Bear Aware in the Absaroka Wilderness

Being aware of your surroundings is important. This is especially the case if you’re in the wilderness, where help may be scarce. The major thing that you must prepare for when hiking outdoors, is the wilderness itself. Now, that doesn’t mean that you should lock your doors and never go outside, most animals aren’t looking for a fight. And the animal that is most affected by this misunderstanding, is the members of the Ursadae family, or bears. Too often, bears are portrayed as bloodthirsty killers, that will take any opportunity to prey on the unsuspecting outdoorsman. This is far from the truth, as they mostly fight to protect themselves, with a diet mainly consisting of berries, roots, grasses, and fish. Polar bears are a deadly exception. They view humans as prey, and will hunt a person for miles. I wanted people to know how to protect themselves against bears. So I conducted some research, and tested bear aware practices on my trip down the Absaroka trail with a crew of scouts from troop 255..

Though they are dangerous, here are some ways to avoid, or protect yourself in the case of a bear encounter.

1. Leave no trace:

The main problem that bears face is their opportunistic omnivore diets and sensitive noses. If they smell anything appealing, they will instinctively go towards it. And if they find it consistently at campsites, they will begin to prefer it over other food sources, and see humans as the source of this food. To assure the safety of human visitors, these bears have to be killed.

To prevent this from happening, pack out what you pack in. Leave no trash or food lying around.

2. The Bearmuda Triangle: 
The bearmuda triangle is the most surefire way to avoid a bear encounter. The basic premise is division of a campsites into three areas that are each 100 yards apart, forming an equilateral triangle shape. One area is dedicated to cooking and cleaning, this is so if there is anything leftover from a meal, the bear investigation would occur far from the campsite. Then there is the smellable area, where you would hang your bear bag and keep your bear boxes. A bear box is a super strong container designed to be too complicated for a bear to open, and a bear bag is a waterproof sack that is hung from a high place, most commonly a tree, and three to four feet away from the trunk. Lastly is the campsite, where all of the tents are set up. Keep all smellable items out of your tent area, including food, toothpaste, deodorant and other cosmetics. Deodorant is known in the backwoods as “bear frosting”. Make sure that your smellable areas are downwind from the campsite, so that the scent of your tasty camp food and cosmetics does not waft through your tenting area. Here’s an example of a bearmuda triangle.


3. On The Trail:
When on the trail, make sure you have a partner with you. Not only is it more fun, it will also protect you from bears. They are often reluctant to go towards loud noises, so the sound of many heavy boots stomping on the floor, in combination with some conversation, may be enough to keep them from wandering towards you. Be courteous of other hikers though. Don’t be disruptive. If you encounter an animal carcass on the trail, vacate the area. A bear may be nearby. This is also the case when you encounter a bear cub. It is likely that their mother is nearby, and she can get very aggressive if she feels her cubs are in danger.

4. Bear Traits:
Bears are not always easily distinguishable from each other. In the case of brown bears and black bears, you should not rely on color alone. Look for these traits when you see a bear from afar, and use them to decide what your next step should be.
5. Bear encounter:
In the case of a brown bear, the best thing you can do is lie down. Specifically, lay down on your stomach and put your hands on the back of your head, making sure to position your body and legs in a way that it would be difficult for the bear to flip you over. In the case of a black bear, be loud, and be big. They may seem like just big mice, but they’re still fast, strong, and have sharp claws. Keep bear spray handy in all cases, making sure the wind won’t blow it right back at you.








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