Northwest Camping Safety – How to Avoid Bears
When enjoying the rugged outdoors in the Pacific Northwest, it’s important to remain aware of our large and grizzled neighbors in the wilderness: bears. Most people realize the threat bears can post to hikers and campers, but how many people think about how to avoid them or what to do in case of an encounter? Use the following hiking and camping safety tips to avert bear problems on your next Northwest outdoor adventure:
Where are bears most commonly located in the Pacific Northwest?
Just about any wilderness area in the Pacific Northwest can be home to the common black bear. Grizzly bear sightings are less frequent, but they tend to happen around the northern Cascade Range.
Bears are usually found near food and water sources, such as rivers, lakes and areas with fruitful vegetation. Because they’re naturally shy, they’re less likely to appear in well-populated locations.
How can I avoid a bear encounter?
To reduce your chances of running into a bear, exercise common camping and hiking safety practices:
— Stay away from areas rich in food sources, such as berry bushes.
— Avoid hiking trails that aren’t clearly intended for human use.
— When camping, store food away from the rest of your camping equipment — preferably in your car.
— Secure your trash at night.
— Hike in a group and make a moderate amount of noise, such as singing, whistling or talking, especially in areas with limited visibility.
— Never camp or hike near an animal carcass.
— Bears are attracted to urine odors, so always use a restroom or include proper toilet accommodations in your camping equipment.
— Make sure your camping equipment includes an emergency kit just in case.
What do I do if I see a bear?
Because bears are not generally aggressive, you can often ease out of an encounter by allowing the animal an escape route. The key is to not panic or run, which signals to the bear that you are prey and can trigger a chase.
From a distance: Calmly walk away while talking or making some sort of noise.
Up close: Talk softly and try to let it know you’re not a threat. If it stands up, that means it’s trying to figure out what you are. If it doesn’t leave after a few minutes, try snapping twigs or shaking nearby branches; among bears this usually means, “You’re too close. Go away.”
What if I get attacked by a bear?
Although bear attacks are rare, they do occur. If you’re being charged, drop a non-edible item, such as a hat or bandana, and walk away (no running). In many cases the bear will stop to check out the item you dropped. If that doesn’t work, base your reaction on the type of bear attacking you.
Black bear: As a last resort, fight back using rocks, sticks or your fists to deliver blows to the bear’s eyes or nose. Then stay still until the animal leaves.
Grizzly bear: Drop into a fetal position, with your head and throat covered. This will help shield you from fatal blows as well as signal to the bear that you’re not a threat.
By remaining in designated hiking or camping areas and utilizing common camping safety practices, there’s a good chance your outdoor adventure will remain bear-free.