Human Encounters with Bears Turn Deadly

Recent media reports detail numerous human encounters with black bears.

This black bear wants his food and he is waiting patiently. DO NOT FEED BEARS! (Source: Thomas J/
This black bear wants his food and he is waiting patiently. DO NOT FEED BEARS! (Source: Thomas J/

In most instances the bears became food-conditioned, lost their natural fear of humans, and become a threat as they roamed in search of an easy meal. These bear was either relocated or euthanized by rangers because they posed an obvious human safety risk to campers.

Several samples of these reports follow.

Black Bear Killed at Yellowstone Campground

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports that a black bear that refused to leave a Yellowstone National Park campground after getting a taste of human food there was killed by park staff.

The 142-pound adult male black bear entered the Canyon Campground and came within six feet of a man and woman eating.

The campers backed off, and the bear ate some of the food off their table. It then went through their garbage and pawed at their tent.

As the bear left their campsite, it checked out tents, fire pits and bear-proof trash bins, and food-storage boxes at other campsites.

Rangers hazed the bear out of the campground, but it returned later in the day. Out of a concern for safety, the bear was shot and killed later that night.

Bear Aggression at Colorado Campgrounds

Remember: A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear (Courtesy: U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Remember: A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear (Courtesy: U.S. Department of Agriculture)

The Aspen Times reported that a bear tried to break into a car less than 30 feet from a campsite, and set the car alarm off five times in one evening. The next day, a large black bear broke into a car in the Difficult day-use parking lot with several people watching. The bear bent a door and broke a window before leaving the lot with a bag of marshmallows in its mouth.

“People need to remember that black bears are smart, wild, and very strong,” said Roy Schoepf, a Difficult Campground camp host.

“The bear we’ve been seeing pushed over all four of our bear-proof dumpsters on one visit. They’re fearless and can do a lot of damage if they want.”

There have been multiple bear sightings at the Difficult Campground, as well as several surrounding campsites.

The public needs to be aware that dealing with bears is serious business and caution must be taken at every level.

Colorado has a “two-strike” policy under which bears may be tranquilized, ear-tagged, and relocated once if they are in an inappropriate location or they have engaged in episode(s) of “nuisance” behavior. If that same bear has to be physically dealt with again (tranquilized or trapped due to inappropriate location or nuisance behavior), the bear is put down. Bears that pose a public safety risk will be put down regardless of whether they have ear tags or not.

Bears are territorial and get into a habit of returning to where they find food.

Black Bear Killed at New Mexico State Park Campground

MyHighPlains reports that New Mexico Department of Game and Fish officers trapped and killed a black bear after it tore open a tent with two campers inside in the Lake Alice Campground at Sugarite Canyon State Park near Raton.

The women in the tent were able to escape uninjured and set off their car alarm, which scared the bear away.

Department officers who responded to the call said the bear apparently was attracted to the campground by birdfeeders hung by campers. The bear went from campsite to campsite, knocking over birdfeeders and grills before raiding the women’s tent.

The women did not have any food in their tent. Most other campers in the campground were sleeping in camp trailers.

The black bear has an acute sense of hearing and smell but has relatively poor eyesight. (Source:
The black bear has an acute sense of hearing and smell but has relatively poor eyesight. (Source:

The bear was killed because it posed an obvious human safety risk to future tent campers.

“We can’t emphasize this enough: When you are camping, don’t put up birdfeeders or leave any other food sources out that may attract bears or other wildlife,” Conservation Officer Clint Henson said.

“In this case, putting out birdfeeders put everyone in that campground at risk and resulted in the bear’s death.”

Bighorn National Forest Visitors Urged to be Bear Aware

A USDA Forest Service news release reports that Wyoming Game & Fish Department game warden trapped a black bear in the Bighorn National Forest.

The 4-year-old male bear had received a food reward from a camper in the Dayton Gulch area earlier that morning. That evening, the bear returned for more. The bear was euthanized.

Please Note: This is Part 1 of a two-part series on Bears and Bear Safety.

