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#104437 - 10/07/08 09:12 PM How likely are bears to come after your food?
BasketballOSU Offline
newbie

Registered: 07/26/08
Posts: 8
In particular, what about areas with only a few interspersed black bears throughout a very large area, not common and no grizzlies?

What if you carry all "cold" food in ziplock bags, no cooking to release excess smells?

If you have, for example, peanut butter sandwiches, bagels, and pop tarts sealed inside ziploc bags, inside a food bag, inside your backpack, is that still going to release enough smells to attract bears to your camp site?

It seems like such a hassle to hang up all the food 100 ft from your camp every night, especially in areas where bears aren't super common...

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#104438 - 10/07/08 10:51 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BasketballOSU]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Quote:
In particular, what about areas with only a few interspersed black bears throughout a very large area, not common and no grizzlies?

What if you carry all "cold" food in ziplock bags, no cooking to release excess smells?

If you have, for example, peanut butter sandwiches, bagels, and pop tarts sealed inside ziploc bags, inside a food bag, inside your backpack, is that still going to release enough smells to attract bears to your camp site?

It seems like such a hassle to hang up all the food 100 ft from your camp every night, especially in areas where bears aren't super common...


I hang my food even in areas without bears. - because usually it's other critters that get into it, and ziplocs don't stop 'em. I've never had food taken by a bear in the better part of 30 years in the boonies (I've had lots of encounters). I've had food messed with by skunks, raccoons, mice, ground squirrels, porcupines marmots, and gulls. I've participated in rescuing two motorirsts in the rockies whose cars were eaten by marmots (seriously! - they chew up the electrical and cooling lines to get the salt on them), and I've walked out sniggering at a buddy who got half a boot eaten by a porcupine (for salt) so we had to "improvise" with socks and tape. Every time I've had my food messed with is where I'm somewhere there are "no bears" and so I decide not to hang it or deal with it. Hang your food. it's not as much of a hassle as picking mice turds out of your breakfast.

and it can save a bear's life.. even if there aren't that many of 'em around. Taking a
chance and getting away with it means eventually someone doesn't, and you end up
with dead bears, conditioned bears like yosemite, and then hiking restrictions.
_________________________
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My 3 season gear list
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#104439 - 10/08/08 06:10 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BasketballOSU]
Hector Offline
member

Registered: 12/20/04
Posts: 325
Loc: LA/ARK/TX corner
> It seems like such a hassle to hang up all the food
> 100 ft from your camp every night

How much of a hassle would you consider having to chase a hungry bear away from your campsite in the middle of the night? I find that bears are unpersuaded by arguments about how unlikely their presence should be.

Yeah, bear bagging can be a pain. So can claws in your abdomen, even if they're unlikely. You pick.

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#104440 - 10/08/08 07:45 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BasketballOSU]
Heber Offline
member

Registered: 12/31/07
Posts: 245
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
I'm a recent convert to bear bagging. Bears are not at all common where I hike. But raccoons and various rodents are common. I'm more concerned about my pack getting chewed through by rodents than I am about bears.

I found that hanging a bear bag is an easy habit to get into. It's second nature now. I don't bother with the PCT method or anything. Just throw the foodbag over a branch and tie it off. I sleep better knowing that my food and my pack are safe.


Edited by Heber (10/08/08 08:08 AM)

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#104441 - 10/08/08 08:00 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BasketballOSU]
Pika Offline
member

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 1726
Loc: Rural Southeast Arizona
I protect my food by one means or another regardless of where I am hiking. Mice are the biggest problem but racoons, marmots, ringtail cats, pack rats and other critters have all chewed holes in my gear. I have only had a bear get into my food once and that was this summer in the Lyell Valley in the Sierra. I absent-mindedly left a handful of trail mix in one of the hip belt pockets of my pack. There is now a 2" hole in that pocket. (Note to self: patch the hole.)

I use an Ursack most of the time to save the hassle of hanging and to keep my pack and storage bags from getting chewed on. I always use a bear canister where they are required. Not protecting your food is, in my opinion, foolish and a bit irresponsible.
_________________________
May I walk in beauty.

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#104442 - 10/08/08 08:07 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Pika]
sarbar Offline
member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 1453
Loc: WA
Quote:
I protect my food by one means or another regardless of where I am hiking. Mice are the biggest problem but racoons, marmots, ringtail cats, pack rats and other critters have all chewed holes in my gear. I have only had a bear get into my food once and that was this summer in the Lyell Valley in the Sierra. I absent-mindedly left a handful of trail mix in one of the hip belt pockets of my pack. There is now a 2" hole in that pocket. (Note to self: patch the hole.)

I use an Ursack most of the time to save the hassle of hanging and to keep my pack and storage bags from getting chewed on. I always use a bear canister where they are required. Not protecting your food is, in my opinion, foolish and a bit irresponsible.


Pika is quite right - it often isn't bears you need to fear. Rather chipmunks, birds, mice, rats, marmots.....

Sure you can be lazy and not protect your food. But why take the risk? For $60 get an Ursack like many of us. No hanging needed and it weighs not much over a heavy duty stuff sack.

Also, while bear canisters are heavy and overkill, they do work well. And one can sleep in utter comfort.
_________________________
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www.trailcooking.com

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#104443 - 10/08/08 08:15 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: sarbar]
Heber Offline
member

Registered: 12/31/07
Posts: 245
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
I'm going to disagree a bit here. I'm not saying that an Ursack isn't safe from critters. But I think even if I had one I would hang it.

