Saturday, October 29, 2011
Hiking In Bear Country
The next thing that you need to learn in bear philosophy is that bears have an acute sense of smell. They can smell one-thousand times better than humans. Bears use this sense of smell to detect food. When you combine the quest for food attitude of a bear, with their keen sense of smell, and then add humans into bear country with our perfumes and delicious food, one can quickly learn why bear encounters are so common.
In North America there are black bears and brown bears. Black bears aren't always black, and brown bears aren't always brown. Black bears can be brown, red, yellowish, and honey in color. Brown bears, or grizzly bears can be black in color. Black bears have longer snouts then brown bears and are smaller, on average two-hundred to two-hundred-and fifty pounds, but can weigh over five-hundred pounds. Brown bears have a distinctive hump on their shoulder and shorter noses. They are much larger then black bears and weigh in around three-hundred-and-fifty to four-hundred pounds, but can weigh over one-thousand pounds.
Depending on your location and altitude, bears can be active from as early as late February through to November and December. In most parts of the mountains where bears are common, such as Glacier NP, Yellowstone NP, and Yosemite NP, bears are typically active from mid-April to mid-November. Bears in general do not have a more dangerous time then others when in the forest.
For example in Yellowstone bears are dangerous from April through May as they are bulking up from the winter hibernation. Then in June and July bears are dangerous because it is calving season and they are after easy prey. August female bears will be roaming the woods with cubs and in September and October the bears are bulking up again for the long winter hibernation. The bottom line is you must always be prepared.
If you are going to go hiking in bear country, there are a number of procedures that you should follow:
Tell a friend, co-worker, parent, neighbor or someone where you are going. You should set a specific date and time that if you do not contact this person that they should contact a specific authority. You should also make use of trail head registers if available. If trail head registers are not available, you should register or notify the controlling authority of the area you are entering.
Check with the local park service or controlling authority on any reports of bear activity. You should heed any specific warnings you are given. If you spot bears or signs or recent bear activities like tracks or fresh droppings, you should report this to any other hikers you meet and the controlling authority.
Never hike alone in bear country. In some places like the eastern part of Yellowstone NP it is required at least four people travel on certain trails that have very high bear activity. Thousands of years of evolution has taught bears that humans are formidable opponents in a group and are more likely to avoid groups of humans then a lone traveler.
You should wear a pack when you enter into bear country. Even if you are going in for a day hike. In the event that a bear charges you the pack can save your life if you sacrifice it as a diversion for the bear. A small, inexpensive daypack is more then adequate.
When hiking you should make a lot of noise to alert bears of your presence. This is very important in dense vegetation or forest, where the trail turns, bends, or rises, around rivers, lakes and streams, or in thermal areas. Bells, whistles, clapping or loud talking are all excellent ways to alert bears. On windy days the bears acute sense of smell can work against them. If you are coming upwind on a trail (the wind is blowing in your face) you should be especially careful of surprising a bear as you scent will be masked and your sound muffled by the wind.
Do not wear perfume or use scented products when hiking in bear country. There are a number of unscented products on the market today including deodorant, shaving cream, sun tan lotion and insect repellant. The flowery and sweet smells in perfume and common household products like deodorant can attract bears. You will also cut down on the number of insects bothering you if you stay away from scented products.
Menstruating women should wear tampons while hiking in bear country