Author Topic: Cycling and camping in bear country ? !  (Read 10643 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline daikaregi

Cycling and camping in bear country ? !
« on: June 19, 2009, 11:06:36 pm »
Hello dear fellow cyclists.

I am a girl of advanced age (54) and fell for cycling several years ago.
Made some 3 to 4 weeks trips across parts of germany (where i come from) and the netherlands. nature, people you meet on the trail and the physical effects on my body made me wishing for more. so in 2008 i made a 6 months trip across the northern part of europe (germany, netherlands, denmark, sweden, norway - north cape - finnland and back to my hometown). on the way up north i met a swedish woman on the road, my age and also heading north. we rode together for 6 weeks and became close friends. she taught me how to camp wild and survive in rain and ice.

this trip got me hooked. so now i am here in the land of the free and the brave.
started my tour 2 weeks ago and want to go around as far as i get in 1 years visa time. my son, who lives in philadelphia, has warned me - much bigger distances than in europe between towns, big wilderniss in between. camping in bear country? mom, that is toooooo dangereous!  well, as moms are, they dont listen.
started in philli and went along delaware river. it was at the delaware river water gap national forest that i arrived at a private campground in the forest - too early in the season, no people there during the week. campowner told me to pitch my tent wherever i want, but i would be alone during the night. - well i am not all alone, i got my little jack-russel-terrier with me, big friend, loved companion and a real watchdog.  i was looking around for the best spot for my tent when i saw the black bear, a year old cub, sniffing around the garbage bins.  thought - where there is a baby bear, there might be his siblings too, not to think of his mom and dad. Now the campground became too crowded for my taste and a left immediately. one hour left until it got dark and my gps said i had to go another 10 miles to the next motel - uphill all the time, nothing but forest around me and at the last of my strength. was already dark when i arrived there. people at the motel laughed at me: they are no thread to people,  black bears are shy and run away when they see humans.
Well, well, born and bread in densely urbanized europe, i really dont know. i made an internet research and what i learned was, that black bears can be dangereous in certain situations. the most incidents however, with human injuries or deaths happened on campgrounds, where people were attacked in the tent. there are of course those areas in canada and alaska, but also yellowstone and mount clacier nat. parks had casualties in the past.

so, please dear bikefriends, help an urban greenhorn to get this into perspective. since this incident on the campground i prefer to stay in cosy little motels und feel unwell on the trail. rest only on hilltops in open clearings to be able to see and go downhill into retreat if necessary.  Of course i do what i can helping the american economic situation improve, but on the long run i cannot afford to stay in the motels all the time.
did anyone of you have already had some experiences during biketours and camping with those bears? how dangereous is it, to be out there?
have pepperspray and a loud whistle with me and learned how to behave if i see a bear coming - in theory -but...

thanks for your replies

daikaregi   www.on-bike.net





Offline dubovsmj

Re: Cycling and camping in bear country ? !
« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2009, 05:01:31 am »
well, first off the pepperspray and whistle are good ideas.  i always keep them within arms reach in my tent.  obviously, never take anything with a scent (food, toothpaste, deodorant, etc) in your tent with you....stuff all your food and cosmetics in a bag of somesort and hang it up in a tree about 25 yards or so from where camping.  bring some sturdy rope with you so you can toss it up, over tree branch and then pull the bag up to the branch....dont' pitch tent near dumpsters or other campers who leave food lying around their campsites.  basically, practice common sense....don't approach bears, cubs, etc. make lots of noise so they aren't spooked suddenly by your presense if you happen to go romping through the woods, don't corner them, etc.   i feel most of this is for hiking in woods moreso than bike touring, but still good to keep on the back burner. 

....bears are like people, really.  some are good, some are bad, right?  more and more though, environmental factors have been causing bears to become more aggressive, and creative, in finding food sources/water sources...  especially with us homo-sapiens replacing their forest homes with with cookie cutter houses.  that leaves them with limited options for food, especially come autumn when their priority is stocking up on body fat to make it through the winter. 

my personal experience with black bears varies greatly.  back home in virginia (foothills of blue ridge mtns) we had a bad year of black bears with one topping off at 500lbs.. killed off 8 of our chickens and killed one of our llamas.  the same bear had killed a dozen or so goats on a farm a few miles away too.  the bear was eventually tracked and put down d/t becoming too accustomed to humans and what their yards had to offer....at the same time i've been hiking in same stretch of woods back home and the bears go running at first sight/sound/wind of me.

....most fear we have is in our own heads anyways.  bears are the type of animal where it's easy to imagine horrible and horrendous scenarios.  but if you look at the statistics, there's more chance in being hit by a car while pedaling your bicycle. 

i guess we're all fortunate enough to be human beings and not bears because, in all honesty, the bears have a much, much, much greater chance in being killed by a human than we have in being killed by them.