For me the issue is one of peace and quiet as much as anything. If I spend all night listening to critters ATTEMPT to get into an Ursack then I still lose a night's sleep even if I don't lose any food.

Sound sleepers may not have this problem. I'm a light sleeper and for me a raccoon messing around in my camp can really ruin my sleep, even if he goes away hungry.

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#104444 - 10/08/08 10:55 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Heber]
sarbar Offline
member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 1453
Loc: WA
Quote:
I'm going to disagree a bit here. I'm not saying that an Ursack isn't safe from critters. But I think even if I had one I would hang it.

For me the issue is one of peace and quiet as much as anything. If I spend all night listening to critters ATTEMPT to get into an Ursack then I still lose a night's sleep even if I don't lose any food.

Sound sleepers may not have this problem. I'm a light sleeper and for me a raccoon messing around in my camp can really ruin my sleep, even if he goes away hungry.


You don't hang Ursacks! That defeats the purpose. They are tied off to a tree at the base. If an animal does attempt to get in, as they tug, the Kevlar ties get tighter (figure 8 knot at top of bag). If you hang a Ursack like a bear bag you might as well just use a stuff sack.

Bear bagging blows and sucks in my view - and very few people do it correctly in the end (hence why bears treat bear bagging like fun filled pinatas).
_________________________
Freezer Bag Cooking, Trail Cooking, Recipes, Gear and Beyond:
www.trailcooking.com

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#104445 - 10/08/08 11:49 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: sarbar]
Heber Offline
member

Registered: 12/31/07
Posts: 245
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
Quote:
If you hang a Ursack like a bear bag you might as well just use a stuff sack.


I never said I hang Ursacks. I'm not advocating hanging Ursacks. The question from the original poster wasn't about the proper use of an Ursack. It was about whether you should hang your food. I'm just saying that an Ursack down low will only keep your food safe. It won't keep critters from trying to get to your food and that's noisy and annoying.

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#104446 - 10/08/08 12:51 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Hector]
BlountCountyBackpacker Offline
newbie

Registered: 08/06/08
Posts: 9
I have thought a lot about this. First of all I always use the bear hangs in the smokies and am careful not to have food in my tent. However, I think that there is an extreme amount of paranoia over this particular topic. I suppose if you cook then food smells are gonna be all over your clothes. I do this and then I sleep in those same clothes!!!! So I would guess I am at risk of being clawed in the middle of the night unless I change into freshly laundered clothes and hang the others. I believe the reason the paranoia exists is because the park services are constantly having to plaster warnings everywhere in order to keep the 3% of stupid people from leaving food left blatantly unnattended. All of these warnings cause reasonable people to be more frightened. I am wondering how many of you have had a bear attempt entry into your tent/tarp/hammock in an aggressive manner (as we are so often warned about)? Did you have or not have "smelly" items in your tent (besides yourself) and if so what were they?


Edited by BlountCountyBackpacker (10/08/08 01:04 PM)

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#104447 - 10/08/08 02:02 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BlountCountyBackpacker]
Hector Offline
member

Registered: 12/20/04
Posts: 325
Loc: LA/ARK/TX corner
> All of these warnings cause reasonable people to be more frightened.

I think there's confusion here.

There's no need to be frightened. Simply hang or otherwise secure your food supply and go to sleep. Otherwise, you may indeed get a scare. You don't even need a bear for a scare from improperly secured food -- raccoons have kept a lot of people up at night, as someone else noted. And yes, if you spill food on your clothing, you shouldn't be sleeping in them in bear country -- they go in the bear bag/canister, too.

It's unreasonable not to take elementary precautions. You're statistically unlikely to become a gunshot victim. That doesn't mean you should stand in front of the targets at your local shooting range or wear a deer antler hat while hiking during hunting season -- or not properly secure your food. Maybe you can switch into the adjoining lane without checking to see that it's empty most of the time. Doesn't make it safe or reasonable. On the other hand, I'm not your momma. If you don't want to secure your food and you aren't camped near me (you won't be :-), that'll be between you and the wildlife. The bear you habituate to humans as an easy source of food may not thank you when the forest service shoots it, though.

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#104448 - 10/08/08 02:10 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: sarbar]
Hector Offline
member

Registered: 12/20/04
Posts: 325
Loc: LA/ARK/TX corner
> Bear bagging blows and sucks in my view

I so agree with that. Where I walk, there are a lot of trees growing in poor soil. Lots of trees fall, and they tend to take out the tender lower limbs on young trees. So most trees that are old enough to have limbs large enough to hang a bag from have no limbs low enough. It can take some looking to find a good hanging tree.

On the other hand, I don't like the alternatives. I don't want to listen to things trying to get into an Ursack tied to a tree, and I don't want to carry the extra weight of a bear canister (though I reconsider it every year after hanging bags night after night). So I muddle on. Even without bears around I'd hang my food because raccoons are clever and evil little critters from 4377.

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#104449 - 10/08/08 02:43 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BlountCountyBackpacker]
Pika Offline
member

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 1726
Loc: Rural Southeast Arizona
Quote:
I am wondering how many of you have had a bear attempt entry into your tent/tarp/hammock in an aggressive manner (as we are so often warned about)?


