Kids / Bear Safety

Posted by: GBP

Kids / Bear Safety - 03/20/16 10:57 PM

After doing some research with the precautions necessary when hiking in bear country is it really feasible to bring children with? I am having this horrible scene play out in my head where one of my sons they are 4 and 2 leave some crumbs in their pockets because thats what boys do and a bear ripping into the tent in the middle of the night. Kids are kids and at the same time I know better than under estimate the safety aspect of this. In addition to the swapping clothes after dinner thing where do you store all these clothes over night? Room is a bit of a issue obviously because the little ones cant carry too much. Appreciate any advice/feedback I can get thank you!
Posted by: jimmyb

Re: Kids / Bear Safety - 03/21/16 12:45 AM

Cooking and eating a ways from your shelter is a good idea and if you carry a base layer dedicated to sleeping in you can change and hang your clothes you cooked in, in your food bag, or store them in a bear container if the camp sight has one. That would be going the extra mile so to speak. Not a bad strategy for brown bear country. Having camped in brown bear country we have done just that. Put snack wrappers and smelly trash in a separate trash bag instead of putting them in your pants/shirt pockets or in hip belt pockets. Don"t wipe smelly hands on your pants. All just common sense stuff. No pun intended.

Last year in NC, the Smokies a 16 yr old was pulled from his hammock while camped out with his dad by a black bear. The boy remained conscious during the attack as his father chased away the bear but sustained lacerations and head injury. By reports I read their food was properly stored. I don't have any other details. So even black bears are not all the cuddly, more scared of us than we are of them type. Statistics show attacks are very few but they DO happen.

Teach your kids good food practices BEFORE they go on their first trip and the importance of doing so. Giving them a chance to "train" for the event could be fun and rewarding for them. Also teach them about good human behaviors if encountering a bear on the trail or in the woods like not running is a big one. It takes a bit of being good under pressure and discipline to hold your ground. Easier said than done. IMO if they are not old or mature enough to understand why its important they may need a few more years. You sure as heck don't want them to be scared of sleeping in the woods.

All of life's activities come with some sort of risk. I would sooner take a teenager on the trail in bear country than let her/him drive my car shocked but in the end you have to access the risks for your family.

Edit = and remember its not a race to see how young kids can do stuff. Life makes time for the right time if you know what I mean.
Posted by: GBP

Re: Kids / Bear Safety - 03/21/16 05:09 AM

Absolutely makes sense right now we live down in texas and we have been practicing good habbits when we go out now soon moving up to wyoming. Specific question but is there anyone that knows of an area up in Wyoming thats not bear territory?
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Kids in Bear Country - 03/21/16 11:15 AM

By "bear country" do you mean black bears or grizzlies? I would not take children in grizzly country (Yellowstone NP, Glacier NP). I would also check with authorities about bear activity. If bear encounters are happening in a certain area, I would avoid it. In the Sierra (black bears only) most bears can be avoided simply by camping in non-standard areas, well off trails.

I would not worry about a few food crumbs in pockets, but be more worried about overall bear-proofing/handling of all food and cooking. Store all food well away from the tent. If you wash up the kids (get food off their faces) before bed, you should be fine. Bears are curious about smells. I would not use scented soap or sanitizing wipes. You do not want to smell like a piece of candy after washing up!

Buy some OP (odor-proof) sacks to store clothing. I think they are about $10 for a package of three. If you cannot buy the locally (try sporting/hunting/fishing shops) buy on the internet.
Posted by: BZH

Re: Kids / Bear Safety - 03/21/16 12:17 PM


During the 144-year (1872-2014) history of Yellowstone National Park, eight people have been killed by bears in the park. More people in the park have died from drowning, burns (after falling into thermal pools), and suicide than have been killed by bears. To put it in perspective, the probability of being killed by a bear in the park (8 incidents) is only slightly higher than the probability of being struck and killed by lightning (5 incidents).

Reading through the list of the 8 fatalities none of them appear to be children. The more common M.O. is solo backpackers. Bears don't have much interest in messing with groups. They are not interested in messing with people at all, so if they know you are coming they will get out of your way. That is easy to do with young kids.