Part 2: Being Bear Aware

Worth Pondering…

In many cultures, the bear was looked upon with such reverence that members of the culture were not allowed to speak the word for “bear “. Instead, they referred to the animal with varied and creative euphamisms. Several names were used by the Navajo and other native groups—Fine Young Chief, He Who Lives in the Den, and Reared in the Mountains.

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Top 10 Scenic Drives in the Northern Rockies

If you are looking for an exciting vacation with beautiful views then consider exploring Forest Service lands in the Northern Rockies for beautiful landscapes, scenic byways, historic trails, and diverse wildlife.

For sheer beauty and allure, few regions match the Northern Rockies. Discover a convenient new way to research and plan absolutely incredible Rocky Mountain travel adventures—the Top 10 Scenic Drives in the Northern Rockies.

Beartooth All-American Road

The Beartooth Scenic Road has 10,000 mountain lakes, 20 peaks reaching more than 12,000 feet in elevation, and 12 national forest campgrounds. Witness the rare transition of lush forest ecosystem to alpine tundra in just a few miles on the highest elevation road in the Northern Rockies.

International Selkirk Loop All­-American Road

The public lands along the loop are home to the largest diversity of wildlife in the lower 48 states. Travel the Selkirk Range of the British Columbia, Idaho, and Washington Rocky Mountains to see stunning vistas, wildlife, year-round recreation, and colorful small towns.

Montana Scenic Loop

Holland Lake sits at the base of the Swan Mountains about 25 miles north of Seeley Lake, Mont., just minutes off the route of the Montana Scenic Loop. (Source:

At the heart of the 400-mile Montana Scenic Loop is the Bob Marshall Wilderness—flanked by the Great Bear Wilderness on the north and the Scapegoat Wilderness to the south. Enjoy striking vistas of awe-inspiring mountains, placid trout streams and abundant wildlife as they unfold along the Rocky Mountain Front, Glacier National Park, and the Flathead and Blackfoot River Basins.

Northwest Passage Scenic Byway All-American Road

Travel along U.S. Highway 12 along the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River and the Lochsa Wild and Scenic River—through the magnificent Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests culminating at the Lolo Pass Visitor Center. Explore the Idaho Rockies, including the land of the Nez Perce Indians, and trace the Lewis & Clark Expedition route across the Bitterroot Mountains and along the Wild and Scenic Clearwater and Lochsa rivers.

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park Loop

The area is defined largely by the wide-ranging wildlife that inhabit the region, including grizzly bears, wolverines, wolves, and bull trout. Trace this stunning route through the Montana Rockies, featuring breathtaking scenery and Glacier National Park’s popular Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail

With eight national forests along this route in Montana and Idaho, visitors can experience a number of landmarks and attractions while tracing the same path over mountains and along rivers that the Lewis and Clark Expedition took on their way to the Pacific coast.

Nez Perce National Historic Trail

Drive the route of the Nez Perce National Historic Trail in the fall to come across this picturesque scene. (Source:

The journey of the Nez Perce from their homelands is one of the most fascinating and sorrowful events in U.S. history. Learn the story of the Nez Perce by following in the footsteps of the 1,170-mile flight through Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.


Drive the Top 10

This website will help you learn about the region’s four All-American Roads, 19 national parks, and the scenic byways and historic trails connecting them.

Retrace the rugged path of Lewis & Clark through Montana, Idaho, and Washington. Tour the hot springs of the Kootenay Rockies. Navigate the prehistoric depths of Hells Canyon—North America’s deepest canyon. Or witness an awe-inspiring Old Faithful eruption, a timeless tradition at Yellowstone National Park.

Explore the countless natural wonders, historical sites, and cultural sites that make the Northern Rockies so legendary and inspiring.


Worth Pondering…

As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.
— John Muir

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Five Things You Need to Know Today: February 24

Since I like things to come in fives (and tens), here are five things YOU need to know TODAY!

1. Federal Highway Administration Passes on I-15 Tolling Concept

Victor Mendez, administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, notified Arizona Department of Transportation Director John Halikowski that, at this time, Interstate 15 will not be considered for a federal toll road pilot program.