In over 60 years of backpacking in bear country, I have never had a bear try to get food in a tent with people in it. Moreover, I have never been near such a thing in all those years and I have been around some pretty sloppy campers. I am not saying it does not happen but I have never been around when it has. Personally, I don't keep food in my tent but I am sure that I carry food odors with me, especially when I have been out for a while; I just don't think bears are drawn to mixed human/food odors, even in the Sierra.
_________________________
May I walk in beauty.

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#104450 - 10/08/08 04:03 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BasketballOSU]
Trailrunner Offline
member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 1835
Loc: Los Angeles
It's not just about preserving your food. It's about protecting the bears. The old saying is "a fed bear is a dead bear". It is worth the "hassle" to protect them?

It sounds like you're debating whether you should hang your food because of the (perceived) low probability of a bear encounter. You may be venturing into an area where the overall density is very low. But you have no way of knowing whether or not you're camping where those few bears are actively foraging. In those areas the density of bears is high. Why take the chance?

Following your line of logic, why should you fasten your seat belt while driving in the early morning hours when fewer cars are on the road?

Remember, Mr. Murphy is always lurking around the corner.
_________________________
If you only travel on sunny days you will never reach your destination.*

* May not apply at certain latitudes in Canada and elsewhere.

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#104451 - 10/08/08 04:32 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BlountCountyBackpacker]
dkramalc Offline
member

Registered: 09/19/03
Posts: 1070
Loc: California
Quote:
I am wondering how many of you have had a bear attempt entry into your tent/tarp/hammock in an aggressive manner (as we are so often warned about)? Did you have or not have "smelly" items in your tent (besides yourself) and if so what were they?


Maybe not "aggressive", but:

Years ago in Yosemite when I stupidly left my toiletries (toothpaste, campsuds) at the foot of my sleeping bag, I was awakened in the middle of the night by a big nose poking at my feet through the tent walls, and the sound of loud sniffing. I yelled and heard something very big heading away. In the morning there were 2 sets of bear prints outside the tent in the snow (baby and mama).

I will never ever ever do that again. It could easily have ended up as an injury for me, and subsequently death to a bear, just because I was too dumb and lazy to haul the food bag down again and put my toiletry kit in it. Plus it scared the bejeezus out of me and ruined a good night's sleep!

I believe we have the responsibility to make sure that bears are not able to get at our food and develop bad habits that lead them to being trapped and killed as nuisances. If we're not willing to accept that responsibility, it shows very little respect for the bears and doesn't speak well of our presumed love for nature.

P.S. From what I've read, food smells on clothing are more of an issue in grizzly country. I've never worried about that in black bear territory.
_________________________
dk

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#104452 - 10/08/08 04:35 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Trailrunner]
BlountCountyBackpacker Offline
newbie

Registered: 08/06/08
Posts: 9
I am 100% for bagging and hanging food even outside bear country for my protection and the bears. If the post is asking how likely is a bear to come after your food if it isn't hung then I would think it is likely to happen.

I just find it weird to be laying there worrying about deodorant I forgot to hang while smelling like beef stroganoff. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" /> I am surprised to hear that black bears can't smell the food on clothing as easily. You do learn a lot on this forum which is why I like it.

Thanks for the story dkramalc that would have scared the crap out of me too! It is nice to hear real experiences like that.


Edited by BlountCountyBackpacker (10/08/08 04:50 PM)

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#104453 - 10/08/08 06:44 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Heber]
sarbar Offline
member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 1453
Loc: WA
Quote:
It won't keep critters from trying to get to your food and that's noisy and annoying.


Ear plugs might be a thought - seriously! Or for me? I just park my Ursack out of camp. One morning I woke up to my bag covered in Chipmunk poop but they didn't win <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" /> They can go at it all night for all I care - I don't hear it.
Many nights I fall asleep with my headphones in my ears, classical music playing quietly on my Ipod. Or failing that....I try to camp near running water. It cuts down on the noises animals make.
_________________________
Freezer Bag Cooking, Trail Cooking, Recipes, Gear and Beyond:
www.trailcooking.com

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#104454 - 10/08/08 07:36 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Hector]
Tango61 Offline
member

Registered: 12/27/05
Posts: 931
Loc: East Texas Piney Woods
Quote:
raccoons have kept a lot of people up at night,


This reminds me of a time that some food was left out (not by me!) and some of it ended up on the ground. A skunk and a raccoon got into it. Guess who lost? ME!!!! The skunk sprayed right outside my tent and the wind brought it right into the tent.<img src="/forums/images/graemlins/mad.gif" alt="" /> My eyes were burning and I could hardly breathe. Needless to say, that was a very long night. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif" alt="" />

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#104455 - 10/09/08 10:02 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BasketballOSU]
Berserker Offline
member

Registered: 05/10/04
Posts: 493
Loc: Lynchburg, VA
Lot's of good advice has been given here already. I'll chime in with my opinion. There are plenty of people who sleep with their food in their tents in black bear country and do not have a problem. I used to do this regularly myself. I personally don't condone that method, but it seems to work for others. I myself am a hanger...I like to hang my food from a tree branch using the PCT method.

There seems to be much controversy over hanging. People don't like doing it, they can't do it, or whatever. Depending on location I personally don't see the issue with hanging food (unless the person has a physical limitation that would not allow them to run the line). Each type of terrain poses it's own problems, and I am only going to address that which I am quite familiar with...the East coast...primarily the SE. Around here there are not many places that come to mind where I have not been able to find a tree where I can get my food bag at least 9 - 10 feet off the ground.

