Bear Safety

Posted by: TBBolts

Bear Safety - 12/07/08 08:11 PM


I currently live in Florida and am new to backpacking. I have spent several years camping, but me and my sons are looking at taking it to the next level. Does anyone know of some good sources on bear safety. Florida is known for black bears and I want to be sure that we do it correctly our first time out. Thanks in advance.

Posted by: phat

Re: Bear Safety - 12/07/08 08:33 PM

Lots of places to find the basics.

The usual, courtesey parks canada

however you don't need to to worry about grizzlies, everything else applies.

you will probably be hanging food - for bears or other critters.

Having said that, one of your best sources of information is a ranger at a local park you intend on going to. - if there is a habituated bear problem locally or other issues they will give you the best advice for the local environment. while basic bear safety is the same everywhere, some bears are not the same, for example, the perennially habituated bears in yosemite are very different from black bears most anywhere else.
Posted by: northernbcr

Re: Bear Safety - 12/07/08 08:44 PM

i believe the best info going is the bear encounter survival guide by james shelton he is the person that teaches bear saftey to the park employees in western canada as well as our dept of fisheries and our conservation. i would not get information from any other sourses there is no one out there as qualified as him.
Posted by: JAK

Re: Bear Safety - 12/07/08 10:52 PM

The Province of Ontario has some really good educational material on bears and bear safety. The teacher's guides available online targeted at different age groups might be something you could use with your boys to combine education with outdoors activity. I think getting to know as much about bears as possible is a good start. Florida Black Bears might behave a little different than Ontario Black Bears, so you want local information as well.
Posted by: hikerduane

Re: Bear Safety - 12/08/08 02:48 AM

Since Pooch passed away about five years ago, I have been able to visit Parks like Yosemite now. Still havn't seen a bear there since I was a kid in the mid '60's. I have been to a couple of the spots known for high bear activity. I must be doing something wrong!:) Here kitty, kitty, kitty. Plus, since he passed away, I have yet to see a bear when out bping.
Posted by: JAK

Re: Bear Safety - 12/08/08 04:30 AM

I've never seen one either, except from a car back when we had public dumps everywhere. I suspect that they must smell me coming, because we are supposed to have one of them every 2 square miles. On the Fundy Footpath the distances are marked every kilometer, so every 2 kilometers I politely knock before I enter. Thus far no bear has answered, but I go right on in and make myself at home anyway. I bring my own oatmeal. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />
Posted by: TBBolts

Re: Bear Safety - 12/08/08 11:11 AM

Thank you all for your quick response. I will definitely check into the advice offered.

Posted by: kutenay

Re: Bear Safety - 12/08/08 12:20 PM

I used to teach basic bear coping techniques as a part of my supervision/training of forestry crews and I started working in the BC bush in April, 1965. I am from a pioneer BC family and was raised in the Kootenays by genuine oldtime bushmen, so, I had some real knowledge of what I was about.

I have now had quite a few Grizzly encounters in my nearly 53 years of active bush activities and hundreds of Blacks and I have yet to be attacked, BUT, it COULD happen and frequently does and to very experienced bushmen. There is a lot of bear material out there and most of it is pure bullschitt, so, here is what I suggest.

You need simple, workable techniques that will save your azz if you encounter an aggressive bruin and they seem to be increasing in number. The BEST advice is found in the book I suggest you buy, read and practice and you do not need to buy dozens of books to learn what you need to know.


Bear Encounter Survival Guide

by James Gary Shelton

US Distributor: Partners Publishing Group
2325 Jarco Drive, Holt, Michigan, USA 48842
Ph. 1-800-336-3137// Fax. 517-694-0617

Gary is a couple years older than I am and is now retired, AFAIK, he lives in Hagensborg, BC and there are LOTS of bears there, I saw over a dozen on my last trip up there. He is an American who came to BC circa 1965 and was smart enough to LISTEN TO the same sort of oldtime BCers that I learned from. I do not agree with his attitudes concerning ...preservationist biologists... in many respects and we know quite a number of people in common, but, I have not met him.

He certainly is not the only real "expert" on bears, BUT, this book contains the most realistic advice on avoiding/surviving bear problems that I have ever seen and it is the best source for your needs.

Take your time and learn about bears slowly and cautiously and you will enjoy the experience. I love to watch bears, have been within a few yards of both Grizzlies and Blacks on several occasions, both armed and not and find these to be fabulous spiritual experiences. However, bears ARE dangerous and require and deserve our careful handling.
Posted by: Jimshaw

Re: Bear Safety - 12/08/08 07:49 PM


I do not hike in Florida but I have spent a lot of time hiking in "Bear country" and I've only seen one true wild bear. The rest were park bears in national parks.

I wouldn't worry about "handling an ENCOUNTER", so much as I would learn to hang my food away from camp. The odds of a black bear in a populated area where he sees humans often, attacking someone is just not a common occurrence. For the most part bear are not aggressive, in fact they are rather shy and if you should see one count yourself lucky. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" />
Jim <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
Posted by: kutenay

Re: Bear Safety - 12/08/08 11:23 PM

I would question your whole concept of "bear country", if you have only seen one single wild bear in your hiking; that, to me, is not really bear country as I understand the term. My idea of "bear country" is where bears are so numerous as to make seeing one or more while hiking a regular part of the day and where even Black Bear attacks are so frequent that they only are reported in the media when serious injuries happen, as is the case here in BC.

It is, IME, a commonplace attitude to discount the potential danger posed by these animals and taking the precautions that knowledable workers/recreationalists do in "bear country" is simply a wise and practical approach to this situation, it may well save your life.

Where I "train" hike, in the North Shore Mountains across the Indian Arm from Vancouver, BC, a major metropolitan area of over two million people, bears are commonly seen walking alone city streets in North Van. and hiking along the various trails. We usually have them here near my home in central Vancouver and we have several attacks per annum by Grizzlies and Blacks. These animals ARE dangerous and REQUIRE caution and respect, you never see a really experienced BC bush person take bears lightly.

