Safety Tips for Hiking in Bear Country


Hiking in Bear Country

NOTE: The Adventure Travel Show podcast is part of the Active Travel Adventures podcast community.

Learn how to hike safely in bear country plus how to determine whether a bear is a black bear or a brown (grizzly), and what to do if attacked by a bear. You’ll learn about proper food storage and how to hang a bear bag, and why bear spray is best.

Former NPS biologist, Tom Smith, stated in a wonderful Backpacker mag article: “Don’t go into bear country without a deterrent. I mean ALL bear country, density be ‘insert the D-word’. You can’t outrun them, you can’t outwit them, you can’t out anything them. You need a way to say to the bear, “This far, no farther”.

You’ll Learn

How to tell the difference between a black and a brown (or grizzly) bear and how to react

What to do if you are attacked by a bear

Grizzly ‘Bluff Charges” – what to do

Best Practices for hiking safely in bear country

Why bear spray is the best deterrent

How to store your food

How to hang a bear bag

(Scroll down for a detailed recap)

Webpage for more details, diagrams of how to tell the difference between a black bear and a grizzly bear (Brown bear):

Links mentioned in this episode:

Backpacker magazine article 9 Bear Safety Tips

Active Travel Adventures podcast and website

Available wherever you listen to podcasts or directly on the website

Bear country episodes: Glacier National Park, Pisgah National Forest, Banff (Canada)

Center For WIldlife Information – (the cool bear graphic)

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Welcome to Adventure Travel Show podcast, I’m your host Kit Parks. On this podcast we dig into the skills and tips you need to maximize your enjoyment of your outdoor adventures.

Today we are talking about hiking in bear country. You’ll learn how to identify whether you’re looking at a black or a grizzly bear – and hint – it’s not about color, you’ll learn how to minimize any unpleasant encounters with bears and what to do in an unfortunate bear attack.

Bear attacks are very rare, and rarer still if you are hiking in a group of three or more, so this show is not meant to scare you. In fact bear encounters are a treat!

Let’s first learn how to determine what kind of bear you are looking at as the response is different:

Black bear

Most common Range is from Canada down in to some parts of central Mexico, and in the lower 48, in both the east and the west Usually just black, but can be blue-black, brown, cinnamon or even white Taller ears Straight roman face profile Smaller claws good for digging in logs looking for bugs, or for climbing trees

Grizzly Bear (sometimes called a brown bear)

Can’t determine by the color. Colors range from honey to Black. Often brown. Instead look for the distinct humped shoulders and a head that looks like someone took a bowl and scooped out a part of the lower snout. Small rounded ears – I find these hard to distinguish , usually furrier Range from Alaska, Canada, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and possibly in the Cascades of Washington, and in Russia Larger claws – can be as large as a finger in mature adult

How to Determine what kind of bear from tracks:If you see tracks, you can tell by drawing an imaginary line horizontally across the top of the paw pad. If the baby toe is below the line, it’s a black bear. Also, black bear paws are more rounded. Grizzly paws pads are more oblong, so the line is predominantly below the toe imprints.

Bears sense of smell:

Bear brains are a third of the size of humans, but their olfactory is 5x larger. They say that a bear can smell a rotting carcass 20 miles away, and think ‘din din’!

Having a nine inch nose helps, too! It’s it’s full of A LOT more receptors.

How to Hike Safely in Bear Country

Find out whether and what kind of bears are in your hiking area. Check with rangers about current sightings. In parks, rangers will close trails that have bear activity – usually berries are ripe, or…



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