Surveys taken from 35 states indicate that the population of black bears is either stable or increasing. Small populations of grizzly bears live in some parts of the country. And, not surprisingly, the kind of places bear populations thrive happen to be the same kind of places people tend to go camping.
Nobody wants to have a bear wander into camp and tear everything apart while looking for a quick meal. That is, after all, what the bear is hunting for — food. And to a bear, garbage is the same as food.
So that leads us to a few rules for keeping bears out of our campsite.
- Don't leave food lying around camp, because it will attract bears. That goes not only for human food, but for pet food and livestock feed as well.
- Store double-wrapped and tightly sealed food in your vehicle trunk. if the vehicle is not available, place food in a backpack or other container and suspend it from a tree limb at least 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet away from the trunk.
- Be strict about maintaining your tent and sleeping bag as Zero-Food-Zones. That means you never take food (not even midnight snacks) into your tent. And never sleep in the clothes you wore while cooking.
- Keep a clean camp, to eliminate odors that attract small animals like raccoons, which in turn attract big animals like bears. Don't cook smelly or greasy foods, such as bacon. Maintain the cooking and food storage area at least 100 yards from your campsite (preferable downwind). If you barbecue dinner, wash the grill immediately after use. For that matter, wash all the dishes immediately after use.
- Store garbage, fish parts and meat waste in double-sealed plastic bags that are placed in bear-proof trash containers 9where available), or containers with tight-fitting lids. Keep the containers well away from camp, and suspended from a bear wire or tree limb.
- Pack everything out in double plastic bags. Do not bury or burn garbage — bears will be attracted to the residual odor.