Author Topic: Bears  (Read 5868 times)

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Offline cyclingacrossmaerica

Bears
« on: April 14, 2013, 04:24:43 pm »
I'm cycling the transAm later this year, and I'm wondering what sort of protections I'll need to take against bears (if any). I am from the UK, and have no experience of bears whatsoever. Any advice would be very helpful!

Thanks,

Offline freightbike

Re: Bears
« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2013, 10:10:44 pm »
Being aware that you are in bear country, when you are, is always helpfull. Bears are opportunists that seek out food where they can find it. Food is what they are usually after and denying them the opportunity is the best defence against them. Keeping your food and tempting smelling things out of reach and out of your tent helps to avoid conflict. I don't have personal experience with grizzly bears but they tend to have limited ranges and areas where they would be prevalent. The bears you would likely encounter would be black bears. Black bears are of a type that are smaller and less likely to be aggressive unless they are used to getting food from easy sources such as humans. If you are intending to venture into the back country, wearing a bell helps to keep grizzlies from being startled by your sudden appearance. There are chemical sprays to keep bears at bay but there may be problems with their possession and use as well.
May the wind at your back always smell like home.
                  MORG

Offline jamawani

Re: Bears
« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2013, 10:48:03 pm »
I am from grizzly country and have cycled, hiked, and camped without incident.
I have had grizzly tracks around my tent the next morning.

First, NEVER take any food into your tent.
If you've had food in your tent, I would suggest getting another.
In a similar vein, do not pack you tent in a pannier with your food.

Second, in bear country change out of your cooking/eating clothes.
You may not smell the food odors, but a bear can and will.

Third, learn to hang you food and toiletries in a bearproof manner.
Grizzlies are too large to get correctly hung packs,
But black bear cubs - esp, around Yosemite NP have figured out how to get them.

In areas with bad bear problems, you must use a bearproof cannister.
Most frontcountry campgrounds have bear boxes - -
But you should know how to hang your food - just in case.

Parks Canada - Appropriate for Northern Rockies, too -
http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/mtn/ours-bears/sec7/og-bm7.aspx



Offline BobG

Re: Bears
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2013, 04:43:47 am »
The areas on the TransAm that you need to be most cautious about bears include Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and the stretch through northern Idaho along the Lochsa River. That said, we did have a bear wander through our campground at Breaks Interstate Park in SW Virginia.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Bears
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2013, 07:24:21 am »
The areas on the TransAm that you need to be most cautious about bears include Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and the stretch through northern Idaho along the Lochsa River. That said, we did have a bear wander through our campground at Breaks Interstate Park in SW Virginia.

There are other places as well, but in generally all of the places where there is concern campgrounds provided bear boxes.  In regular campgrounds you can judge the risk pretty well by whether trash cans and dumpsters are bear proof .  If not you can probably assume that bears will not be a problem.  When in doubt hang your food if there is no bear container.  In any case keep food away from the tent and generally cook a ways from the tent.  Never take food inside the tent.

Also remember that scented items like toiletries are also attractive to bears so treat them the same as food.

In any camping places other than campgrounds, the bears are much less likely to be habituated to humans and are therefore less likely to be a problem.

Use common sense and consider yourself lucky if you get to see a bear.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Bears
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2013, 09:29:10 am »
I don't recommend this (keep your lawyers away from me!), but we ignored the possibility of bears most of our TransAm trip.  Used the bear boxes, etc., when they're provided (Tetons, Yellowstone), and just left our stuff in their panniers on the bike the rest of the time.  Never saw a bear on that trip.  As Pete says, count yourself lucky if you do see a bear!

Most parks will have a pamphlet with instructions on how to handle a bear if you do see one.  The key, for black bears, is don't try to run away -- they can outrun you, but they won't normally bother if you don't trigger their "chase instinct."  Make some racket if you need to so the bear sees you, and he'll normally avoid you. 

One memorable encounter had me behind my bike scuffing gravel and huffing as a black beary yearling slowly approached.  He noticed me when he was about 10 feet away, turned slightly, and ever so slowly walked into the woods.

Offline cyclingacrossmaerica

Re: Bears
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2013, 09:41:51 am »
That's really helpful - and yes, I will feel very lucky if I see a bear (provided it doesn't take my head off!). I just wanted to check whether there is anything I need to buy(e.g. a bear bag), or whether I can just turn up and learn on the trip.

I will take your advice on keeping food out of the tent etc... and of course read any leaflets or use anything provided!

Offline geegee

Re: Bears
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2013, 11:10:44 am »
Another thing to think about when you are stealth camping in bear country is not to be too close to streams or obvious corridors to  sources of water. Bears are likely to travel along these routes and you'll be right on their path. Prepare and eat your meals near water where you can wash up, but pitch your tent elsewhere, preferably on higher ground. Although not conducive to a good night's sleep, sometimes camping closer to the road with the sound of occasional traffic turning bears off is not such a bad choice.