I personally think the primary problem with hanging food has to do with the technique of running the line. I am not overly athletically inclined, and I can typically get my line over a branch in 5 tries or less. I usually look for a small rock, and just tie it directly to the end of the cord. Then I make my tosses using an underhanded throwing motion. I just stand under the branch, lob the rock up there, and quickly move out of the way (in case I miss). My buddy that I normally hike with refuses to go underhanded. He likes to throw over handed. I have seen him tangle his line up on multiple occasions when throwing this way. In my opinion, the underhanded method is much easier and more accurate as the rock just goes straight up rather than at an angle (as it would with an overhand throwing motion). Using the under handed throw I have even been able to snake the line between multiple branches and hit a spot without tangling it or snagging it on anything.

Ok, that was my "soap box" on the technique of hanging food. To each own...do what works for you.

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#104456 - 10/09/08 03:55 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Berserker]
Folkalist Offline
member

Registered: 03/17/07
Posts: 374
Loc: Fredericksburg, VA
Like Berserker, I have no problem finding appropriate trees for bear bagging in the areas of Virginia where I hike (the entire west side). CamperMom helped me out by suggesting I throw the rock backwards over my shoulder and I do really well hooking a limb that way.

Gotta hang the food and smelly stuff or use an Ursack or bear cannister. It's just not worth the risk to you, your equipment and most importantly the poor bear not to do so.
_________________________
Why am I online instead of hiking?

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#104457 - 10/09/08 04:15 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BasketballOSU]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2742
Loc: California
I have encountered bears on the trail, not in camp. I primarily use a bear cannister (because it is required). I do not set it 100 feet from camp - more like 25 feet within my view. I am quite particular about a clean camp, not only for reasons of bears, but because I like being clean. I wash my clothes regularly and wash my face and hands before bedtime. I have had a bear sniff my face once when I was sleeping next to my car at the trailhead. I have never had a bear get near my bivy sack or tent out in the mountains, but I make a point of NOT camping in well used campsites. I sleep with earplugs and do not worry about my food or safety. Worrying does not do any good. I also sleep with a loud whistle around my neck so if a bear ever were to "kiss" me again, I would blow the whistle loudly! I think if you camp at regular campsites along a well used trail (like the PCT) you will have a good chance of having a bear come in. I do not think the probability of a bear encounter in this case is overblown, but perhaps the danger of it is overblown. Black bears are after our food, not us and simply want to defend themselves if they feel threatened or are surprised. No matter how many times I have a bear encounter on the trail, they are still very scarey! Nothing to take too lightly. I certainly do not want to antagonize them.

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#104458 - 10/09/08 04:41 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Folkalist]
CamperMom Offline
member

Registered: 01/04/02
Posts: 1186
Loc: Eastern MA, USA
I'm glad that tip is working for you. I think I got it from Coosa, who may have heard it from Pog. That is one of the great things about Internet groups. We can share so many great ideas and use the ones that suit us best.

CamperMom

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#104459 - 10/09/08 06:59 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Folkalist]
chaz Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/07
Posts: 1149
Loc: Tennessee
Backwards over your shoulder huh? Sounds like a Harlem Globtrotters shot to me. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
Enjoy your next trip...

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#104460 - 10/10/08 05:59 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Tango61]
Hector Offline
member

Registered: 12/20/04
Posts: 325
Loc: LA/ARK/TX corner
One night when I was motorcycle camping, I woke to find a raccoon stuck in this barrel-shaped bag/rest I had on the back seat, head and forelegs inside, rear legs and tail outside. I'd left some hot dog buns in the bag, and the darned coon sniffed them out, then got stuck. First I had to convince myself not to kill it (I've developed a nasty dislike for raccoons over the years), then I had to let it go without getting eaten myself in the process. I hope it was humiliated. I think they might be smart enough.

I always, always secure my food properly now. I'm old and I need my not-quite-so-ugly sleep.

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#104461 - 10/10/08 04:55 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: chaz]
Folkalist Offline
member

Registered: 03/17/07
Posts: 374
Loc: Fredericksburg, VA
Te he he. At 5'3" I don't think I'll be going out for basketball anytime soon! CamperMom had mentioned that she had read something about how women are built different from men and this type of throw might work better. I'll admit I haven't used it that much, but so far it does work better for me.

Great, Chaz, now I have the Globe Trotters theme song stuck in my head . . . <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/crazy.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
Why am I online instead of hiking?

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#104462 - 10/10/08 07:04 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BasketballOSU]
grit Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/02
Posts: 207
Loc: Happy Jack, AZ
I'm just trying to figure out if you're from Oregon State, Oklahoma State, Ohio State, Ottawa State, Oshkosh-B'gosh State....

