Inviting A Bear To Your Campsite Would Be A Boo Boo
There's still a lot of snow in the mountains that surround us here in southern Utah, but at some point we will be able return to our favorite campsites and the unmatched beauty that our region offers us. But, as you make plans to enjoy time in our mountains, keep in mind, you won't be alone.
Bears typically come out of hibernation in March or April, depending on snow conditions. This year, bears left their dens a little later than usual, due to the deep snowpack in some parts of the state.
During the spring, plants and insects make up 90% of a black bear’s diet, but bears have an amazing sense of smell and have no problem eating the same type of food that people eat. Many of the conflicts between people and bears happen because the bears start scavenging for the food that humans are eating and cooking while camping — which often takes place in the bear’s natural habitat.
When venturing into the great outdoors, it's crucial to take measures to bear-proof your campsite or backyard, ensuring the safety of both humans and bears. Here are some things you can do to keep bears away while you camp
The primary step in bear-proofing is to store all food and scented items properly. Use bear-resistant containers or bear lockers to secure food, cooking utensils, toiletries, and trash away from sleeping areas. Hang food at least 10 feet high between two trees if bear canisters are unavailable.
Dispose of trash properly by using bear-resistant trash cans or storing it in airtight containers until it can be disposed of in a secure location. Never burn or bury trash, as bears can be attracted to the smell.
Keep your cooking area separate from sleeping and eating spaces. Cook and eat at least 100 yards away from your sleeping area, and clean up thoroughly afterward, disposing of food scraps appropriately.
Minimize the scents that attract bears by avoiding strong fragrances, such as perfumes, lotions, or scented toiletries. Store these items with your food in bear-resistant containers.
Keep your campfire small and manageable. Afterward, extinguish it completely with water, ensuring no smoldering embers remain. Bears may be attracted to the smell of food remnants or fire.
Keep your campsite clean. Don’t leave food scraps and other trash scattered around your campsite or cabin area. Instead, put it in trash bags, and take it home with you. Make sure to wipe down picnic tables and keep the area free of food and other debris. Always keep your campsite or cabin area clean because a dirty campsite can attract bears long after you’ve left.
Before sleeping, make sure your tent is securely closed and no food or scented items are inside. Bears have a keen sense of smell and may try to enter if they detect food.
Learn about the local bear species. The Division of Wildlife Resources says black bears are the only species of bear in Utah, and they live and roam across much of the state. Learn their behaviors, and the recommended practices for bear encounters. Be aware of recent bear sightings or activity in the area, and adjust your plans accordingly.
Make noise while hiking or moving around the campsite to alert bears of your presence. Keep a flashlight or lantern nearby to quickly illuminate any potential bear sightings.
And, never feed a bear. This may seem like common sense, but it’s worth noting. Although bear cubs may seem cute, you should absolutely never feed one — or an adult bear for that matter. They are wild animals and natural predators.
Remember that you are a guest in their natural habitat. Keep a safe distance from bears and other wildlife, never approach or feed them, and observe from afar.
Share your bear-proofing practices with fellow campers or neighbors to promote a responsible and safe environment for everyone.
But bears don't just snoop around in campsites. They can search for food in cabin neighborhoods, and even neighborhoods in the higher valley of the region. To keep bears out of your backyards here are some suggestions.
Bear-proof your outdoor garbage cans. Many bear reports that the DWR receives each year involve bears getting into trash cans or dumpsters in neighborhoods and at cabins. Make sure to store your trash in a secure location or bear-proof container. If you don’t have access to a bear-safe garbage can or dumpster, make sure to store your garbage can in your garage and put it out for pick up in the morning, rather than the night before. Also, make sure to clean your trash container regularly to eliminate some of the odors that attract bears.
And remove items that will attract bears to your house. These items include birdfeeders, fruit trees, compost piles, beehives, pet food and water bowls, unsupervised outside pets (especially at night) and barbecue grills.
If you encounter a bear, stand your ground. Don't lie down and play dead. Stay calm to give the bear a chance to leave and be prepared to use bear spray. Don't climb a tree or run away. Bears can run up to 35 mph and are excellent climbers. If a black bear attacks, fight back and fight back hard. Use rocks, sticks, backpacks or anything you can get a hold of.
By following these guidelines and understanding the behavior of bears, you can significantly reduce the chances of attracting them to your campsite or backyard, ensuring a safer and more enjoyable outdoor experience for all.
Now, if we can just get the snow to melt.