Simply put, bears are dangerous and being cautious is not being a coward, it is the wise course of action. Get Gary Shelton's book and learn from it, the cost and time are well worth it.
Posted by: northernbcr

Re: Bear Safety - 12/09/08 10:05 AM

there seems to be alot of resistance here to the ideas that bear encounters are changing especially in the last 15 years. when ever this subject is brought up there seems to be people that are not educated about this and feel the need to make jokes and minimize human bear conflict.

as we continue to overprotect our bears and they in turn loose there fear of man the encounters are showing a dramatic rise and in places where this did not happen before. eg new york, florida and other southern states these are documented . there is a real tendancy by many here to argue and joke using there old wrong i treat them like a big racoon.

for instance let us talk of only black bears, they have become more dangerous than grizzly;s because of there loss of man fear, there increased numbers and they unlike grizzly' are much more prone to predacious human attacks . the area that i live in is full of both types of bears but the biggest danger is the predaciuos black fact this area is probally the most dangerous in the world for this reason alone. as populations expand this type of behaviour is showing up in more areas than ever.

here are some rules that should always be followed
.never expose your self to bear attack hazard without a defensive system spray or firearm.
.never play dead with any bear always defend yourself.
.if the bear is showing anger(defensive aggressive) ready your defense system and if possible back away slowly.
.if a bear is stalking you(predatory) ready your defense system,maintain eye contact,and quickly chase it off by yeling throwing rocks, banging pots etc.
.if you can not determine what type of encounter you are having ready your defense system stand your ground quietly and defend yourself.
.if your defence system fails or if you are foolish enough to believe it not nessessary to defend your self against bears then you have no choice but to play dead in a deffensive aggresive attack, and to fight back in a predatory attack. that is if you can clearly understand the differences.

and lastly this subject should not be taken lightly educate yourself properly read the bear encounter survival guide by james shelton. i am not a fearmonger but a realist.times are definattly changing . i have been personally been bluff charged twice by a grizzly as well as stalked by a black bear ,both times i was carrying a 12ga and spray at the time they offered only a small margin of comfort . i can only imagine what it would have felt like with no defences at all. yours truly lyall
Posted by: aimless

Re: Bear Safety - 12/09/08 10:45 AM

Because black bears are intelligent and have distinct personalities (at least as much as dogs), they are somewhat difficult to generalize about. One trait they all seem to share is they are always hungry and always interested in food. So, it is a good rule to always safeguard your food.

Another good rule I heard from a hiker who frequents the Sierras in CA, where the bears are not very afraid of humans, is that once a bear has successfully grabbed your food, it is not your food any more; it is his food and he will defend it on that basis.

Apart from food issues, the next most common incident between bears and people are accidental meetings, where neither the bear nor the hiker expected to see one another. Generally these end with the bear turning tail and scampering off - but not always.

When the bear doesn't leave quickly, it will commonly be because it is a mother with a cub nearby, or it has no good path of escape. In either case, you've got a testy bear who wants you gone. The best thing to do then is go away, slowly and deliberately, back the way you came and wait a while before proceeding again.

I am also an advocate of talking to the bear, explaining what you are doing in a calm, friendly voice. Experts may not think this is worthwhile, but I do. As I said, bears are intelligent creatures.

Good luck. And don't worry too much. 99.9% of bear encounters end safely.
Posted by: northernbcr

Re: Bear Safety - 12/09/08 11:15 AM

that is an example of what i was talking about saying that generally they dont leave is because they are a mother with cubs. this is untrue and wrong ..... i emplore you all not to offer advice on this subject. just read the book....
Posted by: aimless

Re: Bear Safety - 12/09/08 01:02 PM

northernbcer, I stand behind my statement that 99.9% of bear-human ancounters end safely. That would still leave one encounter in a thousand that did not end safely. If you have any reliable information that disputes this, I will retract it.

Even if there were a 500% increase in the base number of bear attacks, that increase would barely budge the ratio of safe encounters to attacks.

That much said, I would be happy to read the book. Any bear attack is serious business.
Posted by: northernbcr

Re: Bear Safety - 12/09/08 01:25 PM

it was not the ratio that i have trouble with it was the statement about black bear mothers and there cubs.that is the part that is not correct. and you are right it is serious stuff. there is so much wrong info out there that it makes me sad when info is given out by people meaning well and it is not correct

the point i want to get out is that the old ways of dealing with bears are not working well any more .the amount of attacks is increasing.and we all should have a proper strategy in place, proper being the operative word..
Posted by: midnightsun03

Re: Bear Safety - 12/10/08 03:33 PM

Can you clarify what you're saying the myth is about mother black bears and their cubs?

Bear behavior is very different depending on where you are. Anchorage saw two significant Griz attacks within city limits this year. Two seperate bears (differentiated by DNA testing) caused significant injuries to two individuals 3 or 4 weeks apart in almost exactly the same place this summer.

For the most part, black bears here will stalk but rarely attack. There was a fatal mauling about a decade ago by a black bear, but other than that they tend to be more curious than anything. I've crossed paths with several black bears on local trails, all of whom were completely uninterested in me. We have between 200 and 300 black bears living within Anchorage, far fewer Griz, but they are there, mostly concentrated around Campbell Creek (good fishing for them). They all got a bit testy this year when we had a very late start to summer... even the grass was late, and that is their usual spring diet.

To the OP: the advice to contact the rangers in the area you're about to visit is good advice. They know the bears in their region and can advise you on how best to keep them wild.

