most asked by my non- hiking friends is "What about the bears?".
Often they will ask if I carry a gun, presumably to defend myself
from man eating bears. My stock reply is "I'd rather carry
a steak, at least I get to use it".
My lack of fear
for marauding bears may be from spending years in the back country
without a single (bad) incident. I've encountered black bears numerous
times without any problems. Unfortunately, a recent event in the
Smokies has changed my attitude forever.
mother bear and her yearling cub attacked and fatally injured Glenda
Bradley, a 50-year-old East Tennessee woman May 21, near Cosby in
too close to a mother bear and her cubs is another common reason
for bear encounters. Often, hikers don't notice the presence of
cubs until it's too late. I was walking to Charles Bunion a
few years ago and accidentally happened upon a mother bear and two
cubs. I was hiking at a fast pace and before I knew it there were
two cubs in my path, just a few steps away. Suddenly, I heard a
popping and snorting sound. Just to the right of the A.T., mother
bear was objecting to my presence. Before she had a chance to charge,
I started backing away slowly. I did not turn my back on her and
didn't stop backing up until I was out of site of the bears. I hiked
back to the car at a much slower rate. Solo hikers make very little
noise, so there is a far increased possibility of wild-life sightings.
best practice to use when a bear crosses your path is guarded and
slow retreat. Don't ever run from a bear because it is sure to chase.
It is better to stand your ground. Most often when a bear charge
occurs, the startled hiker "stands his ground out of sheer
terror". The bear almost always breaks off its' charge. When
backing away, be sure to always face the bear. It is also a good
idea to make noise as you hike. This is not hard for a group of
hikers, they are usually talking any way. Solo hikers don't make
too much noise, so the possibility of a bear encounter is much greater.
The bear can run much faster than a man so out running a bear is
not an option. Bears can also climb trees incredibly fast. These
creatures are very nimble and very strong. They could easily kill
many animals but they choose to graze on forest vegetation.
* Keep a clean
site by properly disposing of garbage, aluminum foil, jars, cans,
plastic wrap and bags.
* Pick up food
* Never leave
food or coolers unattended unless inside a vehicle.
* Wipe down
table tops before vacating your site.
* If a bear
approaches, pack up food and trash. If necessary, attempt to scare
the animal away with loud noises, or by throwing rocks and sticks.
If the bear is persistent, move slowly to your vehicle or a secure
In the backcountry:
Hang food and anything with strong odors (toothpaste, bug repellent,
soap, etc.) at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet from a tree
or limb, or use special food storage boxes and cable systems if
Do not cook or store food in or near your tent.
bear approaches, frighten it by yelling, banging pans together or
trash out; don't bury it.
encounter a bear:
feed or toss food to a bear or any wild animal.
children close at hand.
pets indoors or in a vehicle or camper.
approach a bear. If it changes its natural behavior (feeding, foraging
or movement) because of your presence, you are too close.
surround or corner a bear.
run from a bear; back slowly away and make a lot of noise.