There are some bear safety tips that will make you feel more relaxed and help minimize your risk while hiking in areas that are known to have bears.
First you might want to differentiate between the Grizzly and the Black Bear. Both bears can range in color from Black to light Blonde. Reddish colored black bears are common in the west. The Grizzly, a much larger bear has an average weight of 350-500 pounds. Larger Grizzlies can reach 800 pounds with claws of 2 to 4 inches. The smaller black bear has an average weight of 100 to 300 pounds. Larger makes can reach 400 pounds, larger than a female grizzly with 1.5 inch claws. One of the biggest differences is that the Grizzly has short round ears and the black bear has longer pointed ears. The Grizzly also has a hump at the shoulder or an indentation along the nose line.
When hiking the trail in the backcountry, make your presence known. Make noise by talking loudly, singing or wearing a bell. If possible travel in groups. We wear a whistle and keep an air horn as back up. Some carry pepper or bear spray.
Please obey regulations and stay on the trails. Most parks have regulations against dogs with posted signs at the trail heads, “NO DOGS!” Don’t worry; you will see individuals with dogs on the trail as we have numerous times. They are normally nonchalant as if the rules don’t apply to them until they see an officer. Then at first they’re all about trying to hide the dog. When that fails, It’s the usual, “I didn’t know and I didn’t see the posting at the trailhead.” Really?
If you encounter a bear, remain calm and avoid sudden movements. Observe the bear from a distance, allowing it to continue its activities. If the bear hasn’t seen you, this is the time to back away slowly and quietly. Should the bear change its behavior, you’re too close to back away.
If a bear spots you, let it know you are human while it is at a distance by talking and waiving your arms. Never feed or throw food to a bear. Should the bear charge, remember that many bears charge as a bluff. They may run, stop and veer off abruptly. Stand your ground until the bear stops, then back away slowly. Never run from a bear! They can run faster than 30 mph. If you climb a tree, you may be sharing it with the bear. Black bears are great climbers and some Grizzlies as well.
If a grizzly attacks, PLAY DEAD! Lie face down with your hands around the back of your neck. Stay silent and try not to move. Leave your pack on to protect your back. Once the bear backs off, stay quiet as long as you can. It may be watching from a distance looking for movement.
If a black bear attacks, be loud, waive your arms, and stand your ground. Fight Back! Be aggressive with everything you got. Blow your whistles and push the buttons on those air horns. If you have pepper spray, use it. Begin spraying when the bear is within 40 feet so it runs into the fog. Aim for the face.
Preparation is key when hiking in the backcountry. Check with the local Ranger for bear sightings, warnings and trail closures.