Instead, the federal government selected North Carolina, Virginia, and Missouri for the program that allows for tolling of existing roadways to support necessary improvements or reconstruction. Should one of those states drop from the program, the I-15 corridor may be reconsidered.

2. RV Park Approved for Nebraska Fairgrounds

The Lexington City Council in Lexington, Nebraska, has approved a special use permit from the Dawson County Agricultural Society for an RV park development on the north side of the Dawson County Fairgrounds in Lexington.

The 48-site RV park will be located on the east end of Walnut Street where there are currently parking spaces for fairgoers. The overnight camping area will have facilities for potable water, sanitary waste disposal, and 50-amp hookups.

The lots for campers would be 30-foot by 60 foot and have a standard street slope of no more than 2 percent. In addition, RVs could stay a maximum of 30 days, The Lexington Clipper-Herald reported.

3. Webcams Installed at Wyoming State Parks

Webcams have been installed at Boysen and Glendo state parks by the Wyoming Division of State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails and are now operational.

Installed by Versatel Communications, the Boysen webcam will not only benefit the site’s recreationists, but will assist the Wyoming Department of Transportation by providing road and travel information.-

The cameras at both Glendo and Boysen will provide a glimpse of current weather conditions and water levels, and in some instances, can be used to assist with search and rescue efforts.

During the summer months, the webcams will take up to five pictures every 15 minutes and broadcast them to the respective parks’ websites.

The cameras were funded by the Wyoming State Legislature.

4. Kentucky State Parks Offer April Camping Discounts

Kentucky State Parks are offering a 20 percent discount on camping reservations made for April 1-26. To get the discount, campers need to make online reservations at (look for the “reservations” tab at the top of the page). Use the promotion code APR12. Guests may also call 1-888-4KYPARK for reservations.

The Kentucky State Parks will also be offering two nights’ camping for the price of one during Camper Appreciation Weekend, April 27-28. Many parks will be holding special events for campers that weekend.

The Kentucky State Park System is composed of 51 state parks plus an interstate park shared with Virginia. The Department of Parks, an agency of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, operates 17 resort parks with lodges—more than any other state.

The Kentucky State Parks have 31 campgrounds across the state.

5. Camping World Opening North Carolina Store

Camping World Inc. announced the March opening of a new retail location in Hendersonville, North Carolina.

Camping World of Asheville will offer convenient access for travelers at exit 44 on Highway 26 and will encompass both a Camping World retail store and Camping World RV Sales dealership, according to a news release. It is located in the facilities formerly occupied by Todd’s RV & Marine.

The tentative grand opening celebration is slated for March. The company is looking to hire at least 30 employees to increase their sales, service, and support needs for this local dealership.

“We look forward to having Camping World serve the Western North Carolina market,” said Camping World Chairman and CEO Marcus Lemonis. “Our strong Carolina presence, coupled with our affiliation with NASCAR through the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, made this an easy decision.”

Have a great weekend.

Until next time, safe RV travels, and we’ll see you on the road!

Worth Pondering…

I think that wherever your journey takes you, there are new gods waiting there, with divine patience—and laughter.
—Susan M. Watkins

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10 Ways for Kids to Play in America’s National Parks

With 395 parks across the country consisting of over 84 million acres, there are endless adventures custom-made for kids of all ages in America’s national parks. In honor of National Public Lands Day tomorrow (September 24), when national parks across the country will waive their entrance fees, the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation have unveiled ten great ways for kids to get out and play in America’s national parks.

Kicking things off tomorrow, the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation will welcome Nickelodeon and their 8th annual Worldwide Day of Play to Washington, D.C.’s President’s Park. Located next to the White House, President’s Park will be home to the largest Worldwide Day of Play to date, with an entire day of activities and games—encouraging kids to get up, get out, and get to a national park! In that spirit, Nickelodeon’s television networks and websites will go off-air and offline from 12 noon to 3 p.m. EDT as a signal to kids and families nationwide to get active.