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#104463 - 10/10/08 09:30 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Berserker]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Berserker

Instead of tying the cord to the rock, why not put a weight into a small stuff sack and tie it closed with the cord? <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

I find that the first toss is the best, after that it could take 5-10 more tries. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" />

WARNING <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" /> True <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" />
If your "rock" sticks in the tree and you pull hard to get it out and it does finally come out, it can hit you as hard David hit Goliath. It could severely injure you as it will be coming very fast. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" /> The solution in that situation is to pull the cord around yet another tree and pull from an angle so when it does come loose, it won't be aimed at you. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" /> I have been hit. You have been warned <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" />

Use a hard finish laid cord to test the cord, rub it over a tree - does it stick enough to catch?
Jim <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />YMMV
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#104464 - 10/11/08 06:44 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Jimshaw]
Fiddleback Offline
member

Registered: 06/22/04
Posts: 478
Loc: Northern Rockies
I've packed up, but haven't used yet, a smallish, mesh bag that cherry tomatoes come in just for this purpose...

FB
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"...inalienable rights...include the right to a clean and healthful environment..." Montana Constitution

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#104465 - 10/11/08 08:24 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Fiddleback]
thecook Offline


Registered: 10/03/08
Posts: 541
Loc: Minnesota
I use the same carabiner with which I clip the bag to the rope as my weight for throwing the rope over a branch. Watch out for mesh bags as they may catch in the small braches of the tree and tangle to such an extent that you can't get it out.
_________________________
If I wouldn't eat it at home, why would I want to eat it on the trail?

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#104466 - 10/11/08 10:19 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BasketballOSU]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Quote:

It seems like such a hassle to hang up all the food 100 ft from your camp every night, especially in areas where bears aren't super common...


Get a rat sack or a bear can. Or an Ursack - though if you ever go to areas where bear cans are required that won't help you, you'll still need to rent an approved bear can.

Leaving your food in ziplocs doesn't help. They're not odor proof at all. I have been able to vacuum pack coffee in foodsaver vac bags, which are nylon, and keep coffee odor from permeating the contents of my bear can; however, my nose is not as sensitive as a raccoon's or bear's and so I will never trust any bag to be completely odor proof - including the OP sacks they sell at REI.

You have auto insurance, life insurance, medical insurance and you fasten your seatbelt - you need to protect your food in the wilderness. I've never had a bear touch my canister but I'm certainly not about to go without it.

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#104467 - 10/11/08 04:19 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: thecook]
Fiddleback Offline
member

Registered: 06/22/04
Posts: 478
Loc: Northern Rockies
Yup...I've anticipated that. Guess I should try it out on our pines before hitting the trail...

FB
_________________________
"...inalienable rights...include the right to a clean and healthful environment..." Montana Constitution

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#104468 - 10/11/08 06:15 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Fiddleback]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Use an adequate weight. A carabiner isn't enough, use at least a quarter pound, or the most you can throw. Its the weight that pulls the loose end down so you can reach it.
Jim <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#104469 - 10/11/08 10:11 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BasketballOSU]
Paul Offline
member

Registered: 09/30/02
Posts: 778
Loc: California
I, too , find hanging my food to be a hassle. And having to pick a campsite based on the availability of good "hanging trees" is also a pain.
I got pretty good at the whole hanging process on a JMT trip years ago, but it never ceased to be a chore. And so, I have gradually come aorund to the point where I bring my bear canister on all summer trips (as opposed to backcountry ski trips, where I don't worry about my food at all), regardless of whether required or not. For me, the extra weight of the canister is worth it. I don't have to pick a campsite with a haging tree avaialble, I don't have to worry about ANY critters getting into my food, I don't have to go through the whole hanging process, and I have a nice comfotable campstool to boot. And if I want to take a little side trip I don't have to hang my food while I'm away from my pack, just take the canister out so no critters chew my pack trying to get to the food.
And yes, I will agree that a some of the bear worries are overstated. There are certainly areas where the bears have become enamoured of human food, and highly skilled at getting it. In those areas, an approved canister is the only way you are going to keep your food short of defending it every minute. But ther are lots of other areas wher the bears an neither so bold or so skilled, and will avoid you as much as possible and be very unlikely to go after your food.. If you camp and travel off the trails, this is mostly the case. But even there, I find I can't justify to myself the risk of "contaminating" a wild bear as well as the slight risk of losing my food. I can well recall the "old days" (like the 70's, say) when we didin't worry about our food, except to keep it as close to us as possible in order to deter mice and squirrels in the night. That changed because the bears are smart and they like oru food and they found they could get it. The only way to get back to the point where bears are not a nuisance is to make sure that no bear EVER gets any human food. If we could keep that up for several generations of bears, they might cease to associate people with food, and leave our campsites alone. Of course, we'll never be able to go back to the carefree days, because if we did, the cycle would start again. But we'd have less hassle from bears, and they would be better off as well. So it is critical to store your food properly, for the bears' sake. It's not about you, it's about the bear.

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#104470 - 10/13/08 10:53 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Jimshaw]
Berserker Offline
member

Registered: 05/10/04
Posts: 493
Loc: Lynchburg, VA
Quote:
Instead of tying the cord to the rock, why not put a weight into a small stuff sack and tie it closed with the cord?

Simplicity...it's one less thing I have to worry about getting "hung up" in the tree.


Quote:
WARNING <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" /> True <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" />
If your "rock" sticks in the tree and you pull hard to get it out and it does finally come out, it can hit you as hard David hit Goliath. It could severely injure you as it will be coming very fast. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" /> The solution in that situation is to pull the cord around yet another tree and pull from an angle so when it does come loose, it won't be aimed at you. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" /> I have been hit. You have been warned <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" />

Good tip. I have pulled on a hung up rock, and had it pop out and come at me before.

