Hiking and walking are great activities that promote your physical, emotional and mental health and well-being. But if you hike in an area populated by bears, definitely you would have to take extra precautions to ensure you’d keep your health – and your life – at all!
Choose your hiking paths well
The best way is to simply avoid the areas where bears have been commonly sighted. Opt to hike in an open area that many other hikers frequent, and always stick to an established trail. Avoid going near patches of ripe berries and fishing streams.
Finally, it’s best that you hike with a group and make noises by laughing, talking or singing. Bears recognize these human noises and therefore they will know of your presence – bears mostly attack if they’ve been caught off-guard.
Know when to hike
Bears are usually inactive during midday, especially during the summer. It’s early in the morning and late in the afternoon that chances increase of you sighting a bear. That’s why it’s a good idea for you to hike sometime between 11 am to 3 pm. Bears are also more frequently sighted during the fall, as this is the time that they actively forage for food in preparation for their hibernation.
Learn how to identify signs that bears may be in the area
Watch out for signs such as scrapings on trees, bear waste (or scat), dead timber, and soil diggings. Backtrack and avoid areas with these signs as much as you can.
You should also avoid areas that have the smell of a dead animal; chances are high that bears are near this area and may be guarding the carcass as their food supply.
Know what to pack
You should have with you a pepper spray or bear repellent spray, and be sure that you know how to use them properly. If you plan to bring food, make sure that it is properly sealed, or else the bears might smell it and be attracted to following you.
If you will hike alone, bring with you whistles and bells, or anything that will make noise; this is to get bears aware of your presence.
Know what to do if you see a bear
If you do see a bear, retreat backwards slowly and make sure that you keep your eyes on the bear while doing so. It’s rare for a bear to actually attack a person, but if he should approach you, your best move is to stand tall and wave your arms and continue to retreat backwards. If he continues to approach and seems ready to attack, take out your bear repellent and be prepared to spray it at his face.
Know what not to do
Never try to outrun a bear; you will never be successful doing this. You should also never attempt to climb up a tree; they could climb after you or shake the tree until you fall off. Never bring a dog or pet with you while hiking in bear country; the dog’s bark and sudden movements may provoke the bear.
You should also never, ever go near a young cub; he may look harmless, but once you approach it and his mother is nearby (which is likely), you might be considered a threat.
Hiking in bear country need not be a dangerous experience; the important thing is that you are adequately prepared both physically and mentally in case of a bear sighting. Good luck!