Posted by: northernbcr

Re: Bear Safety - 12/10/08 04:20 PM

what i was trying to say is that a black bear that sticks around is usually because it has cubs or no place to escape is not true at all there are many different reasons why they may be sticking around and it is wrong to lump them into a few catagories.

i know that i am a real pain about this but in my area black bear attacks now out number grizzly attacks this is because we have overprotected our bears, hunter numbers are down and bears have lost there fear of man this is now spreading to areas where it was never like that before.there is more bears than ther used to be and they are reasserting themselves at the top of the food chain.

you stated that usually black bears just stalk you this is a perfect example of people not realizing what is going on, this type of bear is probally the most dangerous out there.and as they continue to be able to do this with no repercussions the consequences may turn awfull especially in a low food year.

please do not take my word but please read the bear encounter survival guide by james shelton.isbn#0-9698099-0-5 .in your area there is no room for old beliefs you need to educate your self properly especially with the changes in blacks over the last few years.
Posted by: midnightsun03

Re: Bear Safety - 12/10/08 04:47 PM

I do keep myself educated on the behaviors and activities of my local bear population. Black bear attacks just don't happen here yet, with the exception of the fatal attack in 1997. That doesn't mean black bears will never attack, but they aren't showing signs of changing, whereas the local griz are getting more aggressive in certain parts of the city. No one book is going to be accurate for every population... general behavior and how you should respond, yes, but not the specifics of an area. I don't know why the black bears in your area have become so dangerous, but I can tell you that the bears here are not that aggressive. There are isolated cases of witnessed black bear stalkings, but it is rare, and usually either involves food (like a nice smelly pack full of yummy bear treats) or curious juvenile bears.

I reiterate... find out about local bear behavior from those who know the local population. They are the best resources for information. Clearly in northern BC the black bear are to be given very wide berth. In most of the US black bears are not interested in humans, just the yummy picnic baskets they carry on their backs. IMHO, all bears are to be respected as the wild animals that they are - you just never know how any individual animal is going to react to human intrusion.

Posted by: northernbcr

Re: Bear Safety - 12/10/08 05:33 PM

the major reason that there is a diffeence between our bears ,is that many of your hiker / outdoor backpackers etc carry pistols and we can not even if your bears are not out right killed the learned behaviour that is passed down from mother to cub is still happening there where it is not happening here ,,also those juvinile blacks that you speak of make up the bigger part of our problems it is a combination of being hungry as they are not big enough to establish territory with high food value and also they are having some of there first human encounters with people where mother bear is not present.

your area is part of the last frontier where regular outdoor pistol packing is the norm and there is stil large populations of both types of bears. there is also alot more informed people as to the true status of bears .here we are bombarded by many many false the bears are endangered that it has made it diffucult to weed out the reality . our conservation branch has been under tremendous pressure to charge people when bears are killed in self defence that people are afraid to report this . the un reporting then makes the statistics not look as bad as it really is.
this book that i recommend does not just cover bears in one area it investigates attacks all over north america and really breaks down bear behaviour in response to different types of encounters. there is no golden rules but having the guidelines from one of the most in depth and realist views can do nothing but help ..most of the larger government enqiures are influenced by city based enviromental style groups and they still often attach the blame on the individual involved and not the bear.
Posted by: Pika

Re: Bear Safety - 12/10/08 05:33 PM

It appears to me as though you are extrapolating the behavior of the black bears in your area to the entire range of the black bear. Having had numerous experiences with black bears from Alaska to Mexico and many points between I can assure you that there are regional differences in their behavior. A simple example is that black bears in your area hibernate; those in southern Arizona don't always. There is a lot of genotypic variation among populations of black bears and I would expect that behavioral differences would be part of this variation.
Posted by: northernbcr

Re: Bear Safety - 12/10/08 06:48 PM

there are diferences but not necessarily behavioural differences , rather in different stages of evolving ,these areas you speak of had there populations greatly reduced by ranchers up to about 20 years ago then the preservanist movement movement kicked in. as the bear populatoins increase the changes are becoming more noticable for example
.1996 black bear attack mt lemmon arizona serious injuries bear had been relocated lawsuit followed ,20 years ago this bear would have been destroyed not relocated. what you ended up with is a relocated bear therefore he had no territory. he also learned that humans do not hurt him.
.1999 long lake wisconsin person dragged from tent very serious injury wardens were baffeled at the bears behaviour as the campers had no food near the tents and had not cooked in the area.
. 2000 black bear kills person in great smoky mountain nat park during the attack 1 dozen people threw rocks and tried to scare bear off it would not stop and despite there presence did not leave for several hours.

. 2000 glacier nat park serious injuries black bear he was stalked circled and charged as the bear charged he played dead but during the severe mauling he decided to fight back and in dong so saveed his life.

i have more examples but this is not needed the point i am trying to make is the widespread geographical presence of bear attacks. and these attacks were not the fault of the people they all had done nothing wrong except to venture into bear area with no self defence .

it does kind off make me sad as to the amount of resistance met with here by people with old ideas about bears for example had all of the 4 people above had taken the steps to protect themselves as i suggest the out come probally would have been different in 3 out of the 4 cases. eg bear spray sucess rate is about 70%

i am sorry to carry on as so but i dont believe we all see the bigger picture of what is happening and for everyone out there what would be the harm in reading a book and buying a can of bear spray i am not trying to be arguememtive only helpful
Posted by: midnightsun03

Re: Bear Safety - 12/10/08 07:09 PM

There has been extensive discussion on bear safety here on this forum over the last several years. The concensus has always been that bears are not to be trifled with. I don't know where you're getting the idea that anybody here does not believe in carrying bear spray or being prepared when in bear country. The OP was asking for advice on how to avoid bear encounters. There is not a complacency amongst the general group on this forum, for the most part, on bears. AFAIK only one person has referred to them as giant racoons, and that person was pretty thoroughly chastised for making that assertion.
Posted by: northernbcr

Re: Bear Safety - 12/10/08 07:27 PM

i just reread this whole thread and i can see the areas that got me going were that some of the web sites listed were giving out wrong information ( i had a look at them all),and the ones that were making jokes about it ...i probally need to lighten up some about this but working in the bush i am exposed to this every day and it is hard to let my guard down..

this person who started this thread did so because he wanted information i am trying to help him to the best of my abilities any thing else would be a disservice. and then from there we kind of got involved in all the rest we did cover.
Posted by: kutenay

Re: Bear Safety - 12/10/08 07:59 PM

I have almost 53 years of direct experience with G-Bears and Blackies and I often hike/camp alone in BC with NO gun and I never carry bear spray. I would discuss this topic further, however, I feel that the original query has been answered and further commentary is likely to engender useless strife.

