Did you know that black bears are found in all 50 states?  Some quick bear facts: They are extreme­ly intel­li­gent, have a great sense of smell (70 times bet­ter than ours). They can see col­ors. Camo cloth­ing is appro­pri­ate as a bear cloth­ing pre­cau­tion. Bears are omni­vores and usu­al­ly not aggres­sive. I read a state­ment “you nev­er see a bear until he finds you.”

 Dur­ing the sum­mer, many Scouts will be hik­ing and camp­ing all over the Unit­ed States in bear ter­ri­to­ry. 

Hik­ing

While hik­ing in bear coun­try, it is sug­gest­ed that you speak loud­ly to oth­ers in your group (nev­er hike alone). This will keep the bear from being sur­prised as you approach. Because bears can smell things up to five miles away, always store any snack foods in met­al con­tain­ers with screw on caps. Don’t use per­son­al care items that smell such as some sham­poos, deodor­ants, and bug sprays.

 Fac­ing A Bear

If you hap­pen upon a bear, keep talk­ing, and go out of your way to get around it. If a bear stands up, it does not mean it is going to attack. It is just look­ing you over. If it saun­ters over, throw lit­tle stones at it until it backs away. I think if it is an aggres­sive bear, you will know it.

Nev­er turn your back and run–back away. You should always car­ry bear spray, a tried and true bet­ter-than-a-gun-way to chase a bear away. It is a pep­per spray in an aerosol can that can be sprayed at least 30 feet.

There is some inde­ci­sion as to what to do if a bear actu­al­ly attacks you. Some say to play dead, lying on your stom­ach so your back­pack will help pro­tect you. Oth­ers say absolute­ly do not do this. They think if attacked you should fight back, kick, punch and do what­ev­er you can to get the bear away. Their fur makes them look much heav­ier than they are. Here’s some more tips on how to sur­vive a bear encoun­ter

 Camp­ing

We have briefly cov­ered hik­ing. Camp­ing is a whole dif­fer­ent thing. Since a bear is always look­ing for food, it is impor­tant to sep­a­rate your­self from all things edi­ble. If you don’t use a light­weight elec­tric fence to encir­cle all edi­bles, prefer­ably stored in bear cans, they sug­gest the “bear-muda tri­an­gle.” Snacks or clothes used for cook­ing or per­son­al items like tooth­paste should not be allowed inside tents. In oth­er words, the tents should not have any­thing which smells good to bears. The tents are the peak of the tri­an­gle. The bot­tom two points are 100 yards from the tents and the cook­ing and clean up are one side and a hun­dred yards away is the camp food pitched and hung from a limb in bear bags at least 12 feet off the ground. Remem­ber, bears can climb trees.

Also, nev­er wear head phones as you need your ears to keep you alert and safe. Have a hap­py hik­ing and camp­ing sum­mer. Remem­ber to check with local wildlife author­i­ties to learn if they have any restric­tions you need to know.

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Joyce Olesen
is a grandmother, mother, and daughter of Scouters. She love kids, camping, country music and sport cars. Her Dad was a Scout leader in Chicago in the early 1920’s and having only daughters did not bolster his Scouting hopes. As his "Scout" she was tying regulation knots by the time she was 7.

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