(sorry if this rambles...working graveyard shift right now and my brain don't work right at 3AM)

Offline dubovsmj

Re: Cycling and camping in bear country ? !
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2009, 05:11:58 am »
don't mean to add more to already lengthy reply, but an example of how peaceful black bears can be....

..was doing bike tour up on skyline drive and at 0500 i awoke to see an adolescent black bear perched in a hickory tree right above my tent.  he was hanging out, eating hickory nuts and the shells were falling like rain upon my tent.  it was quite the special experience to sit lie and watch this animal for 2 hours straight and watch the accumulation of hickory nut shells fall around and in my tent.....


Offline scott.laughlin

Re: Cycling and camping in bear country ? !
« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2009, 02:01:56 pm »
Bears are unpredictible.  I think most of the issues have been addressed.  But there are times when women should not put themselves in harms way.

Scott

Offline geegee

Re: Cycling and camping in bear country ? !
« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2009, 02:10:33 pm »
Bears are most dangerous when they are startled or surprised, and given ample warning and a clear way out, they usually prefer to get out of your way. Making noise in bear country is usually advised, whether it's whistling or attaching bear bells to your bike. I think people who snore have a rare advantage when sleeping in a tent at night!

Offline daikaregi

Re: Cycling and camping in bear country ? !
« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2009, 08:34:15 am »
thank you for your informations.
you may be right, the danger sits rather in our heads and i will try to get the king kong image of black bears out of mine.
so far i have greatly enjoyed the touring through america. absolutely beautiful nature and i have never met so many nice, friendly and helpful people on the way like here. so far i have never felt alone. just went cross the catskills mountains, some very steep hills - there were car drivers who stopped, asking if i am ok, if they can help me carry my panniers to make it easier. didnt want to give my things away but i kind of felt at home. well, there are flaws in each paradise and i have to learn to live with them - in this case the bears!
thanks for your support and have good rides and safe trips wherever you go!

daikaregi


well, first off the pepperspray and whistle are good ideas.  i always keep them within arms reach in my tent.  obviously, never take anything with a scent (food, toothpaste, deodorant, etc) in your tent with you....stuff all your food and cosmetics in a bag of somesort and hang it up in a tree about 25 yards or so from where camping.  bring some sturdy rope with you so you can toss it up, over tree branch and then pull the bag up to the branch....dont' pitch tent near dumpsters or other campers who leave food lying around their campsites.  basically, practice common sense....don't approach bears, cubs, etc. make lots of noise so they aren't spooked suddenly by your presense if you happen to go romping through the woods, don't corner them, etc.   i feel most of this is for hiking in woods moreso than bike touring, but still good to keep on the back burner. 

....bears are like people, really.  some are good, some are bad, right?  more and more though, environmental factors have been causing bears to become more aggressive, and creative, in finding food sources/water sources...  especially with us homo-sapiens replacing their forest homes with with cookie cutter houses.  that leaves them with limited options for food, especially come autumn when their priority is stocking up on body fat to make it through the winter. 

my personal experience with black bears varies greatly.  back home in virginia (foothills of blue ridge mtns) we had a bad year of black bears with one topping off at 500lbs.. killed off 8 of our chickens and killed one of our llamas.  the same bear had killed a dozen or so goats on a farm a few miles away too.  the bear was eventually tracked and put down d/t becoming too accustomed to humans and what their yards had to offer....at the same time i've been hiking in same stretch of woods back home and the bears go running at first sight/sound/wind of me.

....most fear we have is in our own heads anyways.  bears are the type of animal where it's easy to imagine horrible and horrendous scenarios.  but if you look at the statistics, there's more chance in being hit by a car while pedaling your bicycle. 

i guess we're all fortunate enough to be human beings and not bears because, in all honesty, the bears have a much, much, much greater chance in being killed by a human than we have in being killed by them.

(sorry if this rambles...working graveyard shift right now and my brain don't work right at 3AM)

Offline damselfli

Re: Cycling and camping in bear country ? !
« Reply #6 on: June 24, 2009, 12:40:54 pm »
Bear Bells? details?


hmoore71

  • Guest
Re: Cycling and camping in bear country ? !
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2009, 09:00:47 am »
Bear Bells? details?

Bear bells are generally associated with backpackers in grizzly bear country, They are generally small metal bells, attached to the backpack to make noise so you don't surprise a bear while hiking. Also it seems some Great Divide riders use them as well. Surprising a grizzly bear, especially a sow with cubs, can readily invoke an attack.

