Black bears, Grizzly bears and many other large mammals live in the Rocky Mountains. Anytime that you are spending time in these amazing mountains it is important that you know how to be safe and to keep your children safe. Here are some tips on how to be safe in bear country.
The good news is that, as a National Park brochure states, bears will usually move out of your way if they hear you. This does not mean you will never come across a bear on a trail, but hopefully by following the suggestions here you will be safe.
Suggestions for being safe in bear country:
Make Noise – anytime you are outside away from your car you should make noise. This could be just talking loudly, singing, or having a bell on your backpack that will ring as you move around. Just realize though that a bell by itself does not make enough noise. With kids it is always fun to try and sing some short songs that everyone knows. That will keep everyone happy and entertained on the trail as well as keeping you safe.
You can clap every now and then and loudly say, ‘hey bear’ or things like that. If a bear hears you coming, then it will likely move out of the way as it does not want to have an encounter with you just as much as you don’t want to surprise a bear.
It is especially important to make noise when you come to a part of the trail where you can not see ahead of you, such as going around a bend in the trail or up or down a hill. Other times to be extra aware are when approaching streams, and in dense vegetation.
Never Feed Bears – This only puts you in a potentially dangerous situation and could make the bear more dangerous by getting it used to approaching people for food.
Stay Alert – pay attention to the direction of the wind. If the wind is coming at you, so that you are hiking into the wind, a bear that is upwind of you on the trail could not smell you and know that you are coming. Be extra alert at those times and make noise.
Hike in Groups – try to hike in a group of three or more people as larger groups tend to make more noise and bears will avoid them.
Keep your children near you – At all times when hiking or spending time outdoors in bear country you should keep your children near you. If you have one of those kids that likes to always be out in the lead, running ahead this may be hard, but you have to keep them near you. If they run ahead and go around a trail by themselves and startle a bear the consequences could be bad.
Don’t approach a bear for a closer look – give the bear plenty of space. Do not approach a bear to get a better look or so that you can get a better photo. If you want a better look at the bear you should use binoculars.
Keep your food near you – do not leave any food out in the open and unattended by people. This includes backpacks, coolers, or food storage bins. Leaving food out in the open simply tempts a bear and could lead to problems. This can be hard with kids, but try to stress to all family members the importance of keeping all food near you – in order to protect everyone from bears and to protect the bears. If bears become accustomed to getting food at a campground or picnic area from people then the bear would have to either be moved to a different area or killed.
If you are hiking and stop for lunch or a snack keep your backpack near you. Do not leave it on the ground while you wander off for a photo.
Proper food storage – make sure that you put all food container in a safe place when you are not using them. This could be inside of a vehicle, or in a bear food storage locker.