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Hiking Hazards - Bear Attack

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 very afraid.

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.

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