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Old 06-12-2012, 08:33 AM
Location: Dallas, TX
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So wifey and I are going hut-to-hut hiking for 5 days, by the end of this month.
the area we're going to, has a relatively large black bear population.
On all of my previous hikes, I've never seen one from close by, but only from far away.
From what I've read black bears are pretty timid animals, and rarely attack humans.
What are some of the precautions you'd take if adventuring into black bear country?
Is bear spray really necessary?

And if you've been on close bear encounter, how did you diffuse the situation?

Thanks !
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Old 06-12-2012, 08:40 AM
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I worry about grizzlies. Black bears, not so much. I live in black bear country (born and raised in New England and have camped, backpacked and hiked extensively throughout New England and Atlantic Canada) and really they don't want to be near you. The problem comes when you accidently get between a mama and her cubs while hiking. While hiking, you can wear bells (Google "bear bells") on your pack. I do this because usually my hiking mates and I aren't constantly talking and making noise. As long as the bear hears you coming, they'll get out of the area. I have never encountered one hiking and likely for that reason- noise keeps the bears away. If you are hiking with a dog, NEVER let the dog get ahead of you. Always keep the hound close by. You don't want Fido to startle a bear up ahead.

As for camping, I have encountered black bears near my tent. Twice. I won't lie, it is frigging unnerving. Making loud noise will spook them and send them away from your tent. You can yell, bang pans together, use a whistle, horn, whatever. They'll leave. This is assuming you are smart about food storage. Food and toiletries NEVER go in your tent. Ever.

I have never felt the need to buy bear spray. the people I know who do carry it, do so more for their own psychological peace of mind. I have never known anyone who has actually had to use it.
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Old 06-12-2012, 09:35 AM
Location: 1st Circle of Hell: Limbo
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I've done multi-day backpacking trips in bear country. The above post is pretty spot on about how to avoid startling bears on the trail. I'll also add depending on where you are going it might be wise to have a bear cannister or do a bear hang (minimum 100 yds away & downwind from camp) for all food, pots & smellable items like toothpaste. Try to be careful with food contamination, life after you eat/cook wash immediatley and don't touch your tent and transfer the smell/residue. Each area will have specific requirements, like Yosemite has bear lockers and require certain bear cannisters because the black bears there have become so bold and wiley to take hiker's food. Most backcountry campsites in Yellowstone have food poles. Do the research on the area you are visiting and call the rangers if you have questions.

Oh, and when I am in grizzly country I def take bear spray with me. Learn the proper way to use it.
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Old 06-12-2012, 09:43 AM
Location: IL
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Good info so far, I have come across black bears within about 200 feet 4 times, one time about 5 feet away...scary. I have not encountered a grizzly at near distance. Sounds like you won't be tenting, so I will mention only things I do on the trails.

-Anyway, being noisy as mentioned earlier is a great tip
-If you do encounter a bear, don't run away, slowly walk away
-Try to look big
-You definitely don't want to get between a mom and babe, as mentioned earlier
-I didn't want bear spray, as I was worried I would spray myself
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Old 06-12-2012, 10:37 AM
Location: Dallas, TX
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Great tips guys.

I'm going to New England. White mountains to be exact.
and yes, we won't be tenting but rather using the huts that are on some of the peaks.

I've seen a couple of youtube videos, and in all the encounters the bear runs away. In some instances, they bluff. But that's about it.
They don't attack. Of course, none of the encounters happened when bear mom was with her cubs, I guess in that situation things might not turn so well for the hiker.

Anyway, since we're not tenting and breakfast & dinner will provided at the huts, we just need to take snacks fror the trail.

If I bring a tuna sandwich, would I be more prone to attract bears?

I've read that bears can smell your toothpaste from 2 miles away!!
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Old 06-12-2012, 11:53 AM
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Originally Posted by likeminas View Post
Great tips guys.
If I bring a tuna sandwich, would I be more prone to attract bears?
Your chances of seeing a bear too close for comfort are very slim if you are staying in the White Mountain huts. Make sure you are noisy when hiking (talking, bear bells, what have you) and have no fear enjoying that tuna sandwich! I often have meat items on the trail and never give it a second thought. The only time I worry about bears and eating meat it is when in a tent and cooking dinner!

Enjoy your trip, sounds fun!
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Old 06-12-2012, 10:27 PM
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It probably wouldn't hurt to carry a knife. Even just to make yourself less afraid. I never had a bear encounter but I read that you should try to fight them if they get you by stabbing out their eyes with a knife or slicing their nostrils. Animals can sense fear - so whatever makes you less likely to panic.
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Old 06-13-2012, 03:34 PM
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I read up on this a little a couple of years ago when going to Yellowstone (as if I were fit enough to really hike long distances ha!)
I do remember reading some guys really good lay out on what to do.

There differences is situations and bear behavior that would dictate whether you should play dead if attacked or fight back but I don't remember them. You can search on Yellowstone bear attacks and maybe find it.
Of course if I were attacked I'm not sure I'd remember what to do
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Old 06-13-2012, 07:15 PM
Location: The Woods
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I carry a rifle. I probably spend more time than most in the woods and have run into more critters than most. I worry more about moose than bears, as I've only ever been threatened by a bull moose. I've come face to face with a bear: rounded a root ball of an uprooted tree on a mountain in VT and it was there lying down. It ran. If you get between a mother and a cub, it won't run, it will try to kill you. If a black bear, mother or not, has no fear of you, slowly approaches and attacks, fight it to the death, it will kill you otherwise (grizzlies on the other hand generally only fight until they perceive no more threat from you, hence, it's suggested you play dead and try to protect your head if attacked by a grizzly you can't stop, but that doesn't work with black bears). Your chances of having a problem are slim, but there does exist a possibility. I have my preferences, others have theirs. Do what you feel comfortable doing, whether that's spray, a long gun, or nothing but keeping a clean campsite and making some noise as you hike.

One side thought: an old method of bringing in bears when hunting them is to simply cook bacon, and then continuing to cook the grease. It brings them right in if they're around (as does burning honey). Don't bring bacon with you. lol
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Old 06-13-2012, 07:30 PM
Location: Central Maine
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I've met black bears in the woods (in Maine and NH) while fishing and hunting. I just puff up, growl at them and they run away (that's what I do, can't say it's for everyone). There is no advantage to going on the defensive (or carrying a knife lol). You can't outrun run one, so don't turn your back on it. It's many times stronger than the largest dog, so your chances of outfighting it are miniscule.

Bears are VERY smart, and VERY good at avoiding you. Most of the time I've seen them it's because there has been some background noise the kept them from hearing me (e.g. a stream). I'd be surprised if you saw one. I read an article a few years ago that associated black bear attacks with hunting. If bears are hunted (as they are in Maine), they are almost never a problem. If they aren't, then they lose their fear of man and can be a problem. Hence the problem with idiots that feed them and reduce their fear of us.
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