The one thing to realize about a bears sense of smell, is yes they can smell the crumbs, but that is underestimating just how good there sense of smell is. They can smell the crumbs AND tell it is just a couple crumbs.
Posted by: Rick_D

Re: Kids in Bear Country - 03/21/16 03:42 PM

Agree, black and grizzly are different critters requiring different practices. I'd not take young kids into the backcountry where grizzly roam.

In California I'd be more concerned about mountain lions and would never allow young kids to stray when hiking and camping in their habitat (i.e., recent, reported sightings in the area). California black bears, even pesky Yosemite bears, are more a very large smelly pest than a true danger.

Posted by: bluefish

Re: Kids in Bear Country - 03/21/16 04:25 PM

I'd agree about the cats. I backpacked the Encampment River from Wyoming into Co. and there was so many ledges and hair and bone piles of mule deer that we stopped very early to camp and started late in the morning. We were pretty nervous at dawn and dusk. On more open trails and no threat of Grizzlies, I'd think you'd be fine with the kids, as long as they stayed close and you followed good food and scent protocol.
I could see going into the Green River Lakes and taking day hikes, even short backpacks pretty easily. Beautiful area, pretty easy access and good fishing for fun with the kids if you like to fish.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Kids in Bear Country - 03/21/16 05:11 PM

If I were to take kids into the Wind Rivers ( I have in the past), I would not choose the Highline Trail out of Green River Lakes. There have been grizzly problems there in the past. In addition, I never took my small kids in areas with big rivers. It just depends on how closely you can supervise the kids and if your kids are the type that stick around or run off or if they are more timid or daredevils. Mine were daredevils.

When in bear country (particularly grizzly country) you have to be always on the lookout for bears. Personally, I find it difficult to keep track of both bears and kids. You also really need to carry bear spray, another 11 oz and you MUST keep it away from the kids. If in addition you are not an expert backpacker, all that plus dealing with weather, etc, etc, is quite a bit of stress. A lot of people take kids into bear country. Certainly can safely be done. Just not my preference. Others here obviously disagree.

Here are a few web sites with statistics on grizzly bear encounters. There are many more. The IGBST is THE agency that deals with grizzly bear.

By the way, in many Canadian national parks, where there are more grizzlies than in the USA, many trials specify that you must go in groups of four or more, and SMALL CHILDREN do not count. In other words, minimum of four adults.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Kids / Bear Safety - 03/21/16 05:16 PM

By the way, all my comments come from my experience as a somewhat cautious mother who has taken her kids backpacking at that age. I think fathers may have a different perspective. A 2 and 4 year old are vastly different than an 8 and 10 year old. It is the age of your kids that concerns me more than kids in general in bear country. My kids were quite a handful at that age.
Posted by: BrRabbit

Re: Kids / Bear Safety - 03/21/16 10:10 PM

1) Make a lot of noise. Tell your kids to make a lot of noise. Sing, laugh, call bear names, shout to your children.
The more - the merrier, if it gets quiet - your kids are up to something...

2) Food. Keep it away from you, in a bear-proof container and keep its smells to the minimum.

3) Carry bear spray capable of shooting 30ft. It's not good in your backpack, it should be on your hip at a moments reach. Don't spray it just for practice - old pepper spray smell attracts bears.

4) Consider carrying a firearm on another hip. .357 with good 4+ inch barrel is an absolute minimum, .44Magnum is better, in semi-autos I think .40-caliber is better than .45 (but firearm experts might correct me...). Don't shoot the bear with it unless he's attacking you NOW, otherwise you're pissing him off (warning shot might actually be a good thing - to scare him, but hold it too, it must surprise him like hell, not be a casual noise). If you have to shoot, aim into bears mouth - it's all soft tissue and bear's brain is aligned to it.

