Generally speaking, bears won't attack you unless provoked. And of course they
will defend their young, so if you see bear cubs but don't see their mother, be
Bears may not be interested in eating you for dinner, but they are definitely
interested in what you're eating for dinner (or lunch, or breakfast). They
have an acute sense of smell and will even be attracted to the scent of toothpaste
and sunscreen. With this in mind, never ever store food (or other scented items)
in your tent in bear country. In some places, the traditional method of hanging
your food from a tree may work. On the other hand, bears are smart and have
been known to foil such methods. In bear country, I always use a bear canister.
I don't enjoy carrying the extra weight (about 3 pounds, although there are
lighter ones), but I feel safe in the knowledge that the bear won't get to my
food. Store the canister away from your tent. If there are rocks nearby, I'll
usually place the canister upside down (to avoid rain getting inside) inside
the rocks. I'll then place my trekking poles on top, just so a bear will make
a racket and wake me up if he tries to get to the food. No bear has yet even
tried to get inside my canister.
In some places (such as Yosemite), bears have become so aggressive that they
will rip open cars to get to food. In such places, of course, don't put food
in your car. Instead, use the specially designed bear-resistant containers
that are usually provided at campgrounds. If there are no such containers,
then you are probably safe in putting your food in your car. It is only places
where there have been lots of human-bear interaction (such as Yosemite and
Sequoia/Kings Canyon) that
bears have become so aggressive.
Return to Hiking Hazards.