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Recreating in bear country: what you need to know

As more roads and trails open and recreationists are able to head to the mountains, the potential for interactions with wildlife increases

7/7/2017 11:43:44 AM

Lander - As more roads and trails open and recreationists are able to head to the mountains, the potential for interactions with wildlife increases. Recently, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has responded to calls regarding black bears near camps and human structures.
The Game and Fish encourages people to enjoy the wild lands of Wyoming and reminds recreationists that keeping a clean camp is the key to human safety and the law on most U.S. Forest Service lands in northwest Wyoming. When a bear gains access to attractants, it is likely to become food-conditioned.  Food-conditioned bears are less likely to avoid humans and can become destructive and dangerous in their attempts to obtain human foods. A bear that has received a food reward will likely return or stay in the area and may become a problem for other people.  When a bear becomes conditioned to human foods there are few options outside of removal of the animal.
Hikers should also be “bear aware” when out and about. When recreating in bear country there is always the chance you will run into a bear. Fortunately, bears avoid people and of the majority of encounters end with the bears leaving the area. Hiking in groups, making noise, and carrying bear spray are good bear safety measures.  Make sure you have quick access to and know how to use your bear spray.

In general, no matter how you are recreating, keeping attractants out of reach will ensure you are doing your part to reduce human-bear conflicts. Bears observed in camping areas or other potential conflict situations should be immediately reported to your local Game and Fish office (Lander Office 307-332-2688) or Game and Fish dispatch at 1-877-WGFD-TIP. For more detailed safety tips and videos see below and visit the Game and Fish Bear Wise page at


More detailed campsite safety tips:
  •  Never store attractants in your tent.
  • Store all food and garbage and any other odorous items inaccessible to bears.
  • If available store attractants inside a vehicle, hard-sided campers, horse trailers, bear canisters, or bear boxes.
  • In the backcountry store food and coolers suspended from a tree at least 10’ to 15’ high and 4’ feet away from the tree trunk.  Also, sleeping area should be at least 100 yards away from food storage and the eating/cooking area.
  • All pet food and livestock should be properly stored.
  • Keep clothes worn while cooking stored with food and other attractants.
  • Burn all grease off camp stoves.
  • Wipe down eating and cooking areas after each use.
  • Do not bury garbage; bears will just dig it up.
  • Dispose of all garbage properly and pack out any remaining garbage.
What to do if a bear comes into your camp:
  • Remain calm and do not panic.  Bears generally avoid people and they are probably attracted to odors of food.
  • Get your bear spray or gun prepared for use.
  • Do not approach the bear.
  • Try to scare the bear away by yelling, shouting, banging on pots, or shooting off a gun.
  • If the bear does not get a food reward they will usually leave.
  • If a bear tries getting into your tent fight back and use your personal defense.
Hiking Safety:
  • Hike in groups whenever possible.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. When hiking look for evidence that bears have been in the area such as tracks, scat, or overturned logs.
  • When out hiking make a lot of noise in order to alert bears of your presence. Avoid hiking at dusk and dawn since this is when bears are most active.
  • Stay on main trails because bears will often avoid these trails during the daytime due to the high activity.
  • Be mentally prepared in case you do encounter a bear.      

(Rene Schell 307-332-2688)

- WGFD -

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