Be Safe in Bear Country

black bear

Picture by kpgolfpro

I live smack dab in the middle of bear country. For that matter, I grew up in bear country and when there wasn’t snow on the ground, it was rare for a week to go by without seeing at least one bear. Here in Montana, there are both black bears and grizzlies, however since people are more apt to come in contact with black bears, that is what I’m focusing on here. Grizzlies have different traits.

The biggest tip if you are venturing into black bear country is to avoid taking or wearing anything that smells sweet. That means that you shouldn’t carry candy and shouldn’t wear cologne or perfume. Since black bears can smell sweets from a mile away, candy, cologne and perfume are all enticements. Bears usually associate sweet smells with food. The sweet smells can draw bears to you like a magnet. It is useful to know that almost the only time a bear isn’t hungry is when they are asleep.

When you are walking in the woods, be aware of your surroundings and make noise as you go. This could mean talking, whistling or anything that will alert a bear of your presence. Startling a bear is a fast way to get it to attack. Bears usually avoid humans when they can, though, so by making noise, you are giving the animal a chance to move away. The awareness is important because a mother bear is exceptionally protective of her cubs. If you walk between the mother and her young, even accidentally, you are in big trouble. If you see a cub, start looking for the mother because she is probably nearby. Remember that a bear can outrun a person easily, too, and climbing a tree isn’t a good idea because they are excellent climbers.

If you come face to face with a bear, make noise and wave your arms. Try to make yourself look bigger. At the same time, slowly back away. Do not turn your back on the bear or run. Doing so will usually trigger instincts in the bear to come after you. Again, the bear is faster than you are.

If you are living in bear country, there are also some common sense things you can do, too. For instance, don’t leave cat or dog food out where a bear can get to it. They are opportunistic feeders. Along those same lines, in the early spring when the bears are waking up and in the late fall just before they go to sleep, keep the bird feeders empty, too. Bears will happily raid a bird feeder.

Another tip is to keep your dogs inside when possible. When you take them out to do their business, watch them and don’t leave them alone. The sound of a barking dog can cause a black bear to attack. Even if the dog is like Rin-Tin-Tin, it is no match for 400 pounds of angry black bear.

With just these common sense things, people can live in bear country fairly safely. Too often, people have an irrational fear of bears, when they should respect them instead. Of course, it also never hurts to read up on black bears so you know their traits better.

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