If spending time in wilderness areas, many people will encounter a brown or black bear (but rarely polar bears), while traveling in the USA. As a traveler, your first stop should always be the information center or ranger station to ask about bear activity in the area – you can also get maps, trail suggestions, and other safety information.
Cars aren't bear-proof, so if you're car camping or staying in a van, clean out those fallen french fries and don't store food or trash in your car. It's not overkill – bears have an incredible sense of smell and they will open your car or campervan up like a can.
Bears are usually active from dawn to dusk but may become nocturnal to avoid people or to raid campgrounds. If you're in a tent at night and a bear shows up in your campsite, making your presence known with a cough or clearing your throat will probably be enough to send it scurrying. If you've properly squared away your campsite there shouldn't be a problem. While this type of attack is rare, US National Parks advises that you fight back if a bear does try to attack you while you're in your tent.
Black bear: you can try to drive it away by confronting it, making yourself big, and yelling at it. Make noise by banging on pots and pans, or shaking a tarp or a garbage bag.
Just make sure you have left it an avenue of escape.
Brown (grizzly) bear: do not try to drive these guys from your camp. Grab your stuff if you can do so safely and move away slowly towards a building or vehicle if possible. Do not run.
Things you can do to avoid bears while in the wilderness include:
What to do if you're hiking a trail and cross paths with a bear:
if you're going to be spending some time in the wilderness, there are a number of effective bear deterrents available including:
However, the US Fish & Wildlife Service advises: "No deterrent is 100 percent effective. But, compared to all others, including firearms, proper use of bear spray has proven to be the best method for fending off threatening and attacking bears."
Something is better than nothing, and it's better to be prepared.
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