Whether it is this weekend or any weekend, America’s national parks offer endless activities the whole family can enjoy. This National Public Lands Day, the National Park Service and National Park Foundation invite everyone to go out and play.

Following are ten fun-packed national park adventures for kids and their families:

Maine: Acadia National Park

Sea-life bingo keeps youngsters excited tallying green sea urchins, orange sea stars, and other curious marine creatures that reside in tide pools that surface at low tide. Watch for harbor seals farther out in the water.

Florida: Biscayne National Park

Families visiting Biscayne between December and April can sign up to attend “Family Fun Fest”—a day-long program held on the second Sunday of those months and focused on activities tied to the park’s diverse resources.

Massachusetts: Cape Cod National Seashore

Cycling is one of the best ways to get around the Cape thanks to its paved rail trail, which leads through the woods, pass kettle ponds created by retreating glaciers, and to spurs leading to Coast Guard, Marconi, and Le Count Hollow beaches.

Wyoming: Grand Teton National Park

Teens looking for a challenge can measure themselves against the Tetons, thanks to climbing schools where world-class guides will teach them the basics and lead them to the summit of 13,770-foot Grand Teton.

Colorado: Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Kids love to get sandy on the tallest sand dunes in North America. Rising to about 650 feet, these dunes in the heart of the park are perfect for skiing, sand-boarding, or just plain old rolling down.

California: Lassen Volcanic National Park

Budding geologists will be fascinated with Lassen Volcanic, as it can count all four major types of volcanoes—shield, plug, cinder cone, and composite. There’s even a Volcano Club kids can join to learn more about this volcanic landscape.

Kentucky: Mammoth Cave National Park

Let's Go RVing to Joshua Tree National Park, California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A Mammoth Cave trip is built around a cave tour with the family, or three! Take the Violet City Lantern Tour to experience the passageways by flickering lamp light as many of its first visitors did, view the incredible flowstones on the Frozen Niagara Tour, or visit the Snowball Room with its ancient autographs inscribed with soot.

Washington: Olympic National Park

Kids can start the day with a snowball fight (on Hurricane Ridge) and end it soaking in warm springs (like those at Sol Duc Hot Springs).

Michigan: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Winter isn’t the off-season here, as there are trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. And if there’s enough snow, kids and adults can even sled down the 100+ foot-Dune Climb.


National Park Service

More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 395 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities.


National Park Foundation

You are the owner of 84 million acres of the world’s most treasured memorials, landscapes, ecosystems, and historic sites — all protected in America’s nearly 400 national parks. Chartered by Congress, the National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s national parks. We work hand in hand with the National Park Service to connect you and all Americans to the parks, and to make sure that they are preserved for the generations who will follow.


Worth Pondering…

National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.

—Wallace Stegner, 1983

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Yellowstone Grizzly Victim Identified

A grizzly bear killed a Michigan man whose body was found by hikers last week in Yellowstone National Park, officials said earlier today (August 29).

Grizzly bears are powerful, top-of-the-food-chain predators, yet much of their diet consists of nuts, berries, fruit, leaves, and roots. Bears also eat other animals, from rodents to moose. (Credit:

The victim was identified as John Wallace of Chassell, Michigan.

Wallace’s body was discovered along a trail about five miles from the nearest trailhead. Results of an autopsy concluded that he died as a result of traumatic injuries from a bear attack, reported the Associated Press.

It is the second time a visitor to the park has been killed by a bear this year.

Authorities say Wallace likely died Wednesday or Thursday.

He was traveling alone and had pitched a tent in a campground on Wednesday, park officials said. Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk has previously said that the hiker was found with a snack bar in his closed backpack, but that it appears the grizzly did not try to get at the food.

“We know of no witnesses to the event at all,” Wenk said today. “As far as we know, he was in good health and out enjoying the park.”

Grizzly bears have a distinctive muscular shoulder hump, and the claws on the front paws are large, strong and slightly curved. (Credit:

Two trails and a section of the Hayden Valley west of Yellowstone’s Grand Loop Road have been closed to hikers. Park officials asked hikers elsewhere in the park to stay on the trails, to hike in groups of three or more and carry bear spray.

