be relocated or killed.

Homeowners should remember that bears have an extremely good sense of smell and may investigate anything that smells like food. Bears also have good memories and once "rewarded" with food, a bear will seek out similar opportunities and return with regularity to a site where it once got a free meal. The best approach to avoiding problems with bears is to "bear-proof" your property by storing food, garbage, and other attractants away from bears.

Living in Bear County:

Garbage Care Tips:

To decrease odors, store garbage in tightly tied or heavy duty bags.

Store garbage in "bear-resistant" dumpsters or garbage cans.

If a bear-resistant container is not available, store garbage inside until it can be taken to a refuse site.

Tips for Care of Other Bear Attractants:

Bird feeders - Only place as much bird feed in the feeder as birds can consume in a few hours. There will be less spillage on the ground and less waste.

Dog food - Feed dogs inside if possible. Of not, feed only the amount that your dog can consume at one time.

Horse grain and cubes - Store all grain and cubes in bear-resistant containers, sheds or structures. When feeding, feed only the amount that your horse can consume at one time.

BBQs - Keep clean and in a garage or shed when not in use.

Orchards - Clean up fallen fruit immediately, don't allow fruit to rot on the ground.

Compost Piles - Composting of anything other than grass or leaves is not recommended.

Gardens - Avoid growing aromatic vegetables, fruits or herbs, use electric fencing.

Traveling Safely in Bear Country:

Inquire about recent bear activity in the area.

Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.

Travel in a group and only during daylight hours.

Carry bear pepper spray in an easily accessible place such as on belt.

Make your presence known. Call out, clap your hands or talk or sing loudly.

Stay on trails to reduce the chance of surprise encounters.

Be aware of your surroundings. Look for bear-activity signs: tracks, scat, diggings, torn-up logs, and turned-over rocks.

Keep children close to you and within your sight at all times.

Carry a bandanna, shirt or hat to drop to distract an approaching bear. Do not drop your backpack! Leave it on for added protection.

Taking pets on hiking trails is not advised.

Backcountry Camping in bear Country:

Set up cooking, eating and supply area at least 100 yards from your sleeping area.

Store food and odorous items in bear-resistant containers or hang at least ten feet above the ground and four feet from top and side supports. Plan your meals so there are no leftovers. Wash your hands thoroughly after cooking, eating, or handling fish or game.

Pack out garbage - never bury it! While in the backcountry, store garbage the same as food.

Keep tents and sleeping bags completely free of food, drinks and snacks at all times.

Store personal items such as deodorant, toothpaste, make-up, soap, and lotions with food and garbage when not in use.

Don't camp near bears' natural food sources such as berry patches or spawning streams.

Keep a can of bear pepper spray and a flashlight accessible in tent. Also keep a can of bear spray in cooking area.

Bear Encounters:

Black Bears:

Stay calm and give the bear plenty of room. Avoid making eye contact. Try to slowly back away. If the bear follows, stop. Never run away!

Try to scare the bear away by shouting, making noise, or throwing stones.

If the bear approaches, spray a brief shot of bear pepper spray when the bear is about 50 feet away. Spray slightly downward and adjust for cross wind.

Spray again if the bear continues to approach, aiming directly into the bear's face.

Once the animal has retreated or is busy cleaning itself, leave the area as quickly as possible (don't run) or go to an immediate area of safety, such as a car or building. Do not chase or pursue the animal.

If you do not have bear pepper spray, or the bear is not deterred, fight back!

Grizzly Bears:

Stay calm and give the bear plenty of room. Avoid making eye contact. Try to slowly back away. if the bear follows, stop. Never run away!

If the bear approaches, spray a brief shot of bear pepper spray when the bear is about 50 feet away. Spray slightly downward and adjust for cross wind.

Spray again if the bear continues to approach, aiming directly into the bear's face.

Once the animal has retreated or is busy cleaning itself, leave the area as quickly as possible (don't run) or go to an immediate area of safety, such as a car, tree or building. Do not chase or pursue the animal.

If you do not have bear pepper spray, or the bear is not deterred, drop to the ground and lay on you stomach. Clasp your hands behind your head. Leave your backpack on for added protection. Do not move or make noise until you're sure the bear has left the area.

Return to August,1999 News Contents Page
Return to News Index Page