Black Bears - What Backpackers Need to Know
By Steven Gillman
It may be true that black bears aren't as
dangerous to backpackers as grizzlies, but there are many cases of
black bear attacks - some of them fatal. So even if you are in black
bear country, there are a few things you need to know. The first,
and perhaps most important thing, is to know how to avoid an attack.
How To Avoid A Black Bear Attack
Be noisy. Generally, a black bear will get out of
your way if it knows you're coming down the trail. Surprise it,
however, and it may attack. If you are hiking with a friend, a
conversation is enough noise to advertise your presence to the local
animals. If you are alone, you may want to wear some "bear bells" or
sing a song.
Be less flashy. You're easily spotted from a long
distance when you are in bright, colorful clothing. In Alaska, it
has noted that bears see the bright colors and come closer to
investigate, while they often won't see hikers in darker colors. It
isn't clear that this is the case with black bears, but it is
something to consider when buying that rain jacket - especially if
you'll be backpacking in open terrain.
Don't cook where you sleep. Instead, stop along
the trail to cook dinner, and then continue hiking for a while
before stopping for the night. If you have already set up camp, hike
a short distance away to cook dinner. The idea is to keep the odors
away from where you are sleeping.
Hang food out of reach. This generally means ten
feet high and four feet out from the trunk of a tree - difficult in
some areas that don't have many large trees. Rather than using
twine, it is often easier to lift the food bag up with a stick (I
use my walking stick) and hang it from a knob on a good branch.
While some backpackers keep food with them, in zipped plastic bags
inside other plastic bags, unless every last odor is contained,
bears are likely to come visiting.
Two Kinds Of Black Bear Attacks
Bears, when surprised - especially if they have
cubs nearby - attack to try to scare you away. These are called
"bluff attacks," and may end without contact, or the animal may hit
you a few times. With this type of attack, the bear will growl a
lot, and seem very angry. Try talking calmly as you slowly back
away, or if the attack continues, interlace your fingers behind your
neck to protect it, and curl up on the ground. The bear might just
bat you around for a few seconds, and then leave.
Unfortunately, this isn't the only type of attack.
There are also those where you are being stalked and hunted. It
isn't common, but black bears will sometimes hunt humans for food.
When this is the intent, you don't want to "play dead," or you will
be soon. Fight for your life!
With this type of attack, the bear will likely be
quiet, have his nose down, ears folded back, and be watching you
closely as he moves towards you. He is trying to determine if you
are easy prey, so don't be. Yell, swing your trekking poles, and do
anything else you can do to convince the bear that you're too much
trouble for a meal.
Putting something between you and the bear can
help. A man who was being hunted by a black bear in Michigan
continued to push his video camera at the bear as the attack
continued for almost half-an-hour. The camera and his yelling kept
the bear a few feet away, until his friends arrived (and it made for
an excellent video as well). Running generally doesn't work, but if
you have no other choice, remember that black bears are slower when
Use whatever you can for a weapon, but be careful
about bending over to pick things up. Bending over may trigger a
charge. When there are two or more backpackers, try a sustained
defense using rocks, sticks and yelling. This can change the black
bears mind. Other things that can help include, bear spray, a freon
horn and whistles.
about Black Bears
Copyright Steve Gillman. Visit the Wilderness
Survival section of his web site, and get the ebook "Ultralight
Backpacking Secrets" for free, at: http://www.The-Ultralight-Site.com
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Steven_Gillman
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