Last night, my friend and I were camping out on her ranch in a teepee. Her ranch is the only area of land up there with running water, and recently there was a bear sighting. Last time we were there, there were bear tracks by the entrance to the campgrounds and on the couch. Also, the teepee is probably fifty yards or less from the creek. Last night, I was awake and my friend was asleep when I heard crunches and sniffing. I woke her up, and we listened for a bit til we heard it again. Loud sniffing, crunching footsteps, and sometimes the footsteps would pick up speed, like it was running. We got our airhorn and a pool stick (only weapon we had) ready. Mind you, we would have first talked before blowing the horn. We could tell by the footsteps it was huge. Then, it started to scratch the teepee. We didn't know what to do, we were completely silent. It kept scratching and sniffing and running and walking outside. We kept all lights shined towards the back of the tent, due to the fact that the teepee door doesn't close completely so we did not want to lead it inside. We were honestly terrified, we are not even old enough to have driving permits. About ten minutes later, when it started running and moving and clawing more, and we guessed climbing due to the rising scratch sounds, we called her dad to pick us up. A few minutes later, he came, beat a stick on the ground, and took us to their house for the night. He didn't believe us and he was making fun of his in front of his friends. The next day, we went down to get our stuff, (food was in the ice box or bear box) and we saw huge bear tracks. They were almost as big as our hands. The teepee door had been torn apart from the teepee partially, and the blanket that was covering the entrance was tossed on the ground. All the stuff that was in our teepee was in a pile on the floor.
Long forum post short, how can we be better prepared? There is definitely a bear chilling out down there, and it has been getting close to the teepee and obviously knows how to get in. We still want to go camping however, what should we do?
Hi and welcome to the forum. I'm pretty sure that the bear was a lot more interested in the food in the cooler than he/she was in you. You didn't say where the food cooler was stored. If it was in the teepe with you, I can understand why the bear was trying to get inside. Normally hikers in bear country will store their food in bear proof containers at least fifty to one hundred feet from where they sleep. Bears have very good noses and can smell very faint food odors. If they are hungry (almost always) they can take extreme measures to get at food. A woman I know had the window frame ripped off of her car by a bear trying to get at a recently emptied PayDay candy bar wrapper. Practice good food security and you are not likely to have such bear encounters.
As mentioned above, the bear was looking for food. Get the food (including garbage, soap, deodorant or anything with a strong smell) out of the teepee and the bear will leave the teepee alone. You should have let that airhorn go. It would have scared the c__p out of the bear. Yosemite Rangers now chase bears out of campgrounds using fireworks and noise makers.
If you want to feel a bit more secure with your bear encounter, do some research on bear fatalities. They are quite rare.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
+3 that the bear was looking for food. If the food was in the tepee, of course the bear will try to get in! For a bear, the smell of food (or even cosmetics or toothpaste) is a very powerful attractant!
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
Loc: Portland, OR
You'd like to know how to be better prepared, so I'll try to address that. This will be long, but I hope it helps.
First off, having more weapons would not make you better prepared. Even if you'd had bear spray with you, using it in the confines of a teepee is not a good idea. That stuff is powerfully irritating to your eyes, nose, throat, and skin and there'd be no way for you to avoid the cloud of spray inside a teepee. Guns, spears, knives all would be terrible ideas, too. Wounding a bear is **not recommended** and killing it quickly with any weapon is, shall we say, a long shot. As you found out, bears are indeed huge animals.
That air horn, however, was probably more than sufficient to your needs, which was to scare the bear away. What you needed besides the air horn was enough knowledge to know how to react and what to do. Coming here to gain some knowledge was an awesome idea.
Here's some knowledge about black bears, which is very likely the kind of bear you encountered. Bears spend almost every minute of every day either eating something or else thinking about food. Food is far and away the most important thing in their lives. Nothing else comes close. They aren't very picky eaters. They'll eat whatever is handiest, including insect larvae, earthworms, berries, roots, almost anything with calories. To help them find food they have incredibly sensitive noses and a sense of smell that is far better than a bloodhound's. (But they don't have very good eyesight.)
Lastly, bears are pretty intelligent and very curious, very similar to a smart dog. Unlike dogs, they are usually not very aggressive and prefer to avoid trouble. Being so intelligent means they have individual personalities, memories, and opinions.