Offline janetanorth

Re: Bears
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2013, 12:17:14 pm »
If nerves will keep you from sleeping, I recommend investing in a high strength bear spray (and keep it at hand) some bear bags such as "aLokSac" (www.loksac.com), and staying away from established campsites as much as possible. Even if there is nothing from which to hang the food bag, at least things will be packed in multiple layers.
I've found the worst campground pests are the small gnawers that come out at night.
Beware the rodents!
Cheers, janet

Offline janetanorth

Re: Bears
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2013, 12:38:58 pm »
Addendum:
I see it is the "OpSac" that is smell resistant, not the 'aloksac'.
Www.loksac.com
J

Offline staehpj1

Re: Bears
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2013, 12:48:25 pm »
Another thing to think about when you are stealth camping in bear country is not to be too close to streams or obvious corridors to  sources of water. Bears are likely to travel along these routes and you'll be right on their path. Prepare and eat your meals near water where you can wash up, but pitch your tent elsewhere, preferably on higher ground. Although not conducive to a good night's sleep, sometimes camping closer to the road with the sound of occasional traffic turning bears off is not such a bad choice.

That may be all true, but I will add that on the Trans America there is little to no need to stealth camp unless you just want to.  Places to stay in plain sight are pretty frequent and many are listed on the AC maps.  I think it is probably possible to stay for free the whole way without ever resorting to stealth.  I am told others have managed this.  I know we stayed for free better than half the time without ever stealth camping and averaged under $5 a night for lodging in 2007.

I have found stealth camping to be more desirable at times on some other routes though.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Bears
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2013, 08:11:26 pm »
On the TransAm, I only wild camped once in bear country, along that very long stretch along the Lochsa River in Idaho. There are, of course, a number of campgrounds along that road, but wild camping there is extremely easy to find and perfectly legal (i.e., no need for stealth). There are no Grizzlies in this area, so you only need to worry about a rare black bear. Just hang your food at least a hundred yards from your tent, and bring no food or smellies within a hundred yards of your tent, and the risk is miniscule. In my case, I stopped and ate dinner at a pullout along the road, brushed my teeth and cleaned up there, and then rode several more miles down the road before camping.

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Bears
« Reply #12 on: April 16, 2013, 12:20:47 am »
There are other places as well, but in generally all of the places where there is concern campgrounds provided bear boxes.  In regular campgrounds you can judge the risk pretty well by whether trash cans and dumpsters are bear proof .  If not you can probably assume that bears will not be a problem.

So true. I've been to a campground or two and saw some "be aware of bears" signs, then noticed that all the trashcans and dumpsters were not secured. So I didn't worry much, since the campground itself wasn't taking the appropriate precautions. And honestly, a bear is most likely going to go for the trashcans and dumpsters.

But as pdlamb said, "Keep your lawyers away from me!" Use your own discretion and not take my opinion as truth or law.

One thing to also be aware about when it comes to food is raccoons. There are some places that don't offer "bear boxes" but suffer from raccoon problems (the campsites on the Oregon Coast for example.) While raccoons don't pose as much a threat to humans as bears (well, the non-rabid ones), they do pose a huge threat to your food. And will go through great lengths to get to your food.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Bears
« Reply #13 on: April 16, 2013, 06:28:21 am »
So true. I've been to a campground or two and saw some "be aware of bears" signs, then noticed that all the trashcans and dumpsters were not secured. So I didn't worry much, since the campground itself wasn't taking the appropriate precautions. And honestly, a bear is most likely going to go for the trashcans and dumpsters.
That reminds me of a camp we stayed at near the California Nevada border (Bootleg Camp).  There were a lot of signs about securing food from the bears.  I asked the camp host how bad the problem was and he said no one had reported seeing a bear there in something like the last 15 years.  We hung our food anyway, but more because we figured raccoon might be a problem

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Bears
« Reply #14 on: April 16, 2013, 10:07:04 am »
That reminds me of a camp we stayed at near the California Nevada border (Bootleg Camp).  There were a lot of signs about securing food from the bears.  I asked the camp host how bad the problem was and he said no one had reported seeing a bear there in something like the last 15 years.  We hung our food anyway, but more because we figured raccoon might be a problem

Campground hosts may not be entirely reliable, reference our stay at Newhalem, WA.  Bear signs, but no bear boxes, and we didn't have rope to hang food.  So I asked the host if there was some place we could store our (depeleted) food, and he told me, don't worry about it, they haven't had a bear in the campground for 10-15 years.  So we left panniers on bikes overnight and didn't worry -- until we got back to civilization, and in contact with my wife.  She'd been cruising various journals, and somebody had taken a picture of a bear walking through that same campground a week earlier.  At least he didn't bother our stuff!

This may be one of those motorist/non-motorist split kind of things.  The bears hadn't started to break into campers, cars, or even locked motorcycle boxes, so the host may have honestly thought there was no problem.  And if most of the few nutcases riding bicycles or hiking hung their flimsy nylon bags containing food, maybe there really wasn't.

Or maybe the bear was just picky, and didn't care for instant oatmeal, Poptarts, and Clif bars.  "Where's the Kentucky Fried Chicken?" he growled.