Bud Ahrens thought he’d achieved every part proper, however a bear nonetheless discovered him.
After organising camp within the Boundary Waters Canoe Space Wilderness in Minnesota, he and his tenting companion put away their gear, hung their meals from a excessive department to maintain it out of the attain of bears and different critters, and cleaned up meals scraps and dishes earlier than heading down the path for some climbing and mountaineering. However after they returned to camp later that afternoon, they stopped of their tracks—there was a black bear on prime of their flattened tent.
The animal had honed in on their single mistake: a forgotten bag of path combine in a pant pocket stashed away within the tent. Now Ahrens, winter program director at Voyageur Outward Certain Faculty in Ely, Minnesota, had to determine tips on how to run off the curious black bear and salvage what was left of their slashed-up shelter.
After they succeeded, they breathed a sigh of reduction, lowered their meals bag, and walked 40 toes down the path to see off some canoers. They had been gone for mere moments, however after they returned, the bear had, too, and was making an attempt to abscond with their meals.
They waved their arms, threw rocks towards the bear, yelled on the prime of their lungs, and, luckily, had been capable of scare the bear away for good, saving their solely sustenance from being devoured by the omnivorous forest-dweller. However as a result of they had been knowledgeable and ready, they knew tips on how to correctly reply to the shock encounter.
Know earlier than you go
A bear in your camp may appear to be a terrifying state of affairs, however Ahrens laughs as he tells the story. He’s had many encounters with black bears in his years of climbing, tenting, and canoeing within the Boundary Waters wilderness, and he’ll seemingly have many extra. However that doesn’t cease him from venturing out, as a result of he is aware of sufficient about bears to really feel comfy reacting to their presence.
For starters, he is aware of that black bears are extra timid and simply scared than grizzly bears—their bigger, extra aggressive cousins. Although black bears can weigh greater than 500 kilos, have claws round 2 inches lengthy, and can simply win a struggle if provoked, it is extremely unlikely that they are going to assault a human.
He additionally is aware of black bears are particularly lively within the spring after they’re popping out of hibernation hungry and able to fill their bellies, and fall after they wish to pack on the burden earlier than winter. Meaning you need to be additional cautious about securing your meals throughout these seasons.
Moreover, he understands that mom bears, like several animal, are very protecting of their younger and needs to be handled with an abundance of warning. Sure, child bears are cute, however you need to by no means strategy one, as its mom will seemingly understand you as a risk and change into aggressive.
Regardless of the presence of black bears in most areas of the nation, it’s uncommon that they kill even one individual in a given 12 months. These rare deaths are usually the results of irregular occurrences resembling sick or hungry bears, or individuals getting too shut, usually with canine. In truth, a lot of the harm black bears do is to dumpsters, tents, and meals luggage, not hikers.
Even so, Ahrens says you shouldn’t head outdoor earlier than asking a ranger if black bears have been noticed within the space, whether or not they have cubs, and even when it’s been a great 12 months for berries (extra fruitful bushes imply black bears shall be much less prone to be tempted by meals at your campsite).
Have an anti-bear sport plan
Relating to black bears, your finest plan of action shall be to keep away from an encounter to start with, and meaning taking obligatory precautions. Begin with meals waste. Don’t depart meals scraps or trash on the path or round your campsite. Not even fruit cores or peels, which might appeal to wildlife and take years to decompose.
You additionally shouldn’t depart soiled dishes round camp or dump leftovers or soiled dishwater within the fireplace pit—these smells can appeal to bears. Clear your dishes and eliminate any waste no less than 200 toes away out of your campsite.
And at all times retailer your meals in a bag when leaving camp or going to mattress. Typically known as bear-bagging, it entails putting all of your meals, together with meals trash like wrappers, in a bag and hoisting it excessive into the air utilizing rope or twine and a sturdy tree department for leverage. Tie the rope to the trunk or a low department and ensure the sack hangs 10 toes above the bottom so a bear standing on its again legs can’t attain (black bears can stand as much as 7 toes tall and prolong their paws round 2 toes extra) and much sufficient from camp that you just received’t be in rapid hazard if a bear does attempt to swat it down.
However don’t simply put meals in your bear bag or canister. “The bear’s palate is loads much less refined than our palate,” Ahrens says. “If it smells, it needs to be packed away and put within the bear grasp as properly.” That features lotion, chapstick, toothpaste, and deodorant.
If there aren’t any giant timber in your space, pack all of your bear-enticing objects in a bear canister (a strong, bear-proof container) and tie it to the bottom of a small tree, bush, or boulder to maintain it from rolling away or being snatched by a bear. Ahrens additionally suggests putting clear pots and pans on prime of the canister. It will act as a wake-up name: if a bear or different creature tries to get into your stash, it should seemingly knock the pots off, making sufficient noise to warn you.
In developed campgrounds inside bear territory, you’ll usually discover lockers at every campsite for meals storage—you should use these as a substitute of a bear bag or canister. As a final resort, retailer meals inside a completely closed and locked car.
And once you head to mattress, preserve headlamps or flashlights and one thing that makes noise inside your tent in case you get up to a black bear in camp and must scare it away.
Know the way to reply to a black bear
Should you do end up too near a black bear and it both hasn’t seen you or doesn’t appear , preserve your distance—300 toes if doable—and cautiously vacate the world. If the bear has meandered into your campsite or near you on a path, nonetheless, you’ll must take motion.
“Let the bear know this isn’t a spot the place it’s welcome,” Ahrens says. “Let it know that is our dwelling, not your private home; our meals, not your meals.”
That may imply carrying bear spray if it makes you’re feeling extra protected, however usually, merely making loud noises shall be sufficient to scare away a black bear. Soar up and down, wave your arms, and yell or make noise with pots and pans, airhorns, or whistles. If that doesn’t work, throw small rocks on the bear as you shout. That is unlikely to noticeably hurt the bear, however it will likely be sufficient to make it uncomfortable and ship the message that it isn’t welcome.
Or, go for Ahren’s favourite scare tactic: fireworks. Small firecrackers that make a number of noise are helpful instruments for convincing a black bear to maneuver alongside and are much less deadly than weapons, that are nearly at all times pointless as black bears sometimes show aggressive and predatory habits. However he reserves these largely for developed campsites, as firecrackers are a wildfire hazard if you happen to’re in a fire-prone space.
Study out of your errors
Once you’ve efficiently ushered a black bear out of your area, don’t simply return to mattress or proceed in your manner. Assess the state of affairs and what might need prompted the encounter to start with. Ask your self what you probably did incorrect and how one can stop the bear from coming again, Ahrens says.
That entails studying classes from irresponsible habits. For instance, did you allow your meals in the course of camp whilst you hiked all the way down to a water gap? Did you dump meals scraps within the fireplace pit? Throw fruit peels into the woods? These are all issues that may encourage black bears to get too comfy round people. And when that occurs and a bear turns into an everyday nuisance—or worse, an aggressive nuisance—rangers might must euthanize it.
There’s no denying that it’s thrilling to see black bears in nature, however they’re wild animals and so they want their area. Stay cautious when climbing or tenting in bear nation and do your half to guard your self and the bears. “You must respect them,” Ahrens says, matter-of-factly. “They’re bears.”