A Practical Guide to Bear Country
Bears can't read. Only people can prevent human-bear conflicts.
Bears are often attracted to petroleum smells and other things that aren't edible, even to a bear. They'll sometimes puncture metal containers with lantern or stove fuel, and have been known to nibble on tires.
Most human-bear conflicts could be prevented by the human half of the problem.
The number one rule for camping in bear country: keep attractants out of your tent. This includes any type of food or beverage, bug spray, candles, coolers, toothpaste, toiletries and anything with a scent.
Moaning, clacking, huffing and grunting aren't aggressive sounds. The very rare truly dangerous black bear is silent.
Don't climb a tree to get away from a black bear. Even an adult can zoom up the tallest tree in under ten seconds.
Bears can run faster than an Olympic sprinter. You can't outrun a bear.
Bears are much more adaptable than people. People bring their urban lifestyles with them when the move out into the country, or come to visit, and have no idea how, or why, to change.
Lever-style door handles are a cinch for bears to open. If you have 'em, replace them with old-fashioned round door knobs or keep doors locked while bears are active.
Feeding pets outside your home attracts bears. Dog food, cat food and horse grain are packed with calories that bears want.
Attractive plantings, hanging flower baskets, bird baths and water features attract birds without endangering bears.
A black bear can smell food up to five miles away. Bears routinely travel five to fifteen miles a day looking for food.
Birdfeeders kill bears. Two pounds of birdseed has 3,480 calories. Letting a bear empty your birdfeeder teaches it that there are big rewards for hanging around humans – a lesson that's dangerous for both people and bears.
A black bear is smarter than the smartest dog and capable of simple deductions like coolers equal food.
Bears are smart enough to remember what night is garbage night. Putting trash out the morning of pick up can virtually eliminate bear visits.
Beary Smart Solutions are popping up all over the country. Here are just a few:
Hemlock Farms, a Pennsylvania resort community
Get Bear Smart Society
Curriculum for schools
City of Canmore near Banff National Park
Black Bear Team of Virginia
Florida Black Bear Festival
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
In April juvenile males and females emerge, as well as females with cubs born the year before that denned up with their moms. Bears can lose up to half their body weight over the winter, but they don't lose muscle. If a person rolled out of bed after sleeping for five months, they wouldn't even be able to stand up.
Photo courtesy of Sharon Brown
Copyright 2011-2014 Living With Bears / Linda Masterson