Offline tonythomson

Re: Cycling and camping in bear country ? !
« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2009, 01:42:46 pm »
Hey they sure can be scarry and of course you need to be sensible re what food you carry and never any in your tent.  I've cycled several places in bear country.  Nearest I came was one stepping out in front of me, just having cycled all day and finished off with a long uphill to the hostal in Jasper, 1/2 of me wanted to shoot off down back the hill, 1/2 though no way will I get back up and 1/2 wanted to take aphoto. Amazing how many halves you can get with a bear a few feet away.  Well Mr Bear totally ignored me and just carried on in his own sweet way.  I tell you was just so exciting.   Don't really want to do exciting again.  Not sure if this is much help, but just like talking about it! Tony
Just starting to record my trips  www.tonystravels.com

Offline daikaregi

Re: Cycling and camping in bear country ? !
« Reply #9 on: June 28, 2009, 06:50:54 am »
Hi

Does anyone of you know if there are maps of america and canada, showing in which areas you have to expect bears and if so which ones and in which areas you can feel safe?

Regina

FredHiltz

  • Guest
Re: Cycling and camping in bear country ? !
« Reply #10 on: June 28, 2009, 08:43:50 am »
Hey, folks! Let's put the bear risk in perspective.

Not all bears are the same. Grizzlies are found in Alaska and the mountainous regions of other northwestern states. Of the millions of people in the back country there every year, grizzlies kill perhaps one every two or three years and injure about a dozen badly enough to make the news.

Black bears are found almost everywhere in the continental states. I have heard of one adult killed by a black bear in my long life (http://www.aldha.org/bearmaul.htm), which quotes a park biologist saying 37 fatal black bear attacks nationwide since records have been kept. Of the tens of millions of people in the back country every year, they seriously injure about another dozen.

If you are worried about death or injury on a cycling trip, practice your highway safety. In 2007, 698 cyclists were killed and an additional 44,000 were injured in traffic crashes badly enough to be reported. (http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/portal/nhtsa_static_file_downloader.jsp?file=/staticfiles/DOT/NHTSA/NCSA/Content/TSF/2007/810986.pdf). These numbers are typical of the last ten years.

Contrary to popular wisdom, it is not just the kids who die. The average age of those killed was 40 and the highest fatality rate (per million population) was in the age group 45 - 54. Granted, a lot of them were drunk or doing stupid things like riding at night without lights.

You may well see a bear every few days, especially while riding in the national parks, but your chance of being hurt is tiny. The important thing: Take care on the road and stay out of the NHTSA report.

Fred

Offline paddleboy17

Re: Cycling and camping in bear country ? !
« Reply #11 on: June 29, 2009, 11:54:43 am »
In Michigan, we get black bears, but there are other wild life beasties that are interested in your food pack.  It is just not a good idea to keep food in your tent.  Hang your food bag from a tree.  Avoid an angry encounter with a racoon, squirrel, wolverine, coyote, etc.

I would not want to be charged by a racoon.  They might look cute and cuddly in a Disney varmint flick, but they are mean and nasty, and resourceful.

Keep your food in a bag, hanging up where nothing on four legs can go.
Danno

Offline staehpj1

Re: Cycling and camping in bear country ? !
« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2009, 05:02:18 pm »
Hey, folks! Let's put the bear risk in perspective.

Good points Fred.

Bears  are a small enough risk to not lose sleep over them, as long as you take reasonable precautions.

Offline TwoWheeledExplorer

  • World Traveler
  • *****
  • Posts: 313
  • "I am well, thank God, and in high spirits"
Re: Cycling and camping in bear country ? !
« Reply #13 on: July 04, 2009, 12:39:11 pm »
While I agree with most of Fred's points, there have been a number of black bear (Urus Americanus) related fatalities, which have increased in recent years due to man expanding his domain into what used to be the bear's. Since the fatality at Great Smokey, there have been 11 adults and 3 children confirmed killed by black bears. Most of the adult attacks occured in Canada; All of the child attacks were in the USA. In that same time frame, there were only ten brown bear (Ursus Arctos: Subspecies-horribilus, American Grizzly; beringianus, Kodiak/Katmai brown) fatalities.

I also found it interesting in Aaron Teasdale's piece on the GDMBR on the ACA website, cans of holstered bear spray were plainly visible in many pictures.

Be careful, plan ahead and enjoy yourself. Much more information can be found at: http://www.centerforwildlifeinformation.org/BeBearAware/bebearaware.html

Ride safe,
Hans

The Two-Wheeled Explorer: Ride the River
www.twowheeledexplorer.org
"Every person has a river to ride...you are to Ride the River."--Pr. Larry Christenson

Offline HONDO

Re: Cycling and camping in bear country ? !
« Reply #14 on: July 07, 2009, 08:50:02 am »
I live in rural west virginia (bear country) and while riding yesterday I ran across two bears, one full grown probably 300plus lbs, another one half grown and guess which direction they were heading when they saw me. yep, the opposite. Good advice on the bears here and remember they have no use for you. they just want left alone.