Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A bear here, a bear there, hungry bears everywhere!

What's big, hates surprises, stinky, hairy, hungry, 230lbs and stands over 6 foot on its hind legs? Me, after a week in the backcountry, or a common black bear. 

The spot of my first black bear in-counter
Bears are far from the most dangerous thing on the Pacific Crest Trail, but seem to be on the forefront of everyones mind. I keep getting questions like "what if a bear attacks you?" or "are you trying to keep your pack light to out-run bears?"or "are you bringing a gun for the bears?" As much as I would enjoy a nice bear steak at the end of a long hiking day, I don't think lugging a .45 Magnum would be worth it, or give solace to more rational fears like lightning strikes, heat stroke, and dehydration.

The easiest way to cut through the irrational fear of our big furry friends is to do the numbers. 

  • There is 700,000-900,000 black bears in North America. On average less than one human is killed by a black bear yearly. Grizzly(brown bear) attacks are a bit more prevalent killing about 2 people every year.

  • Worldwide, For every one person killed by a black bear(the over-whelming more prevalent species of bear encountered on the PCT), 13 people are killed by snakes, 17 by spiders, 45 by dogs, 120 by bees, 150 by tornadoes, 374 by lightning, and 60,000 by other humans. 

Of course, subjecting yourself to months in bear country would raise your risk of encountering a dangerous bear, so arming with knowledge is important, however small the risk. In most cases, bear related deaths could have been avoided with proper knowledge of bears and their habits. Here is some crucial information to remember if you are spending time in bear country.

How to keep yourself Safe in bear Country:

Running is never an appropriate response to any type of bear encounter. This includes all species of bear. Running can trigger the bears instinctive response to chase you as they would in a normal predator-prey relationship. Bears can run up to 30mph; you can not out run a bear!

2) Hike in a group of three or more and make noise.
 Many bear attacks are a result of bears being surprised by hikers. To prevent this, hike with more people and talk so bears know you are coming. Also a larger group is less likely to be attacked because bears are not dumb. more people = more danger.

3) Far encounter Vs. near encounter. 
If you see a bear off in the distance (>100yards) you don't really need to do much. Try to enjoy seeing such a beautiful animal and give it space to go about its business. The bear will probably scent you and move on or it will visually recognize you. If the bear notices you, give it time to move out of the area. If the bear does not notice you, walk around it, giving it plenty of space. If you come upon a bear that is close (<100yards) stop moving forward and raise your hands in the air making your self look big. Speak in a deep strong voice. The bear may approach you or stand on its hind legs to get a better look. This is not a threat. You can slowly back away from the bear as long as it doesn't follow. 

4) Dealing with an aggressive bear.
If you do all of the steps above the likelihood of a bear attacking you is slim to none. If the bear shows signs of aggression and charges at you, stand your ground and make as much noise as you can to show the bear you aren't to be f%cked with. If the bear still attacks at this point you are going to be eaten so thats about it. Just kidding. Playing dead can be successful in making the bear think you are no longer a threat unless the bear is truly interested in eating you. If thats the case, you will notice that bear is taking large chunks of flesh from your body. That would be the time to continue to fight.

5) Bears at camp. 
Store food at least 100 feet from camp in a bear-proof container or by using a proper bear-bag hang from a tree. If a bear comes near your campsite or food storage you should basically go berserk. A bear near your campsite knows you are there and has the huevos to come close, so you need to teach it a lesson. You want it to be so frightened by humans that it tells its bear buddies and bear neighbors to stay away. Throw rocks or trekking poles or sticks, and make as much noise as possible while doing it. If you are in your tent use it as a Wizard of Oz effect and shake and shudder while screaming your arse off.

6) Pack out all food and trash
If you leave food behind, bears will thank you by tearing open your tent to give you a hug.

There you go. Now you are ready to run off in the woods and cuddle with fuzzy bear cubs.....

1 comment:

  1. So if you alone that is why you sing so much to yourself