There are certain things very obvious to me here and I agree with "midnightsun" on her excellent posts. In all my years of living alone without a break for months in some of BC's most remote and "bear-dense" wilderness, I have never been attacked and attribute this to my behaviour as taught me by oldtimers whose real bush knowledge came from a lifetime of experience.

I might point out that Gary Shelton very clearly states in his books, all of which I have read and are a part of my considerable collection of bear-related literature, that HE learned much of what has formed HIS opinions from an oldtimer in the Bella Coola area. I worked and lived up there, nearly 40 years ago, and knew a few myself, including Stanley Edwards, son of the legendary Ralph Edwards, "Crusoe of Lonesome Lake". This type of person knows whereof they speak and wisdom does not lessen with the passage of time...........
Posted by: northernbcr

Re: Bear Safety - 12/10/08 08:49 PM

it is not your smarts our your knowledge that have gottenyou this far.just luck there are people out there with more experience than you and they have been chewed. also you advocate sheltons book then break his #1 rule by not having a bear defense system to say your knowledge is enough is bunk and that is it plain and simple can have all the knowledge in the world and there are bear attacks that you can not avoid. do you think that your knowledge will help you if you wake up in the middle of the night in the jaws of a bear no maybe if you had some defence you might be lucky enough to use otherwise you will just be a knowledgeable meal. in some cases it has nothing to do with what you know if you are in the path of a bear intent on making you a meal he will unless you can defend yourself. if you dont believe me then ask and i will give you gary's phone number and maybe you can convince him that everything he teaches is wrong,for now when an inexperienced person asks why cant you be the bigger man and suggest that at least bear spray might not be a bad idea until they get all the ...knowledge...that you have.basically all you have said to this gentelman wanting info is that it is a spiritual experirnce to be yards away from bears and you dont need protection because your mind will keep you safe. you should give your head a shake
Posted by: kevonionia

Re: Bear Safety - 12/10/08 10:15 PM

Forgive me, but if the backpacking is going to take place in Florida, I'd say the most important issue isn't bear safety, but safety while at the Dunkin' Donuts, if you go there before the hike. Five shot, one dead, several robberies -- one in Palm Beach County -- only in Florida can eyeing a bear claw be so deadly.

There are black bears in Florida, and bear awareness is a good thing. But other safety concerns: encounters with alligators, snakes, brown recluse spiders -- it sure seems like they should be given the priority if hiking in Florida.

We've got black bears and big cats in Florida. At last count there were about 90 Florida panthers remaining, and 15 are known to have been killed in 2008 so far (the most recent, a 3-month-old kitten hit by a car in Everglades Nat'l Park on Sep. 29th.)

With the rampant overdevelopment of the past decade all over Florida (that's now taking a momentary break), bears and big cats and their territory are on the retreat. The chances of seeing either a bear or a cat hiking in the state are really rather slim compared to so many other states. Here, it's really the creature in the woods or the swamp that needs to be aware -- or beware. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif" alt="" />
Posted by: dkramalc

Re: Bear Safety - 12/11/08 08:36 AM

the major reason that there is a difference between our bears ,is that many of your hiker / outdoor backpackers etc carry pistols and we can not even if your bears are not out right killed the learned behaviour that is passed down from mother to cub is still happening there where it is not happening here

I'm sure you are familiar with bears in northern BC but I agree you seem to be generalizing about bears elsewhere, as has been pointed out. There are not many hiker/backpackers in the Sierra carrying pistols, and nobody shoots at bears in hiking areas that I've ever heard of. Yet we have very few bear incidents (I found 12 "bear attacks" listed since 1980, none fatal) other than incidents of their acquiring humans' food. i'd guess that most of our bear population is in national park/forest land where they are protected and their access to our food is (theoretically, at least) limited. It's not that they are learning to fear guns; I'd guess it's a rare bear in California that's had any experience with guns. Banging pans, shouting hikers, yes; guns, no. But there does not seem to be any rationale for arming oneself against bears here with the current bear situation.
Posted by: Berserker

Re: Bear Safety - 12/11/08 09:37 AM

I think what northernbcr is referring to here is Tim Bedore's animal conspiracy theory.

Ok, I deserve a slap on the wrist for that one...done.

Seriously though, I agree with others here that argue that bear behavior varies regionally. First my disclaimer: I do not have extensive bear experience, I have only seen a few and read "Bear Attacks Their Causes and Avoidance" by Stephen Hererro. Now with that said, I'll address the area I know best which is the SE. In general the bears in this area avoid human contact. Sure there's been some attacks and at least one fatality (the one in the Smokys), but do you realize how many people hike trails down in this area? And yes, bears are hunted in a good portion of the SE (including in the national forests), so I find it hard to believe that doesn't have some bearing (no pun intended) on their reclusive behavior.

At any rate, I'm not trying to stir you up again nothernbcr as I don't disagree with your main point, which I think is that we have to be informed about bears and take necessary precautions when hiking (which is proper food storage in my opinion). I just wanted to note that I disagree with your generalization that bear behavior in your area is applicable everywhere.
Posted by: kutenay

Re: Bear Safety - 12/11/08 12:45 PM

This is precisely the sort of offensive rhetoric I was attempting to avoid and I shall, out of respect for the rules and usually courteous demeanour and respectful interaction here, simply ignore it.
Posted by: JAK

Re: Bear Safety - 12/11/08 01:07 PM

for instance let us talk of only black bears, they have become more dangerous than grizzly;s because of there loss of man fear, there increased numbers and they unlike grizzly' are much more prone to predacious human attacks . the area that i live in is full of both types of bears but the biggest danger is the predaciuos black fact this area is probally the most dangerous in the world for this reason alone. as populations expand this type of behaviour is showing up in more areas than ever.
We probably have just as many Black bears here as anywhere, 1 for every 2 square miles, and I know they are all the same species, but their behaviour here is very different than in Ontario or Quebec and especially compared to Alberta and British Columbia, from what I've read. I think people need to do as much research from as many sources as they can, but it also needs to be objective, and in the end it needs to be localized. I don't think information sources linked to commercial sites are as objective, and more recent bookstore literature tends to be, well, more sensational than academic material or old library books on the same subject. The Parks Canada and Ontario school stuff is very good. Notably, the Parks Canada stuff for dangerous bear country is very different than the stuff for places like New Brunswick where Black Bears are just as common but less dangerous. I would agree that bear behaviour is subject to change as human activities and encroachment change, even in places like New Brunswick. We have more bear hunting and more ATV traffic and them might change things over time. I would always be cautious with small children, but we need to keep our heads, and we should begin with research that is broad based as well as localized, and more scientic and less commercial.
Posted by: JAK