Wallace’s death comes after a female bear attacked and killed a 57-year-old California man in July on the popular Wapiti Lake Trail, several miles away from where the Michigan man’s body was discovered Friday.

The female bear was not killed because officials said the sow was only defending its cubs and had not threatened humans before.

Rangers found grizzly tracks and scat, or bear droppings, near Wallace’s body.

The Mary Mountain Trail is closed from March to June because park managers list it as “high-density grizzly bear habitat.”

Park employees have been searching for the bear around the Mary Mountain Trail northeast of Old Faithful. That’s the area where hikers discovered Wallace’s body on Friday.

Traps have been set to try to capture the bear. Wenk said it would be killed if it can be linked

Bear Safety

The long guard hairs on their backs and shoulders often have white tips and give the bears a grizzled appearance, hence the name grizzly. (Credit:

It’s important to be informed about bears and what to do when you come into contact with them.

Bears are not tame, gentle, or cuddly; they are unpredictable and potentially dangerous. The rule about bears is their unpredictability.

Note: A two-part series on Bears and Bear Safety was previously posted.

Worth Pondering…
Alive, the grizzly is a symbol of freedom and understanding—a sign that man can learn to conserve what is left of the earth. Extinct, it will be another fading testimony to things man should have learned more about but was too preoccupied with himself to notice. In its beleaguered condition, it is above all a symbol of what man is doing to the entire planet. If we can learn from these experiences, and learn rationally, both grizzly and man may have a chance to survive.
—Frank Craighead, Track of the Grizzly, 1979

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Are RV Parking Restrictions out of Control?

Communities across the United States and Canada are reviewing and in many cases tightening up by-laws that regulate the parking of recreational vehicles. These are the issues that affect all of us RVers—right where we live.

In three previous posts I reported on communities in the United States and Canada imposing restrictive rules, regulations, ordinances, and general hassles on owners of recreational vehicles:

Let's Go RVing to Sedona, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the past several months other anti-RV bylaws have been discussed and enacted. Below is a sampling.

Cranbrook, British Columbia: The City of Cranbrook reminds residents of the amendment to the Streets and Traffic bylaw, which came into effect in June 2010 and regulates on street parking of recreational vehicles and unattached trailers. The bylaw prohibits parking recreational vehicles and trailers on residential streets between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and prohibits parking unattached trailers on any street at any time, unless in an emergency situation. The bylaw applies to travel trailers, tent trailers, campers, motorhomes as well as boats and boats on trailers. It is recommended that residents continue to find alternate places to leave their RV’s, campers, boats, and trailers when not in use, other than on the street.

“Enforcement of this bylaw is generally complaint driven,” says Deb Girvin, Bylaw Enforcement Officer for the City of Cranbrook.

(Source: Kootenay News Advertiser, August 11, 2011)

Let's Go RVing to Brasstown Bald, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Douglas, Wyoming: The City of Douglas has passed an ordinance which outlines new regulations for parking in residential areas within city limits. The ordinance defines specific types of vehicles which cannot be parked in front of residential properties for more than three consecutive days during any 30-day period. These vehicles include motor homes, camper trailers, recreational vehicles, boats, horse trailers, and utility trailers. The ordinance also specifies that parked vehicles cannot be used for residential purposes or create a traffic hazard, must be parked next to the registered residence, and easily movable. Vehicles can only be parked on driveways that are a “hard surface or improved for parking,” specifically concrete, asphalt, brick, or gravel.

(Source: Douglas Budget, July 7, 2011)

Richmond, Kentucky: Recreational vehicle parks will be permitted in Richmond, but only in zones where mobile or manufactured homes are allowed, if an ordinance heard on first reading is adopted by the city commission.

Richmond’s zoning code allows mobile homes and mobile home communities only in zones classified as Public or Semi-public and listed on the zoning map by the symbol MP/C.

The new ordinance offers five different definitions and descriptions for RVs. According to the zoning code, mobile homes and RVs would be the only permitted uses in the MP/C zone.