Disclaimer: all of it is a compillation of other people stories and suggestions. I was pretty good at avoiding the bear following 1) and 2)
Posted by: GBP

Re: Kids / Bear Safety - 03/21/16 11:11 PM

Thank you everyone for the great replies and information its really shed light on a few things. I can definitely appreciate the difference between a grizzly vs black bear, and the full range of precautions. Vedauwoo area in south east wyoming places closest to Cheyenne as that is where I will be living, any suggestions on packing trip areas near there? Also I was looking at the snowy range area.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Kids / Bear Safety - 03/22/16 12:18 AM

You are moving to near where I grew up and went to college (Laramie)! You'll also be close to a lot of beautiful areas in northern Colorado! The Rawah Wilderness west of Fort Collins and the Mt.Zirkel Wilderness northeast of Steamboat Springs are both great. If you drive to North Park (Walden) south of Laramie, you'll be surrounded by both mountain ranges (Medicine Bow and Park Ranges). However, the Rawah Wilderness is best accessed from the east side (Laramie River Road), while the Mt. Zirkel area can be accesseed from either the east (Big Creek Lakes) or the west (Buffalo Pass or Seedhouse above Steamboat Springs).

Since in those areas, bears are hunted extensively, you probably don't have to worry. If you are lucky enough to see a bear, you'll only see its back side disappearing rapidly. You don't get into grizzly country until you get farther north, a lot closer to Yellowstone. The Wind Rivers are the southern limit of grizz country. A few have been spotted in the southern Winds, but most griz are in the northern part.

Do follow food storge precautions, though; you don't want to be the one whose carelessness teaches a bear that hikers = food!

It is a good idea to keep the kids close. And for everyone, remember that to any predator, if it runs, it's dinner! It's a good idea to drill the kids on safety precautions periodically.

Unless you're "Deadeye Dick," I wouldn't bother with a firearm. If you don't have the skill to hit a charging bear with a fatal shot the first time, forget it. Hell hath no fury like a wounded bear! Plus if you are in a national park, you are not allowed to shoot anything, even in self defense.
Posted by: balzaccom

Re: Kids / Bear Safety - 03/22/16 02:48 PM

I laughed when I heard your question about crumbs in their pockets. I remember being concerned about the food still on their faces!

The bears in Yosemite are most likely to hammer a minivan, because they know it will have food, somewhere, in it!

Be cautious, teach them well. They have a lifetime to figure this stuff out (or at least ten years) so don't push too hard. We were much more cautious with our kids when they were little. You don't to terrorize them, but you also want them to understand that sneaking a graham cracker into the sleeping bag is a really bad idea.
Posted by: 4evrplan

Re: Kids / Bear Safety - 03/24/16 12:35 PM

Even if I owned a gun, I absolutely under no conditions would ever carry it hiking with a 2 year old and 4 year old!!!
Posted by: BrRabbit

Re: Kids / Bear Safety - 03/24/16 12:38 PM

Why not? It's the safest place to keep your gun - on your hip, in the holster. No kid would ever grab it from there.
Posted by: BZH

Re: Kids / Bear Safety - 03/24/16 07:07 PM

Originally Posted By BrRabbit
Why not? It's the safest place to keep your gun - on your hip, in the holster. No kid would ever grab it from there.
Posted by: BrRabbit

Re: Kids / Bear Safety - 03/29/16 02:07 PM

yeah, bad holster, and bad luck too. I felt down on the stairs pretty badly last night while bringing my gear into the basement, but no one would care to write an article in any newspaper about it frown Or prohibit evil stairs. Or sue slipper manufacturers on my behalf. cry
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Kids / Bear Safety - 03/29/16 02:46 PM

Reminds me of the time my son fell down the stairs (polished wooden stairs, stocking feet). He was carrying his one-week-old youngest son! Fortunately, little "Bear" was in his car seat and was not injured; he woke up but wasn't even scared! His dad was only slightly bruised, but he learned a lesson--either barefoot or shoes!

Ban stairs, ban socks? Might be better to promote common sense.

I hope you're OK, BrRabbit!

Posted by: wildnfree

Re: Kids / Bear Safety - 08/21/18 04:31 AM

I wouldn't recommend you to bring your kids while on the trails. Though black or grizzly bears don't attack unless they feel dangerous, it will be better to let them home. You should bring a bear spray in case of bad things.