Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bear Attack

It was 4:00 a.m. when the bear, or perhaps bears, rampaged through the campground, leaving one camper dead and others injured and scrambling to the relative safety of their cars to save their lives.

The Soda Butte campground, near Yellowstone National Park, was the scene of a similar incident in 2008, when a grizzly bear attacked and injured a man while he slept in this tent. The 27- site campground is located near the Beartooth (aptly named, apparently) Highway, 125 miles southwest of Billings, Montana The area is well known for its grizzly and black bear populations, according to a spokesperson for the Gallatin National Forest.

There are lessons for us to learn from all this.

  • Bears will tear the walls out of a tent to get to you, so nothing made of fabric (such as a tent trailer) will stop them from coming inside. 
  • These are nocturnal hunters, so while you're asleep, they're looking for a meal. 
  • Even if the bear doesn't kill you, one swipe of the claws, or one bite will cause horrible injury and perhaps even death. Bears are filthy, so an open wound caused by their claws or teeth will probably become infected. Even if you survive the attack, you might carry the burden of that injury for the rest of your life. 
  • Before you decide on a campground, find out if it is known bear (or cougar) country. A little situational awareness will go a long way toward making your decision. 
  • Find out if there have been recent reports of activity or sightings of these animals in the area. 
  • In bear country, never bring food or garbage into camp. Always suspend those items from a bear wire a distance from camp. 
  • Do not bring snacks into the tent. 
  • After cooking and cleaning up, remove your clothing and hang it from the bear wire. Don't wear into the tent the same clothes you wore while cooking or handling food. 
  • Always clean up every scrap of food around the food-prep area. Either burn the scraps or put them in the garbage bag that is hung from the bear wire. 
  • Report to local park or forest officials any encounter with bears and cougars. This information will be posted to alert others who might be camping, fishing, hunting, or hiking in the area.
  • If you are confronted by a bear, do not run. That will only trigger an attack. With black bears, it usually (but not always) works to make a lot of noise and make yourself look big. With grizzlies, that might be taken as a challenge to their local authority and will trigger an attack, so your best option (assuming you can't kill the bear with a gun) is to lie down and play dead. If you have a backpack, lie face down with the pack on your back to protect you from the manhandling you are probably going to suffer. If you're lucky, the bear will whack you around a bit, lose interest (if you are totally quiet and still), and eventually wander away. But there are no guarantees. 

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