How a particular bear views humans will depend a lot on its past experience with humans. Sometimes it depends on where the bear lives. For example, in some places in California, especially in Yosemite and the Sierra mountains bears have learned that humans won't harm them, so they aren't afraid to come right into your camp and rob your food. In the vast majority of places, black bears are afraid of humans. If the place is very wild and the bear rather young, they may not know anything about humans, but their instinct is to avoid trouble, so you can scare them off anyway.
So, now you understand a bit more about bears.
When a bear comes into your camp, 100% of the time it smelled something interesting -- either food, or something else that smelled good enough it was curious about it. It isn't looking for trouble, it's looking for food. So, the first thing to do is not put the food where you are! Put it in a place the bear can't get it. In fact, try not to have anything with you that might smell really good to a bear, like toothpaste or perfume.
Next, the bear that was sniffing around your teepee probably will run away if it has a choice between running away or fighting you, so you need to convince it you are mean, feisty and big. A really loud noise == something really dangerous, so the air horn ought to do the job.
Lastly, if the bear happens to be the extremely rare bear that can't be scared off with an air horn, then you need to be the one who leaves. The best way to leave is to back off, facing it, and talking loudly to it. The problem with running as fast as you can is that it makes you look like prey, which is the opposite of being mean, feisty and big.
It would help us to know where you live, because if the bear was a grizzly, then you have a different problem and different knowledge to gain. But it could be a grizzly only if you live in Montana, Idaho or Alaska.
If you have questions about all this, feel free to ask.
All good advice. Especially never to run away as you will appear to be prey. The bear will instinctively chase you, and guaranteed, you will never outrun a bear. I live in an area with lots of black bear, and I've had a couple of encounters. Every time the bear has been more scared of me than I was of it.
A friend of mine was hunting black bear, with a long bow, on the ground. He was sitting with his back up against a tree. A huge bear walked out from behind the tree and actually stepped over his outstretched legs. The bear didn't care that he was there; he was after the corn in the field. Took my friend a while to get the nerve up to move again afterwards though.
Ran into a black bear in Banff. He was about 30 foot off the trail and I couldnt walk around him. I had to stay on the trail. He/she did even look up at us when we walked by. It was to busy eating arnica flowers. I have had many very close encounters with black bears and not once did they give a crap about me being near them. One encounter with a grizzly. I found out if you shite your pants that dont like the smell and will stay away
One thing I would add is that be it black or brown bears or lions or moose for that matter they are all individual animals just as we are. Generalizations are all well and good until they're not. You need to understand that each encounter will most likely be unique and that situational awareness and preparation is your best bet to avoid a bad outcome.
There are so many factors that are unknowns when you bump into an animal along your travels. How well fed is it, how stressed is it due to human traffic. Is it pressured by encroachment of habitat or loss of food sources. Is the animal sick or injured. What is the history of prior human contact and the outcomes.
I am always wary of any animal that is bigger than me or that has the shear physical power to easily harm me. A bad tempered pit bull for example is one animal that has great potential to do bodily harm yet they are not often considered until a bad event has taken place. I set aside machismo and don't make apologies for my caution as it has served me well. Don"t forget statistically humans are at the top of the list for harmful animals and they are all around us.
I have spent a lot of time in the woods of New England hunting, hiking and BPing over the years and was quite cavalier about bears as encounters were very rare. I believe things have changed considerably over the years and I have been seeing and hearing of a lot more bear encounters than ever before many of which are not ending well. Poor human behavior and lack of habitat have embolden them.
I don't consider BPing with bears a huge risk as I have done my homework, practice good habits and the stats prove it out. That does not mean I don't understand there certainly are risks however. Its just that my wife and I accept them. Having been involved in many risky activities I always weight the odds and accept the consequences before hand and I make sure those I am responsible for understand the same.
So to conclude don't let fear drive your decisions. Read as much as you can about bear behavior and what behaviors you must practice when among them. Use your own common sense and filter carefully the advise you receive and have a game plan for next time you want to spend a wonderful time camping out. With this experience you have already learned a lot, you just need to think about what happened and what you might do differently it if it were to happen again. Bottom line though is no one was hurt, you or the bear