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#104471 - 10/13/08 10:57 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Jimshaw]
Berserker Offline
member

Registered: 05/10/04
Posts: 493
Loc: Lynchburg, VA
Quote:
Use an adequate weight. A carabiner isn't enough, use at least a quarter pound, or the most you can throw. Its the weight that pulls the loose end down so you can reach it.
Jim <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />

Yeah, and if the rock (or whatever is hanging off of the weighted end of the cord) makes it over but doesn't come all the way down you can "whip" the other end of the cord, and this will usually make the weighted end come down (might take several whips) unless the cord gets snagged on the bark.

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#104472 - 10/13/08 12:47 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Berserker]
thecook Offline


Registered: 10/03/08
Posts: 541
Loc: Minnesota
I've never had a problm with a carabiner. Of course I am the lightest full size carabiner I could find so it is definately not SUL, but coupled with parachute cord has worked well for me for many years.
_________________________
If I wouldn't eat it at home, why would I want to eat it on the trail?

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#104473 - 10/13/08 09:42 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Hector]
BasketballOSU Offline
newbie

Registered: 07/26/08
Posts: 8
Quote:
>On the other hand, I'm not your momma. If you don't want to secure your food and you aren't camped near me (you won't be :-), that'll be between you and the wildlife. The bear you habituate to humans as an easy source of food may not thank you when the forest service shoots it, though.


Hector, just a heads up.

I certainly don't mind honest and straightforward posts like this, but it seems like several of your posts now could possibly taken as somewhat accusing and elitist to a new poster with less than ten posts on the site.

People come here to ask honest questions that they don't know the answer to. I think it's fairly reasonable that they should expect helpful responses (these have all been very helpful, by the way) without feeling like they are being judged or doing something wrong just by asking a simple question.

Like I said, not a big deal to me personally or anything, but I could see some people taking your tone the wrong way, just FYI. Thanks for the responses though!

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#104474 - 10/14/08 06:39 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BasketballOSU]
Hector Offline
member

Registered: 12/20/04
Posts: 325
Loc: LA/ARK/TX corner
> Like I said, not a big deal to me personally or anything, but I could see some
> people taking your tone the wrong way

Well, I'd hope they wouldn't, and I certainly apologize if they do. I think it's better to communicate directly and honestly than obfuscate with flowers and perfumes. Only in the service of humor should one risk being castigated with the dreaded "You shore do talk a lot." However, I do hope that in making a point I don't put anyone's eye out, including mine own.


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#104475 - 10/27/08 10:53 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Hector]
AUHiker Offline
newbie

Registered: 05/27/07
Posts: 11
Yeah this is one of those things you sometimes have to learn the hard way... as stated Bears are actually the least annoying critter- black bears at least- will run away 99.9% of the time from a full grown man with trecking poles waving- so the threat of them doesn't worry me... and they are very scattered out... RARE.

It's the small critters I HATE... mice are like little LASERS that will eat into your tent wall- into your pack- into your stuff sack- into your water bladder- and into your ziplock bag of breakfast food you had planned for the morning.
Raccoons are nasty and carry rabies.
Skunks well duh...

nothing is SAFE... hike out 100 yrds... tie up your bag and be done with it!

ALSO don't forget tolietries! TOOTHPASTE is like icecream to other animals.

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#104476 - 10/27/08 05:42 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BasketballOSU]
rootball Offline
member

Registered: 06/16/08
Posts: 112
How likely - not very if you hide it under your shirt or in the bottom of your bag. Just kidding. I've only had one come into camp. It must have been the tuna smell. I was done eating and motionless against a big tree, When I heard a sound I turned around. The bear may (may) not have known I was there - but when I moved the bear spooked and crashed down a ravine and disappeared.
_________________________
For brick and mortar breed filth and crime
And men are withered before their prime

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#112276 - 03/05/09 12:36 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: rootball]
zach Offline
member

Registered: 03/04/09
Posts: 19
Loc: Lake Tahoe
this is an excellent thread with great information.. excellent community too i look forward to posting!

on the subject of bears/critters and food, i am planning a small backpacking trip possibly solo in the sierras in 2 weeks and havent really informed myself to a level that this thread has now provided.

i have a few points/questions though, about human scent and territory.

i plan on hanging my food at least 50-100 ft from my sleeping area, with food/water/toiletries contained at least 10 ft up with 3-5 ft between the rope and branch to ensure critters dont somehow climb down the rope onto the hanging bag. so ill need a branch about 15 ft high in order to maximize protection, which is possibly with the huge jeffrey pines in the area.

well i also plan on making a 10-15 ft diameter circle of urine (or as much as i can muster before bed) around my tent.

no one has mentioned urine yet, and i was wondering what your opinions would be on the effectiveness of having it circling your tent.

ive read that it is both a good idea as well as a myth, but im figuring at least bears (critters might not care as much) would back off from the area or lose interest in my tent/pack.

i will keep my pack inside my tent (its a 2 person tent i use for solo) and all im really worried about is food smell on my clothes after cooking/fishing and having damage done to my stuff from rodents.

i also want to know if during the winter bear activity is limited due to hibernation, and what time of year they wake up and start to look for food, because i know if i just woke up from a 3 month sleep id be hungry for anything!

well great thread/replies thanks for reading and im looking forward to any response!

cheers
_________________________
"i believe a little more weight makes me push myself to be even stronger"

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#112299 - 03/05/09 11:50 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: zach]
aimless Online   content
Moderator

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 2838
Loc: Portland, OR
In re: using urine to discourage bears.

