Gone Outdoors

How to Repel Bears

by Crystal Huskey

The likelihood of encountering a bear is low, but if you camp or live in bear territory, a few precautions will lower that chance even more. Bears are extremely territorial and will attack if they believe their home or family is threatened. Other than that, the primary thing that attracts bears is the scent of food, especially during the winter months when food is scarce. You can prevent most bear encounters by ridding your environment of food and scents.

At Home

Reduce the probability of a bear encounter. Bears have an intensely keen sense of smell. If you live in a bear-populated area, keep food and garbage inside the home.

Purchase a bear-resistant garbage bin. They have a screw-on top and are impossible for a bear to open. They are also too thick for a bear to rip into. The Dawg, Bearicuda and Crittercans are a few examples of bear-proof outdoor trash bins.

Do not leave food or food wrappers outside. Candy-bar wrappers, soda cans and even grill utensils will attract bears. Take anything food-related inside.

Use an indoor compost bin for your vegetables, and freeze leftover meat until trash day. Even your pet's food should be kept indoors.

While Camping

Eat at least 24 feet away from your tent or trailer. Never eat inside your tent, especially in your sleeping bag. Change clothes before you go to bed to prevent the food odors from entering your tent. Lock your old pair of clothes in the trunk of your car.

Place food in a bag and tie it to a branch at least 10 feet above the ground. Many campgrounds, especially those in bear country, have bear poles from which to hang your food. According to Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources, you should never bury your food; utilize the poles and invest in bear-proof canisters instead.

Remove leftover food and trash from your campsite every night. Most campgrounds have dumpsters for that purpose.

Handling Bear Encounters

Stay still. Do not run away -- bears are much faster than humans. Move away quietly. If the bear is a grizzly, climb as high as possible up a tree. This will not work for black bears, since they are agile climbers.

Spray the bear in the eyes with a chemical bear repellent. Commercial bear repellent sprays are available and are highly effective for removing hostile or stubborn bears. Be sure to use the bear spray as a last resort. The main ingredient, capsaicin, can actually attract bears.

Make loud noises if you see bears far away. Bang together pots and pans, bells, or scream and flail your arms. If a bear is aware of you, he will most likely flee. Allow the bear an escape route. A bear will attack if it feels threatened without the possibility of an escape.

Items you will need
  • Commercial bear spray
  • Bear-proof garbage bins
  • Food storage bins and bags

Tips

  • Eat freeze-dried food while camping instead of grilling.
  • If you're hiking through bear-populated areas that have poor sight lines --- forested areas or narrow trails with berry bushes, for example --- consider wearing bear bells, which make enough noise to scare off bears that may be several yards down the trail.

Warning

  • Never approach a bear, even a cub. More than likely, the cub's mother is right around the corner, and they are ferocious protectors of their children.

About the Author

Based in Atlanta, Crystal Huskey began writing in 2008 for various nonprofit organizations and news agencies. She now serves as the assistant editor for a hyper-local news site. Huskey is completing her Master of Arts in international relations at American Public University.

Photo Credits

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