(Source: Richmond (KT) Register)

Great Falls, Montana: The question of whether large recreational vehicles and other larger-than-normal wheeled contraptions should be allowed to park ad infinitum along Great Falls city streets recently surfaced at a commission work session when Deputy City Manager Jennifer Reichelt showed commissioners a draft ordinance that would restrict such parking.

The draft is the result of urging from neighborhood councils and the overarching Council of Councils.

(Source: Great Falls Tribune)

Let's Go RVing to Mount Washington, New Hampshire. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keokuk, Iowa: The Keokuk City Council recently passed two ordinances, one dealing with recreational vehicle and trailer parking and the other with tow-aways.

RVs and trailers can still be parked on public streets and in municipal lots from April 1 to October 31, but they cannot be parked in the same place for more than four days, or 96 hours.

The police department is now authorized to have any vehicle, boat, trailer, or combination in violation of the City Code towed away and stored in a designated place. Owners may reclaim their vehicle by paying the towing and storage costs.

(Source: Keokuk Gate City Daily, May 11, 2011)

Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: Fort Leavenworth Frontier Heritage Communities has reminded all residents of the residential parking restrictions and regulations on Fort Leavenworth streets. Recreational vehicles, boat trailers, trailers, and commercial trucks with exposed storage racks, more than four wheels or exceeding a Gross Combination Weight Rating of 12,000 pounds cannot be parked in the housing areas for extended periods.

RV storage space can be leased from the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Travel Services.

(Source: Fort Leavenworth Lamp, May 12, 2011)

Worth Pondering…
Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey.

—Fitzhugh Mullan

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Bare Facts on Bears

Grizzly Bear Kills Hiker in Yellowstone National Park

A grizzly bear is shown in this undated photo. A grizzly bear killed a man hiking in Yellowstone National Park on July 6, 2011. (Credit: Getty Images)

A couple’s hike off South Rim Drive, south of Canyon Village and east of the park’s Grand Loop Road, Wednesday (July 6) morning, turned tragic when they surprised a grizzly bear sow and her cubs. Brian Matayoshi, 57, of Torrance, California, was hiking with his wife, Marylyn, on the Wapiti Lake Trail when they encountered the bears as the couple emerged from a forested area into an open meadow.

The hikers first spotted a bear about 100 yards away and began walking in the other direction, but when they turned to look back they saw the female grizzly charging at them down the trail, according to an account issued by park officials.

The couple began running, but the bear caught up to them and mauled the husband, then approached the wife, who had fallen to the ground nearby.

“The bear bit her daypack, lifting her from the ground and then dropping her,” the park statement said, but the woman remained still and the grizzly lumbered off.

Yellowstone and surrounding areas are home at least 600 grizzlies. Once rare to behold, grizzlies have become an almost routine cause of curious tourists lining up at Yellowstone’s roadsides at the height of summer season.

These tourists have been flooding into Yellowstone in record numbers: 3.6 million last year, up 10 percent from 2009’s 3.3 million, also a record.

It was the park’s first fatal grizzly mauling since 1986, but the third in the Yellowstone region in just over a year amid ever-growing numbers of grizzlies and tourists roaming the same wild landscape of scalding-hot geysers and sweeping mountain vistas.

Officials also issued recommendations for visitors to stay safe from backcountry bears:

  • Stay on designated trails
  • Hike in groups of three or more
  • Make noise in places where a grizzly could be lurking

Bear spray—pressurized hot-pepper residue in a can—can be effective in stopping aggressive bears, they said.

Bears in Canada

Grizzly bears have a distinctive muscular shoulder hump, and the claws on the front paws are large, strong and slightly curved. (Credit:

Canada is home to approximately 380,000 black bears and 26,000 grizzly bears, half of whom are found in British Columbia, according to the Nature Conservacy of Canada.

