Bear Safety Tips for Campers and Hikers

Richard White of San Diego was likely reveling in his good fortune as he photographed the large male grizzly bear on a visit to Alaska's Denali National Park in August 2012.

The 49-year-old San Diego man snapped pictures for several minutes and had crept within 50 yards of the bear when the animal decided it had had enough. White's abandoned backpack and torn clothing were found a few hours later by hikers, the first fatal bear attack in the park's near 100-year history.

The tragedy made for prominent headlines, as many bear attacks do. But the reality is that very few people have been killed by bears—fewer than one per year in the United States, according to most accounts. You're far more likely to be killed by lightning, tornadoes, snake bites, bee stings and even domestic dogs then you are to be killed by a bear.

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By backpacking alone and approaching the bear, White violated at least two important guidelines when hiking or camping in bear territory. As with the majority of bear attacks, it easily could have been avoided by following a few simple bear safety tips.

Avoid Bear Encounters

Bear encounters generally come about in one of two ways. First, a bear searching for food smells something interesting and stumbles into your campground while investigating. Second, you are out on the trail and come upon a bear.

More: 4 Tips for Hiking With Your Dog

While bears are predators, they do not consider humans part of their diet. When a bear does attack, it's generally because it's surprised and feels threatened, especially if it's a mother protecting cubs.

With that in mind, here are some simple bear safety tips to make your slim chances of a bear attack even more remote.

? Research the area where you'll be camping. Find out if bears live in the area, and if so which type. Make sure everyone in your group is aware of the proper precautions to take to avoid a bear attack and how to act in the event you do see a bear.

More: How to Stay Safe in the Backcountry

About the Author

Chuck Scott is a freelance editor and writer with 30 years of experience in sports journalism. He is also an avid backpacker and camper.

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