BEARS in the wood
We have all camped or hiked and run into Bear sign. In many ways this is exciting, in other ways it is unnerving. Ask any tenderfoot what he fears most in the wild and Bears will almost always be at the top of the short list. But why?

Most of us have never had a "run in" with a Bear, in fact most of us have never seen a Bear in the wild. Just like the Grey Wolf, the Black Bear has a terrible reputation that is 99% undeserved.
Oh I have heard stories of attacks and maulings by Black Bear but almost always these have been caused by man himself.

We "visitors" to the green wood tend to bring along our bad habits. Along with those habits come consequences.

Bears do what Bears do, you will never find them stealing your SUV from the parking area and going on joy rides, nor will you find them stretched out on the sofa of your vacation cabin watching Regis in the morning. They seem to get into the same kind of mischief all the time and it is almost always because of one thing, FOOD!

Man brings things into the forest that most Bears have never smelled before. These things attracted Bears for a number of reasons, hunger and ease of acquisition being first but also curiosity as well. A Bear might eat your deodorant just because it smelled different (not good just different)

Even smoke can draw attention from Bears who have learned that smoke means food under the right conditions.

Never bring food of any kind into the tent, even for an instant. Cook down wind of your sleeping area and don't wear your sleeping clothes while cooking or around the campfire.

If you smell like a Mountain House meal or Hot dog the Bear is bound to try and taste you. Candy is a BIG no no. leave it and your trail mix with the food bag (high in a tree)

In my area of concern the Black Bear is the only real Bruin I need to worry about.

He is known to be poor of sight but incredibly keen of nose. A Black Bear smells you long before he sees you or your camp. He will approach from down wind and at a distance of several hundred yards knows what your making for breakfast, God help you if it's pancakes and maple syrup. He has a propensity towards sweets and can sniff out a Snickers bar in your tent no matter what it's in.

LEAVE FOOD OUTSIDE THE TENT!!! Hang it high in a tree and five feet from the trunk, Black Bears are extraordinary climbers. Trash is another attractant. Whats garbage to you is a feast to the Bear. Where legal, burn what will burn, or better still, PACK IT OUT!

The most dangerous time to confront a Bear is when Mom is with Cubs. Keep this in mind. YOU ARE THE ENEMY! She does not care if you were just communing with nature with your ipod playing John Denver as you watch the splendor of the natural world........She will kill you! Stay away, Keep back!

As my friends in the parks department would say, you are about to have a

These are seldom pleasant. Carry a whistle, wear a Bear bell laced into your boot (a round bell the size of a large marble much like a sleigh bell) these stupid little noise makers may save your life. As you walk the constant ching ching warns the Bear that something different this way comes.

My key ring almost always is clipped to my side, on it is five must have keys a p38, fero/magnesium rod and a Best brand whistle. The clanging as I walk is reminiscent of a gunfighters spurs in a grade B western BUT it makes noise and I like it.
Should I need to "go stealthy" I tuck the ring in a pocket and I'm kool as Christmas but for much of the time it tells the world I"M COMING", I like that.

Advanced Bear protection might include an early warning system set up around camp when you tuck in for the night. I don't always bother but in areas where Bear sign is fresh I hang my Bear bells and other clanging items like cans or "CLEAN" mess gear from dental floss around the perimeter. The floss is strong and the little plastic box fits well into my kit. Keep it off the ground by a foot and a half and the Skunks/Raccoons wont bother you all night. Sleep with your whistle and when the clanging starts it's flashlight and whistle time.

OK, lets say you did your best but the plan did not survive intact and you are face to face with a Bear. Now what??

Make yourself BIG, put your arms over your head to increase your over all height, yell, scream use the whistle, stomp up and know, act like a jerk.

Most times the Bear will stop or run off. If the Bear holds his ground, shakes his head from side to side like a dog throwing off water after a bath or Clicks his teeth as if are in a bad place my Brother and better you then me, prepare for an attack um-ah I mean a Bear Encounter. If you have Bear spray NOW is the time to have it in your hand. Shake the can well, I keep mine in the outside pocket of my primary pack so I can draw it like a handgun. It gets shaken regularly while I move and is almost always ready. Bear sprays are not the same as the sprays you might carry for defence against muggers so don't try to carry one of these units instead of the REAL thing.
Bear spray shoots farther and is usually oil based instead of water based (it spreads and adheres)the droplets are much smaller giving better coverage and these units are larger to allow for enough "juice" to stop a charging bruin. Aim at the Bear's head and fire a short blast at his nose/eyes. When hit the Bear should stop in his tracks and even rear up in pain. This stuff is hot (don't worry it wont do any permanent damage to the Bear) If he tries to wipe it off with his paws or digs his nose into the ground that's a good thing, he will only spread the oil into his eyes/skin producing the desired affect. Be prepared to fire again just in case, oh and be prepared to
The Bear may run into the forest to lick his wounds or he may run right over your tent trying to get to the forest after all he can't see or smell, he is in pain and scared. He only wants out so don't get in his way.
Even if you only use it once, replace your Bear spray unit after discharge. GET A NEW ONE! The seal might begin to leak once the initial shot is fired and never TEST your spray. You might save this unit as a back up for the cabin or for a second hiker in your party but never rely on it as your primary Bear spray again.

The American Indians knew how to deal with Bears...they left them alone. Usually only the medicine man could sport a Bear robe...this was heavy duty ju ju and for good reason. Bears are to be respected and left alone to live unmolested by man.

However seeing how we are entering into his domain it should be us that protects his reputation. Don't make a Bear a menace by feeding him or disturbing his den areas. Leave him alone and you will both live longer.

Pick up a can of Bear spray, learn how to use it and keep it ready (your whistle and bell too)

I am not a hunter of Bears, I have seen them in the wild and observed from distance (just the way I like it) I mean him no harm and wish only good things for my Brother the Bear. That's why I leave him be!

Now this guy is another story. Thank goodness I don't have any of these Big Bastards around my woods.
My Friend Mike was nibbled on by a Grizzly Bear just a few steps from his home in Alaska. Mike was out for his morning jog when out came Griz and down went Mike. Being a well trained outdoors man he knew what to do if this ever happened (first soil pants) and his second nature kicked in. He had been trained to cover and roll and protect his head and neck from the powerful jaws of the Grizzly or as I call them the:
Mankillus eatem upus!

He survived the attack (encounter) and made the grade by being in the local paper.....Mankillus eatem upus attack of tender tasty man from Anchor Point survives / bear claims running shoes tastes like chicken, details and recipes at 5:00

Mike Dude, buy some spray....

Safe Travels