hey everyone! what are some views about bears held by backcountry hikers? do you arm yourself with bear mace or chance it? even though the chances are slim of being challenged by them, what do you do to be prepared for the "just in case" moment?
Welp, I live in Alaska so I have to deal with this everytime I got out backpacking here. Everytime for sure I have bear mace on me. I wouldn't want to leave without it. I've yet to use it but it'll be handy if I ever come into a situation where I'd need it. I do also have a .45 semi-auto pistol I just bought that I'll probably take along as well for a last resort kind of thing. I'd much rather have the bear run off with a burning face to live another day and think twice about bothering people than injure it unecessarily or pump eight rounds of ammo into hoping that puts it down.
So yes, carry bear mace as long as your in bear country. There's no reason not to and if you don't use it be happy if you had it just in case. It isn't as thought it wouldn't work in any other unsavory encounters you might have for the most part.
I also like to keep an open eye, nose and ear. I'd much rather know if and where the bears are around me so I can avoid them and have some knowledge of their presence. I not so worried about running into solo bears as much as I am about running into a sow with cubs. I've yet to run into them on the trail or see them at any close distance(less than 400 yards) and I don't want to. I've had plenty of 40-100 yards encounters with bears where we simply froze in place and talked to the bear calmly letting it know we were there. They have always thus far walked or run off and weren't seen again the entire time.
It is also going to depend on where you're hiking too. I'm more weary of bears in Yellowstone than up here in Denali. The bears in Yellowstone are more accustomed to people than the bears in Denali and probably have more access to food compared to Denali bears. Denali has strict rules compared to most NP's on their backcountry policies. Not a bad thing. The last time I was in Denali we encountered 14 bears along our 4 day hike, 6 of which were within 100 yards of us or less. None of the bears bothered outr camp at any point and one run in we had stopped to eat a protein bar for lunch when we saw a nice dark brown bear on the hill face 75 yards away from us. We simply looked at him and talked loudly and calmly and continued to eat. He just looked at us for 30 seconds and slowly made his way up the hill, looking back at us every once in a while before he disappeared over the top into the brush. He seemed as weary of us as were of him. I really would be less comfortable in that situation in a place like Yellowstone and more so a place like Yosemite.
So, I'd have to say as long as you do everything right, you probably won't have any negative encounters with bears. Doing everything right doesn't however mean things will go well between you and bears. There are those very few and rare events where they are almost inevitable no matter what you do, which is why we carry bear mace or some sort of defense.
In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.-Aristotle
Loc: Portland, OR
I live in Oregon, where the black bear population is generally very skittish of human contact and mostly make themselves scarce when they are aware of human presence. I've spotted several bears in the Oregon woods, but always they have been running away as fast as they could.
Hikers from California, especially those who hike in the central Sierras, will have a much different point of view, since their bears act very differently than our local Oregon bears do.
Montanans will have yet another perspective, I suspect, since they have both blacks and grizzlies.
Loc: East Texas Piney Woods
If you use the search feature at the top of the page and search for bear in the title or in the body for the last year, you should get a lot of hits. You'll have to wade through all the ones about bear canisters.
What Matt says. That about sums it up. He should know since he lives with more of them than the rest of us.
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
I worry more about the bears at home who come around at midnight and try to knock off a garbage can and when you shine a light on them, they just casually walk off. Must not be the one I shot some birdshot at its feet from my .22 pistol years ago. That one did get the idea.
My last dog passed away 4 years ago, never had a problem with him or my other dogs that I have had with bears while bping. My dog and I have come across numerous sow and cub combos in the morning on bp trips and they split as soon as we all saw each other. I do get a little nervous when I see a bear during the day though, but that has been pretty rare. I think I would be on the alert if in AK, bping though, they grow them a little big up there. That would make me nervous.
I don't carry anything to ward bears off and don't foresee carrying anything in the near future either where I bp. Part of the adventure.
A little scary thinking about that family in Canada I believe it was, that was out along the river and that grizzly killed them all and the next boat that came by, went after them too. I would probable pack something in AK, just not here in CA for now anyway.
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
Just had another thought. Pot growers. I think people are in bigger danger from them than anything else out here in CA. Even locally here in the small county I live in, in N. CA, some guy barely escaped from being taken by a Mexican? National tending a pot garden. Those guys will just kill you and bury you somewhere, then leave, trashing the environment.