Re: Bear Safety - 12/11/08 01:08 PM

that is an example of what i was talking about saying that generally they dont leave is because they are a mother with cubs. this is untrue and wrong ..... i emplore you all not to offer advice on this subject. just read the book....
We have books out here too, and scientific papers also. We also have our own bears, about 16000 of them, 0.5 per square mile, about the same bear population density as BC, perhaps a little higher, and no human fatalities due to non-vehicular bear encounters in our recorded history, zero, not one, and it's been a somewhat longer recorded history here in the east than out your way.

Even if our bears are so similar genetically, they might be very different demographically, because of hunting, and also different behaviourally because the land and habitat is so very different here. There are many plausible scientific theories and explanations for the difference in bear behaviour from one part of the continent to the other, but also alot of complexity in nature and never enough data for absolute certainty. Consider how much human behaviour varies from one part of the continent to another even though we are essentially all the same. I think people should attempt to study bears more scientifically and objectively, and localize their research and decisions. We should also take a more cautious and conservative view, real conservatism that is, which is to respectfully try to learn some time tested behaviour from our old-timers, like kutenay, not all from current vested interests which might be more skewed towards selling guns or books or bear spray.

That said, smaller children are always more vulnerable.
In the very least it never hurts to keep'em close and carry a big stick.
I am not sure if bear spray is neccessary in Florida, but I don't think it is here.
Posted by: northernbcr

Re: Bear Safety - 12/12/08 06:24 PM

first off let me thank you all for responding as it is something that i am very passionate about.(you don't say) yesterday i read these latest posts and did not respond as i wanted a day to think this all out and decide on my next manouver. after sleeping on it and thinking about it here is the plan that i came up wiyh, i decided to talk to gary shelton again and ask if he would read this last thread and maybe he could guide me in some manner where we could all reach some common understanding.

i also thought that i would answer these last few posts as abjectively as i could ie not with passion just facts. after ansewering these i would just let it go and those of you could make your own decisions . after that i would not enter into any more bear discussions unless specefically asked,(which i'm sure that you will all be lining up to do).

so here is my effort to complete my goals,

dkramalc the part that you quoted was to the lady in alaska, that is the area that i meant in regards to carrying weapons. in general a group of hikers armed with bear spray will be enough for most type of attacks, the odds are not as good if you are solo.or happen to be targeted by 3 types of specific attacks
. a mature male grizzly protecting a meat pile that he has killed.
. a sow grizzly with cubs that run towards you during an encounter or with 2nd year cubs that take part in her bluff charges.
. a predatory black bear

these three types are usually fatal without some form of seriuos protection and luck.

berserker the book that you read by steven herrero is a good book. i believe it was written during the mid 80's. after this book was written gary shelton and steven herrero sat together on some panels during the mid 90's that resulted in the policies that were adopted by parks canada and our fish and wildlife tech,s. this policy was then developed into a teachable course that has been used as training by most if not all of our outdoor workers in canada and in many states. also used to train u.s park officials in many parks that have bears especially grizzly,s. one thing that is not widly known that after working with shelton ,herrero changed many of his ideas that were presented in his book especially his view that it is proper to play dead during a grizzlyattack. also you got your statistics wrong involving bears since 1980 to 2007 there have been 56 deaths in north america 29 in canada and 27 in the us. this is actual deaths and does not enclude maulings. rereading your post it looks like you meant the se i am not sure what this encompasses but ther have also been deaths in new mexico ,tennesee, new york and arizona.

also i do not believe that i have ever said that bear behaviour in my area is applicable every where ,what i have stated is that the attacks are becomming more frequent in all areas and the statistics prove this true 2000,s -23, 1990,s-22 1980,s- 10, 1970,s-9 these are for deaths only.

kutenay, this fellow is upset with me because i sent him a private message saying that it was not a good idea to call being within yards of grizzlys or blacks anything but dangerous this is true. it is not a good message to put out there when inexperienced people are asking for help. i also stand by my other comments regarding knowledge not being enough i will guarentee you that many knowledgeable people have suffered bear attacks and death for example the first spainairds in california recorded the frequent bear attacks on the native indians do you think they had no knowledge no, but they did not have spray or firearms

jak i can not see where you are from so it is hard to come back to some of your statements. ie no deaths ever. here is some points that i can make, the good info that parks canada gives out was developed mainly by gary shelton but being parks canada they cannot endorse firearms or the killing of bears this policy of preserving problem bears ie relocation or trail closures has resulted in sucessful lawsuits against them.
let us take a look at time tested ways..of dealing with bears ,first of all he has never said what these ways are,i would like to know what these are. 40 years ago bears were very different than today,the views held then were alot different than today when there was a problem with bears then they were shot . this was a learned behaviour the bears knew it. the bears of today are overprotected and are not being dealt with now as they were then they are reaserting themselves at the top of the food chain where they were before the arrival of the white population and firearms. as there populations increase so are the problems .this is happening at different rates all across the country ,our area is ahead because our populations of bears have stayed higher than other areas thru the years we are also more isolated.
my last comment to you is that it is pretty unfair to say that his book is skewed to the interests of selling books,,gunsetc without reading it once tou read it you will be able to se it for what it is the bear encounter survival guide.