Avoid Bear Attacks

To avoid unwanted encounters with bears adhere to the following precautions:

  • Obey all park regulations, stay on designated trails, and comply with posted warnings
  • Solo hiking is not advised; the risk of an attack is reduced hiking in a group
  • Always keep children nearby and in sight
  • If possible, keep pets at home. Free-running pets can anger a bear and provoke an attack
  • Make warning noises and loud sounds, e.g., attach bells to hiking boots
  • Pepper/bear spray has been effective in deterring some bear attacks; however, do not rely on it as a substitute for safe practices in bear country

Bear Facts

  • Bears are as fast as racehorses, on the flats, uphill, or downhill
  • Bears aggressively defend their food
  • All female bears defend their cubs; if a female with cubs is surprised at close range or is separated from her cubs, she may attack
  • Bears are strong swimmers
  • Bears have good eyesight and hearing, and an acute sense of smell
  • All black bears and young grizzlies are agile tree climbers; mature grizzlies are poor climbers but they have a reach up to 13 feet
  • All bears will defend a personal space; the extent of this space will vary with each bear and each situation; intrusion into this space is considered a threat and may provoke an attack

Know Your Bears

Are you able to tell the difference between a black bear and a grizzly bear? Color is a poor indicator of bear species as both species can range in color from blond to black.

Black bears are North America's most familiar and common bears. They typically live in forests and are excellent tree climbers, but are also found in mountains and swamps. Despite their name, black bears can be blue-gray or blue-black, brown, cinnamon, or even (very rarely) white. be blue-gray or blue-black, brown, cinnamon, or even (very rarely) white. (Credit:

Some unique grizzly features include a pronounced shoulder hump, silver or light-tipped guard hairs on their head, and ears that appear smaller and are rounded.

Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis Ord)

Color: Range in color from black to light blonde, mostly medium to dark brown in color; the long hair usually has a lighter tip, hence the grizzled look

Height: Approximately 3½ feet at shoulder; 6-7 feet when erect

Weight: Average 350-500 pounds; larger grizzlies can reach 800 pounds

Shape: Distinct shoulder hump

Face: Depression between the eyes and end of nose; short, round ears

Claws: Very long (2-4 inches)

Habitat: Prefers semi-open spaces; high country in late summer and early fall; valley bottoms late fall and spring

Black Bear (Ursus americanus Pallas)

Color: Range in color from black to light blonde, often with a lighter patch on the chest or at the throat; reddish-colored bears are common in the west

Height: Approximately 2½-3 feet at shoulder; about 5 feet when erect

Weight: Average 110-300 pounds; larger males can reach 600 pounds

Shape: No shoulder hump like the grizzly

Face: A straight line runs between the forehead and end of nose; roundish pointed ears

Claws: Shorter (about 1½ inches)

Habitat: Prefers forested areas with low-growing plants and berry-producing shrubs, small forest openings, streams, and lake edges

What to do if a Bear Attacks

Every encounter is unique and the following are offered as guidelines only to deal with an unpredictable animal and potentially complex situation.

Your response depends on the species and whether the bear is being defensive or offensive.

Bears sometimes bluff their way out of a confrontation by charging then turning away at the last moment. Generally, the response is to do nothing to threaten or further arouse the bear. Remain calm and avoid sudden movements.

Give the bear plenty of room, allowing it to continue its activities undisturbed. Remember that a standing bear is not always a sign of aggression. Many times, bears will stand to get a better view.

While fighting back usually increases the intensity of an attack, it may cause the bear to leave.

Note: This is the second of a two-part series on Bears and Bear Safety.

Previously posted: Are You Bear Aware?

Worth Pondering…
When a pine needle falls in the forest, the eagle sees it; the deer hears it, and the bear smells it.
—old First Nations saying

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Are You Bear Aware?

Wildlife is a huge part of the mountain and wilderness regions of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Arizona, Alaska, Alberta, and British Columbia.

Deep snowpack, more grizzlies

Grizzly bears are powerful, top-of-the-food-chain predators, yet much of their diet consists of nuts, berries, fruit, leaves, and roots. Bears also eat other animals, from rodents to moose. (Credit:

Numerous encounters between grizzly bears and humans have been reported this spring, attributed to a growing bear population stuck in the low country as a result of the deep snowpack. High winter snowpack levels mean bears are moving to lower elevations and are likely to stay there longer than in previous winters.