I carry bear spray in Grizzly country, but not black bear country. I've only used bear cannisters in the Absarokas and Sierras. The rest of the time, I simply hang my food.
Grizzlies are a scary sort of noble experience. Granted, I can count on my fingers the number of times I've encountered them.
But black bears are mostly a pain in the butt. They are the junkie janitors of the backcountry, looking for the easiest meal and cleaning up and food waste or carcasses they find. Of course, here in the southeast, they tend to run at the first sight of hikers. It's in the middle of the night that you have to worry about them.
Loc: Bay Area, California, USA
I think people are in bigger danger from them than anything else out here in CA. Even locally here in the small county I live in, in N. CA, some guy barely escaped from being taken by a Mexican? National tending a pot garden. Those guys will just kill you and bury you somewhere, then leave, trashing the environment.
Southern California is especially bad, but this is spreading everywhere in CA. I've had a friend or two find (empty) plantations in the off season, and some of them are pretty well developed. If it's a site operated by the Mexican Mafia (I'm serious... search news sites), and they're around, you run the risk of getting shot at with assault weapons. Some areas are allegedly protected by tripwires, traps, etc, and it's a good idea to be careful and stay clear if you see anything like cultivation, out in the back country. From what I've read, the Los Angeles area rangers are having enormous, life-threatening problems on a routine basis.
As for trashing the environment, it really ticks me off that the land is cleared, then used for effectively agriculture, with pesticides often used. Bah.
I agree with the post above and Duane's intial post, not to jack the bear thread. Seems like the Park Service needs to confront this situation instead of raising hiker backcountry fees! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/mad.gif" alt="" /> I can feel your pain about the gangs because they are encrounching into the suburbs near major cities all across the country <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/mad.gif" alt="" /> There should be open season on them for LE, no court wasting time, once a gangbanger always a gangbanger <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" />
PEPPER SPRAY AIN'T BRAINS IN A CAN!
Bears get talked about a lot in hiking forums. I do most of my hiking in Alaska, so they're always somewhere in the "what if?" scenarios that rise in the back of my mind when preparing for a trip. Much like wearing proper clothing or practicing good navigation skills, people need to learn how to avoid dangerous animal encounters as part of their normal routine. The risk of such an encounter is almost negligable, and it would take a dumb person to actively (or inadvertantly) attract/provoke wild animals, including bears... but still, it's a good idea to get in the habbit of managing food, making plenty of noise, and not camping in the middle of bear scat. This is as much for one's personal safety as it is for keeping animals from gaining bad habbits.
That said, I look at mace or firearms as a last resort, something I use when all other practices have failed. I do carry a small handgun, though, at least when I'm in Alaska.
Using a small handgun against a bear is probably the singularly stupidest thing you could do on the trail.
Bears have been known to survive blasts from a shotgun. What is a little 9mm gun going to do? Just tick it off so much it could kill you.
A smarter approach would be to fire shots in the air, like using a bear banger (a small banging flare type device, used to scare off bears, about the size of a keychain) The noise alone could dissuade an animal.
I live in canada where firearms are strictly limited so firearms are not an option for us- We use bear bangers, bear bells, or, in extreme circumstances bear spray.
Come on people, use some common sense- a couple of little bullets aren't going to kill a 300+ lb. animal.
You know what they say- an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
You are right about a 9mm, even though there is a big difference between a load of shot and a 9mm bullet. But, wolfeye didn't say he used a 9. A larger round, like a 357 or 44 mag, maybe even a 45ACP would do much more. He said a small handgun, so you can easily assume he means a 9mm, but he might not.
So, what do you do when all your "stuff" didn't work and the bear is on top of you? You can lie there and play dead, hoping he doesn't eat you, or you can shoot him at point blank. A 9mm to the skull at point blank will do something. Better than giving up.
I know that Canada has different gun laws, and I won't discuss the pros and cons here. I guess you do what you can. But, if I was hiking in Alaska, I would at the very least carry a 9mm, but probably something much bigger. But, that is me. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" />
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"Using a small handgun against a bear is probably the singularly stupidest thing you could do on the trail."
Right. That's why a pump 12 ga. with slugs and/or 00 buck would be a smarter choice and it would double as a tarp pole. Thompson Contender in 30-40 Krag would be second choice for a hand gun if you're good with one shot. (it's light weight). Maybe a Model 94 in 30-30.... a carbine. No wimpy handguns for me either.