this brings me to my last part of my plan,after talking with gary shelton about reading this thread, here is what he had to say,lyall after spending 35 years educating people here is what i suggest that you tell them,my strategies have been proven by 1000,s of live and work in the bush people .in the earlt 70,s it was there type of people who were suffering the brunt of the attacks as the bears came to fear people less and there right to carry firearms was reduced. in the last 15 to 20 years this is now changing the magority of the people who are getting attacked are the people with little experience or the people who refuse to arm themselves either with spray or firearms he said that in his years he has been stonewalled by people many times with preservationalist ideas or ones that thought they new better he told me that if they didn,t have the comon sense to be able to figure this out for themselves that i was wasting my time and the most important thing for me was to protect my loved ones and try to educate my kids and there kids. i thanked him and we hung up this call was placed just before i started my reply here. i found it very helpfull,i care about all of you but he is right about not being able to save the world. so in good faith i will once again suggest that his book is a good read it cant do any harm anyways take care lyall.
Posted by: kutenay

Re: Bear Safety - 12/12/08 07:41 PM

I suggested Gary Shelton's first book because I think that it contains some of the best practical information currently available for persons who have not had the opportunity to learn bear safety from those with extensive practical experience dealing with bears. Firsthand experience with anything tends to be the best method of learning and unfortunately, relatively few today have the opportunity to do this.

The BEST info. on the use of bear spray that I have ever seen is in Gary's book and it directly contradicts the advice given in other books written and published by those who claim to in bear country. I will not list these here, as I initially posted, I consider it best to use ONE valid source of info. to develop your own techniques to deal with this potential problem.

I DID NOT SAY that ANYONE SHOULD EVER approach ANY bear and the deliberate, ignorant distortion of what I DID say is just ludicrous. What I POSTED was that it was a spiritual experience for me to be that close to these bears AS IT WAS. Anyone with extensive experience working and living in bear country is well aware that one can suddenly come upon a bear and be very close to it; this, to serious wilderness lovers IS a deeply moving and spiritual experience, so, is it when I shoot, kill, gut, skin and eventually consume an animal, as I have done for decades.

As far as being ...irresponsible... ( this is the exact term NBCer called me in the PM he refers to and which he now distorts) where this topic is concerned, it is to laugh, I have a standing job offer from a major mineral exploration company here in BC to work as a camp boss and facilitator for them and this includes being the "bear man". I do not do this because my wife is diabetic and has a heart condition and, after, YEARS spent working for months, alone, in wilderness, my wife prefers me to stay at home...and that is important to me. The people who have made me this offer are middle-aged, have traveled worldwide in mineral exploration, including all over Canada and pay EXTREMELY well, I doubt that they would want me, if my credentials were not satisfactory or I had a reputation for being ...irresponsible...

I DID NOT SAY that I do not have any sort of defence mechanisms for bears, I simply said that I seldom carry a gun or spray when backpacking. As it happens, I currently have over three dozen highend guns, after selling off most of my collection and among these are several custom "purpose-built" bear guns, with appropriate handloads and after 50+ years of shooting, 40+ years of handloading and this is professional combat pistol training for employment as well, I "might" just know what I, repeat I, NEED, in a given situation.

But, I do notice that the individual who has, it seems, deliberately chosen to misinterpret and falsify my comments HAS NOT EVER informed us WHAT he does, WHERE he does it and HOW LONG HIS bush experience is. Frankly, I am amused by such behaviour, but, this type of confrontational attitude is not only infantile, it will not assist the original poster to any degree.
Posted by: aimless

Re: Bear Safety - 12/13/08 09:08 AM

I find it t is nearly impossible not to feel personally affronted when another person first misreads and then misunderstands what I have written, after which they proceed to chastize or correct me, not for what I said, but what they imagine I said or implied. I am pretty sure this is what happened in this case. I congratulate you on keeping your tone within bounds in responding.

The fact that northernbcer admits to feeling passionately on this subject is a good clue to what happened here. Strong passion is not an ideal adjunct to reading comprehension. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />

In my experience, this sort of misunderstanding happens frequently on interet forums. I hope northernbcer can step down a bit and recognize that his passion for what he sees as the truth may be leading him somewhat astray in his eagerness to vanquish the dark forces of what he sees as pervasive ignorance and error.

However much one wishes to do good, I have found it is rarely a good approach to charge in saying, in effect, "you're WRONG and spreading UNTRUTH!" This tends to provoke more than enlighten. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" />
Posted by: JAK

Re: Bear Safety - 12/13/08 09:36 AM

I am from New Brunswick, Canada. The original poster is talking about Florida. New Brunswick has about 10% as many bears as BC with about 10% the land area. In short, we have just as many bears here, but their behavior is apparently much different. I would suggest that the many reasons for this need to be studied, and not ignored. I don't think that fellows book should be applied all across North America. It does sound like a good read, but he is not the only person to have studied bears in North America.

I do think you are being overly argumentative. It's a big country.
Things are very different here. New Brunswick is not British Columbia.
We tend to be more conservative here, and not in a neo-con way. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />

The original post concerns Florida.
So why go off on Gary Shelton and Bear Spray and British Columbia?

Here is a critique of some of Shelton's writing...
Posted by: aimless

Re: Bear Safety - 12/13/08 10:08 AM

after talking with gary shelton about reading this thread, here is what he had to say,lyall after spending 35 years educating people here is what i suggest that you tell them...

In other words, Gary Shelton did not read this thread, and does not know what was said here, apart from what you told him. Because your own responses here have been characterized by hasty reading and heated reactions, I can only guess that what you told him was not very accurate, which kind of invalidates the whole exercise.

Under the circumstances, what Gary Shelton told you was sensible enough, but doesn't really address anything written in this thread. However, please thank him for his time and concern. I appreciate them.
Posted by: JAK

Re: Bear Safety - 12/13/08 11:27 AM

Personally, I find bears more interesting than bear spray. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />
Here is an interesting and informative article on black bears, apple trees, and bait stations...

