How To Keep You and Your Dog Safe From A Bear Encounter
Be bear aware. Learn how to be safe and know exactly what to do if you encounter a bear when hiking, camping, or enjoying the outdoors with your dog.
The arrival of Spring is a great time for dog owners – the days start to get longer and the hiking season begins. But, with the start of hiking season also comes the start of bear season. If you enjoy hitting the trails in the PNW with your dog, you need to learn to bear safety. The following post covers how to keep you and your dog safe from bear encounters as well as what to do when you see a bear.
Things that Attract Bears
Bears are primarily driven by food. So, just because you haven’t seen a bear on a specific hiking trail, it doesn’t mean they won’t find their way there. To avoid bear encounters with your dog, you need to avoid attracting them with scents. Bears can easily associate any smell with food. If you need to bring food, store it in airtight containers. Never bring it inside a tent. If you're primitive camping, raise your food up high and out of reach in-between 2 trees. Also, be aware of what bear food sources may be in the area. Berries and salmon are favorites!
How Good is a Bear's Sense of Smell?
According to the Yosemite National Park Ranger Notes, a black bear’s sense of smell is approximately 7 times keener than that of a bloodhound. It’s difficult to calculate the actual distance from where they can smell. But, it’s not surprising to know that they can smell a food source from 20 miles away, given ideal wind conditions.
How to Stay Safe in the Backcountry with Your Dog
Stay on the trail and to have your dog on leash.
Wear a bear bell. Bear bells work by making enough noise to alert bears and other wildlife of your approach.
Carry Bear Spray.
What to do if you Encounter a Bear
If the bear has not seen you: Slowly and quietly leave the area, but never run--you'll look like prey. A bear can run faster than 30 mph--it will easily out-run, out-climb, and out-swim you.
If the bear has seen you: Back away--give him all the room he wants. Keep your dog close and calmly go back the way you came. If necessary, take a detour to provide the bear with as much space as possible.
If you have an encounter at close range: Stand upright and make yourself as large as possible. Don't make direct eye contact--say "Hey Bear" in a calm, assertive tone as you attempt to slowly back up and get your dog and yourself out of danger.
If all else fails, make sure you have bear spray AND that you know how to use it. If the bear attacks - fight back! Let the bear know you and your dog are not easy prey.
Generally, a bear does not want to encounter you any more than you want to encounter them. So, when you're out hiking with your dog, make sure that you make your presence known. Put a bear bell on your dog, talk loudly (or even sing!) while walking on the trail and clap your hands to announce your presence.
Lastly, always be vigilant, especially when you’re out with your dog. You’ll never know how they’ll respond to the presence of bears until you’re already in that situation.