"I live in canada where firearms are strictly limited so firearms are not an option for us- "
Come to Texas. We can fix you right up.
"Come on people, use some common sense- a couple of little bullets aren't going to kill a 300+ lb. animal."
Uh....300+lb.? We're not talking about cubs here. More like 1200 lbs. And the right handgun WILL take out either, with one shot. The proper question is "can you use that firearm under pressure effectively?" The "21 foot rule" says you better have plenty of warning!
Do a search on this topic....it pops up every year.
Loc: California (southern)
A colleague of mine, on patrol in an Alaskan park were attacked by a grizzly. The griz did injure the other ranger she was with. She curled up and played dead. Griz came over and sniffed her, but left her alone. This was before bear spray was available.
I think Steve Herrero's book on bears is one of the best, most even handed discussions on the problem that is available.
your right. I was stupid and didn't take into account all the facts. Sorry. I just hoped to encourage use non-lethal force when a bear is just sniffing around. But I do realise now a gun might be your last chance when a bear actually tries to kill you.
Thanks for showing me both sides of the topic guys But using a bearproof container or hanging your food could prevent all of this! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />
Cheap, you bring up some really good points. Non-lethal force needs to be used first. Bear education (your and my education on bear behavior), and food handling should be taught to prevent bear encounters. I think we also need to come up with a way to teach the bears that messing with people is not good. Bear spray is what you use when the bear is close and coming at you. I only advocate a handgun when the spray didn't work, and the bear is on top of you.
Here is Utah, the only worry is mountain lion. Black bears are here, but spray is usually adequate. When I was in Texas, the concern was fire ants and rattle snakes. It really depends on where. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" />
I've taken a vow of poverty. To annoy me, send money.
<img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> Gotta' Love those Texans <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
Try a S&W 500 then talk to me <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" /> One shot, one kill is'nt just a statement with this handgun trust me, 5 watermelons later and I'm a believer <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/ooo.gif" alt="" />
A 30-06 would work ok, but I'd prefer it be handy to use and not attached to a tent/tarp when needed, but hey, that's just me <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" /> if you want to wave a 'flag' and yell, "hey, bear, over here!" that's your business <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif" alt="" /> Me? I'd prefer to fire at a charging bear if i was deep in the bush, rather than wait for it to change it's mind. When it's wildlife or me, i'll be the one telling the story after it's over, not a one day news bleep <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" />
PEPPER SPRAY AIN'T BRAINS IN A CAN!
Earthling, Wolfeye said "Small handgun". <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" />
However grizz have been killed at point blank range by a .22 in the eye. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" />I'd prefer a .44, but ya use what ya got... <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" />
But really guys, using a handgun against a bear isn't a real good idea.. A .340 weatherby magnum is really about the smallest reliable big bear load, and it doesn't come out of no handgun... <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" />
I wonder how many of you have ever seen a big bear? I saw a numbered Boone and Crocket club brown bear stuffed at the university of Alaska at Fairbanks. As I recall it was about 18 feet something at the tippy tip of its ear when standing up and about 7 feet in diameter, also while erect. Its neck was approximately 3 feet in diameter! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif" alt="" /> Where would you shoot at? I mean a tall person could lay down sideways in his belly and not make a bump on either side. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" />
I had a big browny in the bushes behind my tent one night camped on the Kenai Penninsula in Alaska. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif" alt="" />Its breath was slow and its lungs vibrated like 55 gallon cans. The hair all over my body stood straight up <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />- right through my clothes yes... <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/crazy.gif" alt="" />
I saw another brown bear through my telescope in Denali Park and he was around 7 foot tall at the sholder walking on all fours. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" /> 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.
Jim, I'm talking an all out backcountry bush trip not average trip. Go shoot a 500 and get back to me. I shot 50 rounds with it and I can tell you it'll do the job <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" /> That's a big target moving pretty fast, but in an all out attack something is better than nothing. I prefer a shotgun over a rifle in CQB, but that's me <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" />
PEPPER SPRAY AIN'T BRAINS IN A CAN!
Head shot, one chance, then it's on you. Weather it's bear or mugger/carjacker. Practice makes perfect. Also how would a 30-06 work for a tent pole?
Bears are living things too, and here you are, talking about how to kill one. If i didn't know you guys were more responsible, I would think you would shoot the first bear you see just to brag about it.
It is a sad world when people want to use a rifle as a tent pole because they are scared of a bear.
And don't even joke about shooting someone else like that.