What follows is my opinion, not backed up by research at all. But it would seem to me that all urine can do is notify the bear that a human is present, or has been present recently. What the bear does with that information will depend entirely on how the bear perceives humans.

If the bear has a fear of humans, or simply a mild aversion, then it will be likely to act on those feelings through avoidance. However, in the California Sierras and some other places, there are many bears who view humans as blazing beacons marking the spot where they can find lovely human food.

Further more, because a bear has an extremely acute sense of smell, and humans tend to be pretty smelly by a bear's standards, the chances are excellent that the bear will know a human is nearby, with or without using urine to alert it.

In summation, my opinion is that urine wouldn't do squat to help you avoid bears. They'll know you're there anyway and what they do about that depends on the bear, not you.

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#112301 - 03/05/09 12:04 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BasketballOSU]
JAK Offline
member

Registered: 03/19/04
Posts: 2569
Originally Posted By BasketballOSU
In particular, what about areas with only a few interspersed black bears throughout a very large area, not common and no grizzlies?

What if you carry all "cold" food in ziplock bags, no cooking to release excess smells?

If you have, for example, peanut butter sandwiches, bagels, and pop tarts sealed inside ziploc bags, inside a food bag, inside your backpack, is that still going to release enough smells to attract bears to your camp site?

It seems like such a hassle to hang up all the food 100 ft from your camp every night, especially in areas where bears aren't super common...
I live in New Brunswick were we have many Black Bears, like 1 per 2 square miles, but they are very timid. Attacks are extremely rare. No fatalities have ever been recorded.

That's still alot of bears though. Maybe you should check again. Chances are they are out there. Most important thing is to not tease the heck out of them with food smells. At established camp sites and in parks, follow the rules also. With small children, the risks are higher, and the loss is more dear, so you need to take extra precautions. I hike with a large stick, keep her close, don't use any lemon-flavoured bug sprays on her, and sleep with her in a tent. I don't carry bear spray in Southern New Brunswick, though I've considered it. In Northern New Brunswick, I might.

I carry a one pound hatchet also, when with my daughter. Sounds silly in summer, but its useful for tapping a small nail and splitting deadfall sometimes in wet areas, and I sleep better at night, as the big stick wouldn't work so well in a tent. Wouldn't work so well on a bear either, but most bears down here are small anyway. I don't know, but I think the main thing with children is that bears might naturally repect protective behaviour. Keeping them close, carrying a stick, and sleeping with a hatchet might improve my posture if nothing else, and hopefully that is enough for the bears to understand. Maybe I smell different with a hatchet. Who knows?

I think keeping the smells down is a very important step.
Bears can smell through anything, but its a matter of degree.
Out of respect, if nothing else, there's no sense teasing them.
I think a wood fire helps also. Doesn't need to be big.
A couple of uses of my Kelly Kettle is enough to leave a smoke smell.
Sometimes I make a small fire also if I need to dry socks and stuff.

p.s. I hang my food when in parks, or at established campsites.
When in remote areas I don't hang food unless I'm with my daughter.
I always keep the smells down though.


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#112304 - 03/05/09 12:21 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: JAK]
JAK Offline
member

Registered: 03/19/04
Posts: 2569
I think the first step is to take an interest and get as much local knowledge as you can of the bears in your area. Get your information from people that work in the woods, especially those that study bears for a living, but even local hunters and guides (tempered with some objectivity). Older woodsmen are very good sources of information.

Here is a very good source of information from Ontario...
http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/Bearwise/index.html

It includes educational material used in schools.
http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/Bearwise/2ColumnSubPage/196968.html

This is what I used as a local source of information on bears where I hike. I found it interesting because it discusses the impact such things as parks and apple trees and bear bait stations. We have a Spring Hunt and a Fall Hunt. Done properly, I think bear hunting changes the demographics to keep the woods safer, as it has here since Indian times. Done improperly, commercial interests, and trophy hunting, can pervert nature and make bears and the woods more dangerous. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. The past is no guarantee of the future.
http://www.unbf.ca/forestry/centers/cwru/soe/bear1.htm

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#112318 - 03/05/09 03:23 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: aimless]
Heber Offline
member

Registered: 12/31/07
Posts: 245
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
Here's an interesting twist on the urine story.

As you say bears can smell very well. So they smell more than just the fact that the urine comes from a human. Apparently they can tell if you are male or female. Female urine doesn't work apparently. This is the story going around my neck of the woods anyway.

I'm not sure there is any research on it. The original research comes from wolves. But them wolves mark their territory with urine. If they smell male urine they take that to be a territorial boundary (regardless of whether it's human or wolf urine) and pretty much respect that boundary. Female urine, of any species, doesn't phase them.

I'm a bit doubtful whether bears work on the same principle. But hey, urine's cheap right? grin


Edited by Heber (03/05/09 03:24 PM)

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#112332 - 03/05/09 06:43 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Heber]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Heber,

I for one do sort of believe in the urine thing, I learned it from an alsakan guides manual when I was a kid. But you need to go out 100 yards and you don't need a complete circle - it was stated as thing to do in grizzly country. There are obvious trails in and out of any area. Marking a tree on each approach to my camp seems to keep my camps bear free, even in the Sierra. However if you are in a national park all bets are off.

