Bears and other wild animals are a serious concern when camping out in the wilderness. Not only can our furry friends make a mess of a campsite but they also can be very dangerous if caught by surprise. This doesn’t mean that you should skip out on camping in bear country! By following some very basic precautions, you can prevent a problem with bears and other animals in your campsite.
How to Keep Bears out of your Campsite
Choose a Safe Place to Pitch your Tent
Where you choose to place your tent can be a very important step in preventing bears from wandering into your camp. Make sure you look for signs of a bear before you place your tent. Berry bushes, bear feces & trails in the woods can indicate that this is an area frequented by bears. Do not pitch your tent in an area where there are signs of a bear.
The Bear-Muda Triangle
The “Bear-Muda” Triangle is a basic rule of thumb to use when setting up your “bear proof” campsite. Cooking areas, bear boxes or bags and the tent all need to be spaced out at least 100 feet from each other. If you can find the wind direction, it is a good idea to set up your tent up-wind from your cooking and food storage area.
Keep Everything Clean
It is very important to keep your campsite extremely tidy. This means:
1. Washing up food utensils immediately
2. Keep all garbage out of your tent, the camp area and your car. (This includes empty food wrappers!)
3. Do not leave pet food or any other type of food lying around.
Cook & Store Food Properly
Avoid cooking certain types of food
Avoid cooking items that will have a strong and pleasant aroma to bears such as bacon, sausage and fish. Bears love bacon as much as we do! So if it smells really good to you, it is going to smell really good to a bear. Not to mention, bears have a sense of smell that is seven times that of a human.
Properly storing food
A bear bag or a bear box should be used to lock up food items at night. Your vehicle is NOT a good substitution. A hungry bear can easily break into a vehicle if they are in search of food.
Hanging a bear bag
There has been some debate among recent years over whether hanging a bear bag is a good method for keeping bears out of your food. The bears have gotten quite good at figuring out how to get into these hanging bags of food. The most important thing to remember when hanging a bear bag is to hang it up high and keep it at least 5 feet away from the tree trunk. Do not place a bear bag where you see someone else has placed a bear bag before.
Using a bear box or bear safe
Many campgrounds have metal bear boxes located at each camp site. In the event a bear box is not available at your campsite, it would be a good idea to carry your own bear proof container.
Change your clothes
Change the clothes that you wore while cooking before heading to bed for the night. The smell of food on your clothes is enough to attract bears to your tent.
Avoid Pleasant Aromas in your Tent
It’s not just food and garbage that will attract bears but also the smell of toiletries. Soap, toothpaste, lotions, deodorants, etc need to be put in the bear box/bag with the other food items before nightfall.
What to do if you encounter a bear
Bears and other wild animals usually keep their distance from human beings. They would much rather just run off somewhere else then have to willingly face a human. Unfortunately, if you accidentally get too close to a bear or it’s young and it feels threatened, it will attack.
Bear mace could be the difference between life and death if you happen to encounter an angry bear. Be sure to practice opening the spray so that you can use it during an emergency. Loud noises such as a bear horn or bear bells can sometimes be enough to scare off a curious bear.
(1) Wide Open Spaces. “9 Ways to Bear Proof Your Campsite”. https://www.wideopenspaces.com/9-ways-help-make-campsite-bear-proof/
(2) Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. “STOP THERE! BE BEAR AWARE!” https://www.grizzlydiscoveryctr.org/education/bear-awareness-hiking-camping/
(3) The Wise Company. “Repel Bears While Camping – What to Do and What NOT to Do” https://www.wisefoodstorage.com/blog/repel-bears-while-camping/