I contacted the authors of that article about this thread. They all agreed that I need to get out more. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/laugh.gif" alt="" />
Posted by: northernbcr

Re: Bear Safety - 12/13/08 01:34 PM

i have promised to u all that i would not say anything more about bears and i will do my best to try and keep this promise how ever i would like a chance to straighten out some of the finger pointing going on.

kutenay there is no where in any of my postings or in my private message that i ever accused you of saying that you approached to within yards of bears if you check both times i mentioned it was to say that being yards away from any type of bear is dangerous not spiritual and that it is irresponsible to suggest it as spiritual as people asking for help might get the wrong message.that is what i said.
i have said this is irresponsible 2 times well 3 now and have not tried to distort this

also you need to check back as you did state that you never carry spray not the seldom that you now far as your shooting capibilities i have never said any thing at all about this the only thing that i might add is that the people that work in the bush have no need for an arsonal usually only a few firearm types a good camp gun 12ga ahunting rifle and usually something for varmints. they use one for hunting become very good with it and we mostly all reload as it produces a better bullet. the need for a purpose built bear gun is non-existant there is plenty of calibres out there that work just fine.
another point is that other than saying you have made a irresponsible comment, it has been you doing the name calling eg ignorant distortion when ther was none and infantile when i said something you did not like

aimless there was only one place that i said some one was making a statement that was untrue and wrong and i felt and still feel that it is wrong and after this i explained why i dont feel as if this is bad as to me a statement is either wrong or right especially with this type of subject it was not meant to ruffle feathers
no gary did not read this thread as he stated that he does not spend anymore time trying to educate people who are not open to his way of thinking his premise is proven by thousands of bush people and those who wish the info can take it but he wasn,t going to debate the issues with anybody as he knows what is happening in n america as the statistics clearly show the changes

in the end i did not missread what kutenay said he must have forgotten that he first claimed to never carry spray, it is still there in black and white as well as his other post claiming that he never said it, i have never chosen to deliberatly missenterpert or falsify any body,s comments

jak ther is no where that i have ever claimed that all bears in all areas are like ours in fact if you look back i have stated that across n americe the bears are all changing and that this is happening at different rates in different areas but the attacks are in the increase
i have tried to stay in the adult during these posts and did not mean to engage anyone we all have our opinions i have only tried to provide information which most field working and park and rec people use as a basis for there training all across n america. take care lyall
Posted by: kutenay

Re: Bear Safety - 12/13/08 02:00 PM

I have carefully avoided conflict with you as I can see that you have a problem with both comprehension and self-expression. If, you were less confrontational, as in your initial post, before I posted anything, when you flatly stated that nobody out there knows anything or words to that effect, I might be more willing to discuss this issue with you.

However, you seem totally focused on attempting to denigrate me and also tell everyone just how to deal with bears, YET, you STILL are VERY vague about YOUR actual field experience....what is it, running a "feller-buncher" for a couple of years?

You wander all over the place in respect of your comments and have NO consistency to them, other than to rant about what I have posted and about Gary. I simply said, AGAIN, that I do not carry spray when backpacking and seldom a gun, what is so difficult to understand about that? This is a LIGHTWEIGHT BACKPACKING FORUM, not a hunting or shooting site and I DOUBT that most here really WANT to read some stupid argument about what guns should or should not be carried and/or owned.

I keep TRYING to point out that I consider Gary's book an excellent resource, but, you come barrelhousing in with bullschit about my not experiencing my own stupid can you be?

The simple FACT is, that SEVERAL outdoor activities are/can be DANGEROUS and yet VERY spiritually rewarding, i.e., mountaineering, surfing big waves, hang gliding and ski-jumping come to mind. I happen to have found very close encounters with wildlife, especially bears to be such and so have several former colleagues and friends of mine. I spent a lot of time fighting fire in alpine and big timber areas, it also was highly spiritual and dangerous and I DID NOT say that I sought danger out, it simply was/is a part of the whole with bears.

You certainly did attempt to make it appear here as though I were making statements that I was not making; I HAVE tested spray and choose not to carry it and said so relative to BACKPACKING. You, IMHO, are a guy with an agenda and that is only too obvious here.

BTW, I just read the link that JAK supplied and I find this guy utterly ridiculous in his comments concerning Gary Shelton, hunting, bears and nature in general. Why don't you e-mail HIM and "teach" him a few bits of your "wisdom"?
Posted by: JAK

Re: Bear Safety - 12/13/08 03:18 PM

BTW, I just read the link that JAK supplied and I find this guy utterly ridiculous in his comments concerning Gary Shelton, hunting, bears and nature in general. Why don't you e-mail HIM and "teach" him a few bits of your "wisdom"?

That was this link...
Frankly I don't know what the author David Orton is on about because I haven't read Shelton, other than perhaps indirectly through some of the Parks Canada sites. I'll take it from your endorsement of Gary Shelton that Orton is the one that is politicizing the issue not Gary Shelton.

I must point out however, that there seems to be two distinct sets of Parks Canada information. The bear safety information you access through parks like Fundy National Park is quite different that "Bear Country" Parks. That is not because we have fewer bears in New Brunswick. I believe it is simply because our bears are less dangerous and call for a different set of precautions and measures. There is still somewhat of a lack of information for extra measures which might be taken for hiking and camping in small groups with small children, other than not to do it, which isn't really an option for me. What does Gary Shelton say about hiking in places like New Brunswick with a small child? Would he say that carrying a big stick is useful, or pointless? What about avoiding citronella bug repellant? What are the risks of a night time attack against an adult and small child in a tent vs under a tarp. Would bear spray help in this situation? This would be useful information to me.

Getting back to Florida, what applies, and what doesn't?
Posted by: northernbcr

Re: Bear Safety - 12/13/08 03:19 PM

kutenay i have tried to stick with the facts as they were written down when replying to posts i have taken my time responded to comments with facts and no name calling if you could provide examples of wherei have had these troubles you speak of it would be helpful try to use quotes from this thread every thing that i have said is here. what i said is that there is no one out there as qualified as him if there is please give examples to back yourself all my studies i have not found anyone who demonstrates such a clear understanding and has come up with a better workable strategy

also as i have pointed out before it is you that continues to disrespectful and calling names, the reason that i have not said much about myself is that as you have pointed out this is a backpacking forum and out of respect i have not said to much about me as i am different than most people here in regards to my harvest of wild animals. but i will share some with youas you keep making comments. you are a good guess as i have operated a feller buncher how ever i will start at the beginning. i was born in whitehorse and we lived about 1 hours travel out side the city our property was isolated with no close neighbours here i took correspondence school. there was plenty of wildlife around the house.and i was lucky to spend much time with a native who employed me to work with him on his trapline he also bought the furs that i collected off my traplineon our property.when i was 10 years old i shot my first bear and moose with an old iron sight .243

e that year till now i have hunted and usually taken a bear and some meat animals every year .the bear pelts are sold to trapper friends or if they are very nice i tan them myself and keep them . since i was born eating beef or any store bought meat has been reserved for going out, this year i took a spring black bear and during the fall hunt took a 3point elk and one mule deer.