Jim
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#116846 - 06/03/09 12:36 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Jimshaw]
going rafting Offline
newbie

Registered: 06/03/09
Posts: 4
Loc: somewhere on a river
Originally Posted By Jimshaw
Heber,

I for one do sort of believe in the urine thing, I learned it from an alsakan guides manual when I was a kid. But you need to go out 100 yards and you don't need a complete circle - it was stated as thing to do in grizzly country. There are obvious trails in and out of any area. Marking a tree on each approach to my camp seems to keep my camps bear free, even in the Sierra. However if you are in a national park all bets are off.

Jim

I pee around the camp, too, but I drink a lot of gatorade. Is that going to attract bears?

I own a bear canister but I have never seen a bear go near it. Recently I've seen bears on trips, but not near a camp. I like to put the bear canister away from my tent, but others keep them nearby. Sometimes we put them in a depression to keep them from rolling away if a bear does find them.

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#117479 - 06/22/09 03:06 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: going rafting]
Pat-trick Offline
member

Registered: 06/22/09
Posts: 175
Loc: Portland, OR
I've read all these posts with great interest. This is my first post ever on the Backcountry forum <applause>. Thank you! After reading them, I crossed out Bear Vault 500, $79.95, 2 lbs 9 ounces, on my list. Instead, I'm practicing the clove hitch and the Dutch Bowline for the PCT food hang. I have rope, stuff sacks, and carabiners, so i'm all set! By the way, several folks have said to put a weight in a stuff sack instead of typing rope around the rock. Why not just put the rock in the stuff sack? The nearest weight is probably somewhere in the city and costs $17.95. Before tax. Okay, I read that somewhere, about the rock in the sack, otherwise I wouldn't have figured it out either. smile
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#118169 - 07/08/09 08:28 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: going rafting]
bigb Offline
member

Registered: 07/05/09
Posts: 124
Loc: Maryland
I am new to the forum and got alot of info reading through these post, I have a small bear canister cause its fullproof, I hike alot in monongahela nf, WV and see bears on occasion but worry about rodents as well.
My hiking partner is a dutch sheperd which american breeders have not ruined yet, and he instictively marks the perimiter around camp after I set up, I have had coyotes around my camp (heard them fighting) but they did not come in possibly from my dog marking
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"In the beginers mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few."
Shunryu Suzuki

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#118237 - 07/11/09 04:29 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: bigb]
Bearpaw Offline
Moderator

Registered: 07/25/04
Posts: 1732
Loc: Tennessee
A great deal depends on where you are. In the Sierras, there is definitely a super-culture of bears that see hikers as a major source of food.

In the Smokies, virtually all bear-human incidents occur within a couple of miles of a road. The backcountry consists of hikers scaring away bears merely with their presence.

Outside GSMNP, there are plenty of bears. But in NC, they can be hunted legally and they DO NOT stick around for humans.

Look up and down the AT corridor. Thousands of hikers hang their food bags from little cords in an open shelter, maybe 5-7 feet off the ground. The concern is to keep mice away, not bears. You do NOT have bear problems along this corridor, except maybe Shenandoah NP and New Jersey, where the maintaining clubs place bear boxes or poles at all shelters.

Out west in the Rockies, things are even more varied. When I taught for NOLS, bear protocol was a big part of every couse brief. In the Wind River range, we might bear bag or cliff hang as necessary. There was a time when we even simply consolidated food bags on the ground at a kitchen area away from tents.

In the Absarokas, just 100 miles away, we were in Brother Grizz's back yard. Here, we used the triangle method of cook one place, hang another, and camp in a third. We slept with bear spray and required hikers to change clothing if they spilled food on themselves.

In the Lemhi range in Idaho, another mere 100 miles from the Absarokas, bears were so low a priority, we simply stacked food bags on the ground. We never had so much as a nibble.

It pays to know your region. In the southeast, I'll drape my food bag where I can see it from my hammock. If something goes after it, I want to know. I've encountered black bears dozens of times in the mountains, but only twice has one entered my camp. Both times were in the Rockies, I chased them away with relative ease.

Unless, I'm in a high-impact area, I'll go for the simplest hang that will keep small critters away. That often means a branch a few feet off the ground. But particularly here in the southeast, the possibility of bears is just not worth the probability of hurting yourself launching a rock and cord into the higher branches of a tree.
_________________________
http://www.trailjournals.com/BearpawAT99/

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#118239 - 07/11/09 05:08 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Bearpaw]
EricaStolte Offline
member

Registered: 06/24/09
Posts: 18
Loc: SouthernVT
Does anyone know what the current risk of bears eating your food on the Long trail is?.

When I went out a couple of years ago, I simply hung my food in the shelters on the rodent baffles. Is that still OK?.


Edited by EricaStolte (07/11/09 06:24 PM)

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#118242 - 07/11/09 05:48 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: EricaStolte]
Bearpaw Offline
Moderator

Registered: 07/25/04
Posts: 1732
Loc: Tennessee
Yes, it's as OK now as it was then. As I said, you have low-hung food in most shelters along the AT (about 250 of them) and yet virtually no incidents of bear attacks. It really is relative to an area. You're much more likely to have an issue in New Jersey or a more populated area where bears have discovered food in trash cans than in the more wilderness setting of the Long Trail.
_________________________
http://www.trailjournals.com/BearpawAT99/

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