Do's and Don'ts in Bear Country - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Do's and Don'ts in Bear Country

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(Photo by Alan Bauer) (Photo by Alan Bauer)
SPOKANE, Wash. -

People have recently seen a black bear and her cub on the South Hill near the Highland Park neighborhood. We know that Spokane is near nature, but what happens when nature is a little too close? The Department of Fish and Wildlife says that bears tend to avoid humans, but they have some advice if you happen to come across them.

If you are recreating in bear country, always remember: Never travel alone, keep small children near you at all times, and always make your presence known—simply talking will do the trick. Most experts recommend carrying pepper spray when recreating in areas of high bear density. A pepper spray that has a pepper content between 1.3 and 2 percent can be an effective deterrent to an aggressive bear if it is sprayed directly into the bear’s face within 6 to 10 feet.

Here are tips should you come in close contact with a bear:

  • Stop, remain calm, and assess the situation. If the bear seems unaware of you, move away quietly when it’s not looking in your direction. Continue to observe the animal as you retreat, watching for changes in its behavior.
  • If a bear walks toward you, identify yourself as a human by standing up, waving your hands above your head, and talking to the bear in a low voice. (Don’t use the word bear because a human-food-conditioned bear might associate “bear” with food . . . people feeding bears often say “here bear.”
  • Don’t throw anything at the bear and avoid direct eye contact, which the bear could interpret as a threat or a challenge.
  • If you cannot safely move away from the bear or the bear continues toward you, scare it away by clapping your hands, stomping your feet, yelling, and staring the animal in the eyes. If you are in a group, stand shoulder-to shoulder and raise and wave your arms to appear intimidating. The more it persists the more aggressive your response should be. If you have pepper spray, use it.
  • Don’t run from the bear unless safety is very near and you are absolutely certain you can reach it (knowing that bears can run 35 mph). Climbing a tree is generally not recommended as an escape from an aggressive black bear, as black bears are adept climbers and may follow you up a tree.

To avoid encounters with black bears while hiking or camping:

  1. Keep a clean camp. Put garbage in wildlife-resistant trash containers.
  2. Store food in double plastic bags and, when possible, place the bags in your vehicle's trunk or in wildlife-resistant food lockers. Double-wrapped food may also be placed in a backpack or other container and hang it from a tree branch at least 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet out from the tree trunk. Never store food in your tent.
  3. When camping, sleep at least 100 yards from your cooking area and food storage site.
  4. Hike in small groups and make your presence known by singing or talking.
  5. Keep small children close and on trails.

If you come in close contact with a bear:

  1. Stay calm and avoid direct eye contact, which could elicit a charge. Try to stay upwind and identify yourself as a human by standing up, talking and waving your hands above your head.
  2. Do not approach the bear, particularly if cubs are present. Give the bear plenty of room.
  3. If you cannot safely move away from the bear, and the animal does not flee, try to scare it away by clapping your hands or yelling.
  4. If the bear attacks, fight back aggressively. As a last resort, should the attack continue, protect yourself by curling into a ball or lying on the ground on your stomach and playing dead.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife responds to cougar and bear sightings when there is a threat to public safety or property. If it is an emergency, dial 911.

If you encounter a cougar or black bear problem, and it is not an emergency, contact the nearest regional Department of Fish and Wildlife office between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

If you need to report a non-emergency problem when Department of Fish and Wildlife offices are closed, contact the Washington State Patrol or nearest law enforcement agency.

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