i have had a varied work history doing many types of work my one rule is that i do not work indoors some of the jobs i have done are surveying ,seismic work wrangler for hunting guide , running heavy equipment , fishing guide fish counting ,animal density study remote bush location construction which is my job at the present. the longest i have ever lived in a city is the present 2 years as my wife like yours got her wish. i might add it was the constant visits by bears to our last house that got her going that house was situated 35 min from fort st john where we now live (i hate it way to busy) .
i do not have an agenda and do not keep barreling in the part i have said about your feelings is well documented and i have only used your exact words and i again say that it is you doing the namecalling now i am stupid because i pointed out exactly what you said not what you thought you said. it was not trying to make it seem like you said anything the fact is you said that you never carry bear spray it is still there on page 1.

you do not have to keep going on about your spiritual kick i know exactly what you are saying why dont you go back and read what i actually said the fact is that it is dangerous to be that close to bears that is all i wanted to bring out so that newcomers could see that this happens on chance encounters is very dangerous and should not be tried for any reason.

i feel that i have probally spent as much or more time in the bush as you i have also learned from old and expert bushmen i to reload my own ammo only for 31 years tho and have certainly enough time to have a good opinion you are not the only one arround. if you respond to this please refrain from name calling and try to give examples of my wrong doings that can be proven by rereading this forum. if i am wrong i will apolagize. but so far i have tried to stick to fact which can be reread in this thread.

my feeling is one of sadness that it has all turned out like this and feel tired of defending myself from you accusing me of things that are not true and can be backed up by rereads. instead we should be putting our thoughts together in order to best help those that ask please dont call me any more names and lets try to end this in some way that could be positive
Posted by: northernbcr

Re: Bear Safety - 12/13/08 04:08 PM

jak the strategy set out by shelton is not one that changes for different areas, it changes for different types of attacks and different types of bears(oh my goodness i stated i would never respond to anything and allready broke my own rule please forgive me i will finish my answer and i will try to do this honouradbe and i am not trying to be argumentive again forgive me all) to continue i will try to answer your questions as best as i can including refrencing his 3 books. your first question i cannot answer in regard to new brunswick but his feeling on childern is that they are especially vulnerable and to watch them very closely always he feels that the black bear predatory instinct kicks in when the bear sees something that it feels capable of taking .the example he uses is this if a regular old black was sitting by a trail and watched a moose go by probally nothing would happen then if a small child was to walk by he would be much more prone to becoming predatory . blacks are very oppertunistic when it comes to killing if they feel they can, they might become predatory.

he would not say that carrying a big stick is pointless he gives quite a few examples of people using different objects to defend themselves succsesfully, but he would also say that at the least all adults present should carry spray ,a group of people armed with spray is a very significant defense.

he does mention citronella but i can not remember what he said looking briefly thru his books i can not find this refrence maybe i can find it later,sorry. lastly tents or tarps he has strong feelings on this one and feels that one should never sleep in the open always in a tent he has stated that a tent seems to confuse them and prevents them from initially just walking up and grabbing you as you sleep. he also states that a good knife and spray should alwaya be with you in the tent as the bear is pushing against the material it should awaken you and you should slit the tent where his head is and use the spray then exit the tent and get averyone together out of there tents and monitor the situation basically circle the wagons. he says that a good flashlight is desiradle at this point or try to get big fire going.
getting back to florida this defence is the same whereever you are these are his feelings and not my opinions so please lets all try to be nice i dont want anyone being mad or feeling hurt just trying to help lyall
Posted by: JAK

Re: Bear Safety - 12/13/08 06:01 PM

Thanks northernbcr that was very helpful and informative. I think we also have a better idea where you are coming from, which sounds very matter of fact and down to Earth. I think I drove through Fort St. John once, as well as Chetwynd and Fort Nelson. Anyone that considers Fort St. John to big of a city to live in, and able to make their living outdoors, has my utmost respect, not without considerable envy. The wife of such an individual also has my respect, not without some sympathy. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />

I will give some more thought to bear spray when hiking with my daughter, and keep doing the other stuff I do including learning as much about our local bears as I can. They are pretty fascinating, and I know they are out there, but I never see them. I don't find the way we hunt them here to be all that sporting. The focus seems to much on weapons and targets. I also think excessive baiting and hunting bears for sport is a slippery slope towards 'bear farming' which can lead to problems, but I think if its done responsibly it is an effective means of managing the adult male population. For bears, at least here in New Brunswick, I would prefer it if the bear population were managed by commercial hunting by local rural residents, rather than resident and non-resident sports hunting. I believe that would be less lucrative, but also less likely to go astray and create problems. I also think the drag out of the den method might have some advantages over baiting, though not without some disadvantages. Those choices would be better left to commercial hunting and game wardens and rural residents, rather than recreation and politics dominated by city folks, of whatever stripe. I'm all for sports hunting, even by non-residents, but not for bears. I do understand rural people need to make a living. I just wish there was a bigger market for bear pelts and bear meat, and a smaller market for shooting baited and/or trapped bears by city folks as a blood sport. Besides ethical issues, I believe the woods are less safe when such interests are involved, rather than more traditional methods and interests.

I do think the risks of a bear encounter in places like New Brunswick are too insignificant to focus too much on bear defence, rather than on bear education, except perhaps where small children are involved. People need to know more about bears. That should be the primary focus I think, rather than bear defence.

Posted by: kutenay

Re: Bear Safety - 12/13/08 06:43 PM

I have carefully re-read every post I have made here and I have NOT called you or anyone names of any type.