Though the balmy weather and long days of summer make it the perfect time to bask in solitude and fall asleep beneath the twinkling night sky, camping in bear country comes with risks. Equipping yourself with the necessary tools, like bear spray, and knowledge, like how to coexist with bears in the wilderness, can help you feel prepared and confident about protecting both yourself and the wildlife in case of grizzly or black bear encounters.
Make Some Noise
When recreating in bear country, making noise can help alert bears of your presence, giving them time to leave the area. The Frontiersman Bear Bell can be conveniently secured anywhere on your backpack, thanks to its Velcro strap. It makes noise with every step. To silence the bell without removing it from your pack, use the magnetic silencer. Create more noise on the trail by talking loudly, singing or clapping.
While bear bells can help make your presence known, a horn can be useful to deter a bear from a distance away, explains James McCormick, a human-wildlife coexistence specialist at Jasper National Park. “I’d prefer to use it on a bear that already knows you’re there. I might use it to scare a bear that’s approaching me from a distance or one that’s hanging out near my camp.”
With the push of a button, the SABRE Frontiersman Bear Horn is audible from up to 805 metres away. Compact enough to store in your pockets for quick access, the horn also comes with an on/off locking feature so it doesn’t go off unexpectedly.
Keep Your Campsite Clean
Bears can detect scents up to 32 kilometres away. Keeping your campsite clean by properly storing scented items when they’re not in use can help prevent bears from investigating.
“People most often overlook storing their wildlife attractants properly,” says Dave Hunt, market development specialist for Ontario Parks, about campers in bear country. “Leaving a cooler out while you go to the beach, leaving a bag of garbage at your campsite while you go for a bike ride and not hanging your food pack while you go canoeing—these are all actions that can result in bears accessing these attractants.”
Even if you’re only leaving your campsite for a few minutes, scented items, like food scraps, dirty dishes, toothpaste and sunscreen should be stored in the closed trunk of your locked car with the windows rolled up. Garbage should be disposed of in designated bear-proof bins. For those front-country camping with a truck, you should store your belongings in the backseat and cover them with a blanket. “Don’t store these items in the box of your truck, whether it has a cover or not. Bears are able to get into truck box covers with ease,” says Hunt.
Backcountry campers should store food and food-related items in designated bearproof lockers and cook at least 50 metres away from their tent, downwind, to prevent smells lingering at the campsite, explains McCormick. If there aren’t any lockers, hang food and other wildlife attractants from a tree using a sturdy rope, at least four metres off the ground and 1.3 metres from both sides.
A bear-resistant storage container also helps keep foraging bears away, specifically one approved by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC), which tests bear-resistant products on captive bears. The IGBC-tested SABRE Frontiersman Bear Safe has a roomy 11.86-litre capacity, making it ideal for multi-day backcountry adventures. Three screws keep the lid secured on this airtight and scent-proof container.
Campers in bear country should set up away from berry patches and avoid blocking off water sources like lakes and streams where bears might be scavenging. Set up in a clearing away from thick brush to ensure good visibility so wildlife can’t approach unseen.
Disposing of garbage in the backcountry can be difficult because of a lack of designated receptacles. Packing out what you pack in can help prevent bear encounters. “Don’t burn or bury garbage and don’t dispose of it in pit privies,” says McCormick. The scent of burning garbage can attract wildlife.
The Last Resort
Whether you’re front- or backcountry camping, bear spray remains the most effective way to deter bears in close range, when used properly. The SABRE Frontiersman Xtra Bear Spray releases 32 grams of spray per second and covers a distance of up to 10.5 metres, which provides maximum protection in rapid one-second bursts. Carry your bear spray with a belt holster, which allows immediate and convenient access if faced with a charging bear.
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