Grizzly bears are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, but their numbers have been growing in recent years, increasing the chance for encounters with humans, according to Chris Servheen, the grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In addition, heavy snowfall this winter has taken longer to melt in cool spring weather.

“You have more bears, and then you have these high snow levels so the bears can’t be in the mountains where they want to be,” Servheen said.

In a nonfatal encounter, two hikers were mauled by a bear in the Gallatin National Forest (Montana) when they came across a young grizzly bear and a sow chasing an elk. The 36-year-old woman tried to climb a tree when the sow bit her in the leg. The man was bitten in the forearm when he tried to fight off the bear. Neither injury was life threatening. They were not carrying pepper spray.

Servheen said it served as a good reminder for people to be bear-aware and make noise and always carry pepper spray while hiking in Bear Country.

Bear Concerns near Yellowstone

The long guard hairs on their backs and shoulders often have white tips and give the bears a grizzled appearance, hence the name grizzly. (Credit:

The Gallatin National Forest says grizzly bear experts have recommended banning tent camping in three campgrounds near Yellowstone National Park, including one where a Michigan man was mauled to death last July. The requirement for hard-sided recreational vehicles only is in effect for the Soda Butte, Colter, and Chief Joseph campgrounds just east of Cooke City because bears frequent those areas, reports the Associated Press.

Forest spokeswoman Marna Daley says the requirement is in place this summer while managers consider a long-range strategy. Hard-sided vehicles include those made of metal or strong composite plastic. Truck-box campers that have a 4-foot high hard side, in addition to a raised upper section, are permissible.

Bear Safety

It’s important to be informed about bears and what to do when you come into contact with them.

Bears are not tame, gentle, or cuddly; they are unpredictable and potentially dangerous.

Bears are naturally wary of people and are reluctant to come close to humans. However, if you do encounter a bear there are some important things to remember:

  • If the bear is spotted in the distance and has NOT seen you, back away (without running) the way you came while keeping the bear in view; remain calm and avoid direct eye contact
  • If the bear is at close range, back away slowly
  • If you need to move forward, give the bear as much space as possibly
  • If the bear is standing up, it is usually trying to identify you; talk softly so it knows what you are; if its snapping its jaws, lowering its head, flattening its ears, growling, or making ‘woofing’ signs, it is displaying aggression
  • Never come between a bear and its cubs or animal carcass, as the bear will protect them; slowly back away and leave the area the way you came
  • Carry pepper/bear spray when venturing into the wild
  • Report all sightings to Park Staff

A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear

Black bears typically have black fur over the main part of their body with a tan colored muzzle. (Credit:

Don’t be a contributor to food-conditioning.

Wildlife experts say having a bear wreck your campsite is not only bad for you, but potentially deadly for the bear.

Bears that scavenge for food begin to associate food with humans, and become food-conditioned. Food-conditioned bears lose their natural fear of humans and become a threat to park visitors as they roam through the park in search of an easy meal.

There is little or no chance of correcting a food-conditioned bear; Park Rangers are forced to destroy them when they become aggressive towards humans.

Avoiding Dangerous Encounters with Bears

Food-conditioning of bears can be prevented by heeding the following simple precautions:

  • Never feed or approach bears or other wildlife
  • Reduce or eliminate odors that attract bears
  • Store food in air-tight containers in RV or car trunk
  • Keep your campsite clean
  • Never leave cooking utensils, coolers, grease, or dish water lying around the campsite
  • Obey all closures and warnings

The rule about bears is their unpredictability.

Note: This is the first of a two-part series on Bears and Bear Safety.

Worth Pondering…
Alive, the grizzly is a symbol of freedom and understanding—a sign that man can learn to conserve what is left of the earth. Extinct, it will be another fading testimony to things man should have learned more about but was too preoccupied with himself to notice. In its beleaguered condition, it is above all a symbol of what man is doing to the entire planet. If we can learn from these experiences, and learn rationally, both grizzly and man may have a chance to survive.
—Frank Craighead, Track of the Grizzly, 1979

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