America's national parks are among the best places in the world to view wildlife, and bears are among the biggest draws for visitors. Thousands of visitors travel each year to parks such as Yellowstone, Glacier, Katmai, and more in the hopes of seeing a bear.
But for all of their beauty, wildlife is always just that: wild. Visitors must keep in mind that parks are natural settings, and the interactions they have with wildlife are very real. In any national park setting, visitors should follow some simple rules to ensure their safety as well as that of the animals.
Here are some simple suggestions to follow on your next national park visit:
Tips to Avoid Confrontations with Bears
When hiking in bear country:
- Always make your presence known. Avoid surprising a bear. Make plenty of noise near dense vegetation or areas of limited visibility.
- Remain aware of your surroundings and look for signs of recent bear activities, tracks, or scat.
- Avoid areas where bears might feed - berry patches, streamsides, whitebark pine stands.
- Carry pepper spray and keep it within easy reach. Know how to use it.
When camping in bear country:
- Be sure to store your food in plastic away from your campsite. Hang the food from a tree at least 14 feet above ground and 4 feet away from the trunk.
- Avoid camping near streamsides, where bears like to frequent, or next to bushes, where visibility is limited.
If you see a bear:
- Keep your distance and allow the bear every opportunity to avoid you.
- If the bear continues to approach you, it is most likely trying to identify what you are. Remain calm. A standing bear is usually curious, not threatening.
- Identify yourself by talking in a normal voice.
- Try to back away slowly at a diagonal angle. If the bear follows, stop and hold your ground.
- Don't run. Bears can reach speeds of 35 mph, and like dogs, they will chase fleeing animals.
- If the bear gets too close, wave your arms, raise your voice, and be more aggressive. Never make high-pitched squeals or attempt to sound like a bear.
What to do if the bear makes contact:
- If you are attacked by a grizzly bear, fall to the ground and play dead. Typically a bear will break off its attack once the threat is removed. Remain motionless as long as possible.
- If you are attacked by a black bear, fight back vigorously. Throw stones.
Bear attacks are rare, and most can be avoided with the proper precautions. Always maintain a healthy respect for wildlife. Never feed animals , and be sure to keep an appropriate distance.
With these tips in mind, we hope you'll enjoy a safe and happy park experience.
Learn More about grizzly bears.