While bear attacks are rare, sightings occur much more often than you might think. Because of this, it is best to remain in control and prepare for a situation in the case that you find yourself looking into the eyes of a bear. Here are 5 ways to stay bear aware while hiking in Yellowstone.
Always Have Bear Spray
If you don’t have bear spray, don’t go hiking in Yellowstone – simple as that. Everyone should have their own can of bear spray in case of an encounter and they are easy to find and most sporting good stores around Bozeman or gift shops within Yellowstone. A few things to keep in mind are the expiration date (yes, they can become expired) and proper use and handling instructions. As simple as a can of bear spray may seem, it can have several steps for safety purposes. It is recommended to buy 2 can of bear spray, one to use for practice purposes and one to use while hiking. Keep in mind that a bear probably won’t stop a its charge for you to read the instructions so take the time to read and familiarize yourself prior to going hiking.
Never Hike Alone
It’s recommended to hike in a group of 3 or more people. A larger group will naturally create more noise, scent, and intimidation in the case of a bear sighting. It’s a good idea to keep some distance between group members while walking. Remember, the more the merrier.
The more noise the better. There are two main reasons that a bear will charge; to protect its cubs and being startled. If a bear can hear you coming from a distance, it is much more likely to flee before there is any encounter which is ideal. They want to avoid you as much as you want to avoid them, but sometimes humans and bears cross paths. This can also be applicable to startling other fellow hikers. It’s overall beneficial to make noise and be heard while hiking. Simple conversations while hiking can go a long way.
Keep Your Distance
If you manage to see a bear that hasn’t noticed you, slowly back away the same way you came - this is not the time to make noise. Keep as much distance between you and a bear at all times. Yellowstone National Park requires you to stay a minimum of 100 yards way from bears. What seems like a long ways away for you isn’t quite as far away for an animal that can run up to 35 miles an hour. If you want an up close view, invest in a nice pare of binoculars or a spotting scope.
Contain Your Food
Investing in an airtight container can be extremely beneficial especially if you plan on camping overnight. Food containers can drastically reduce the spread of food scent to eliminate the risk of attracting bears and other wildlife. If you are camping in one of the designated campgrounds in the park, they will have food storage containers to place food in, while it is not in use. If you are in the back country, it is highly recommended to suspend any food in the air and away from your campsite.
Bonus Tip: Don't Run
In the case that you do come across a bear, do not turn and run. Bears are instinctual animals that will chase an animal or human that is running away. Your best option is to continue to face the bear and slowly back away speaking in soft tones to help keep the bear calm. The moment you turn and run you go from human to prey in the eyes of the bear. So stay calm and back your way out of the situation.
Being aware and well prepared for bears is critical while hiking in Yellowstone. These 5 steps can greatly reduce the risk of running into any encounters, which makes for a much more enjoyable hiking experience.