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Jonsblonde's avatar

Do you have any tips or recommendations for tent camping and hiking in black bear territory?

Asked by Jonsblonde (511points) 1 month ago

My husband and I and our two little dogs will be tent camping in northern Wisconsin near Lake Superior in less than 3 weeks. We will also be hiking where black bear are abundant. Do you have any tips to keep us safe, especially with two small dogs by our side?

I do have one specific question. Will our food be safe in our car that will be parked nearby or do we need specific bear proof containers for our food, even when kept in the car?

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36 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

An M4 with a tac-light and several mags of hollow point ammunition.

zenvelo's avatar

Don’t store any food in your car. Get a bear container and hang it at least 15 feet if the ground. That includes dog food.

Bears are known to open car doors to get at food.

Your dogs need to be leashed, you don’t want them running off to find a bear and bring it back to you.

Jonsblonde's avatar

@zenvelo We were hoping to bring a small cooler for meat, cheese and eggs. Are there any containers that you know of that work as a cooler as well?

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Not cheap Yeti, keep all food in bear box.
Get a can or two of bear spray and a bear horn.
Keep all pets attached to you.
I remember a Sunday night many many years ago, family friends came back from camping in Yosemite. A bear almost ripped trunk lid off the car. There was a jar of Skippy and a strawberry jam. Both had been opened but closed again.

flutherother's avatar

While Camping• Never store food, cooking utensils or other aromatic products (toothpaste, deodorant, soaps etc.) in your tent. Instead, store them in a vehicle or hang them out of reach in a tree at least 100 yards from your sleeping area.•

Campsites should remain clean with all waste, scraps and garbage removed. Make use of bear-proof garbage canisters if available.• Avoid establishing wilderness campsites where bear signs, such as scat or tracks, are present.

While Hiking• Hike in groups and make plenty of noise, and always keep pets on a leash.

This advice came from a leaflet Living with Black Bears in Wisconsin

RocketGuy's avatar

Some bears know what coolers look like, and what might be in them (food), so don’t leave your cooler visible in your car. A bear can tear open your car door easier than if it were a tin can.

Smashley's avatar

All the very bear aware advice here is all good for certain places, but it’s probably overkill most of the time. I’d check the local advisories for food storage. In your car is fine most of the time, most places.

Bear spray may be illegal where you are.

Keep the dogs leashed.

Make a lot of noise. The most dangerous bear is a surprised bear. They’ll mostly hear you and avoid you if they can.

If you do encounter a black bear, and slowly back away, let it know you’re there calmly, and give it the chance to move on. Next step is to make yourself big and loud to scare it off if it still comes.

In a black bear attack, RUN. If it’s on you, punch and kick at the muzzle.

Caravanfan's avatar

@RocketGuy is correct. Bear box or bear canisters. Sometimes hanging food will be okay depending on the territory, but you have to know how to do it properly (you can’t just throw a rope over a tree and tie it to a rock or something).

Best bet it to talk to your local forest service or park rangers and find out what the bear regulations are. They vary from location to location depending on the bears.

Caravanfan's avatar

And if the bears are at all aggressive do not keep your food in your car if you value your car. Most campgrounds in bear territory have bear boxes.

kritiper's avatar

Carry a .357 Magnum. It will kill anything.
If the bear grabs hold of you, do not be facing away from the bear.
Carry bear spray. If the bear comes at you, spray a cloud in front of the bear for him/her to run through.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I have carried devices similar to these aerial flares in the woods. They are basically handheld shotgun shells loaded with a 7 second flare. Quite loud and dangerous when aimed horizontally. They are not supposed to be used that way and they are fire hazards. But…
Warning: they are quite painful to set off. My hand was numb after firing.

Jonsblonde's avatar

Thanks for the tips everyone!

What about bug spray? Since it’s scented will it attract bears? Wisconsin is notorious for bugs.

I feel like such a novice.

Caravanfan's avatar

@Jonsblonde You’re probably okay with bug spray.

Jonsblonde's avatar

One of the places we’ll be exploring is called Bear Beach State Natural Area. Bear sign is common on the beach and adjacent thickets.

Caravanfan's avatar

You might call Wisconsin DNR and ask what their regulations/recommendations are

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

I’ve been hiking and camping in bear (and wolf and bobcat and lion) country since I was a kid. I just got back from four days in the Michigan UP, east of where you are headed. We were outside most of the day, with a dog following along in the woods. I’ve never worried much about animals, because the precautions are simple.

Animals don’t go looking for trouble, and if they hear or smell you, they will avoid you.
They will stay away from your campfire. Attacks on people are rare, and usually involve the animal getting surprised or cornered. Black bears in particular are pretty chill (but you want to keep your distance).

—Make noise
—Get a bell for your dog <—-IMPORTANT
—Stay in groups, your normal talking is good noise
—Never leave ANY food or edible garbage outside. Put it in your car. If you will be camping away from the car, then look into a bear container

Bear beach looks awesome, I am jealous!

mazingerz88's avatar

Read at least three cases of recent deaths in the US by bear attacks in the news.

All three had to be shot dead if I recall correctly since they also attacked those who came to investigate.

In two of the three cases, it seemed the bears attacked to protect a food source. There was a dead animal not far from where the tragic events took place.

Jonsblonde's avatar

Thanks again everyone. I’m more excited then worried but I want to be prepared.

Jonsblonde's avatar

@mazingerz88 there was a recent case where a woman and her two dogs were hiking in Colorado and she was mauled by a black bear. The bear and cubs were euthanized. :(

smudges's avatar

I’ve been camping since I was two. My husband and I have camped in the Smokies a lot, and every time we were within range of a bear, sometimes within 15 feet. One strolled lackadaisically through the whole campground, stopping at sites to snack or just snoop. I had a plastic cup of vodka & cranberry juice sitting on the picnic table and the bear stuck his long tongue out and slurped it down (only about half full). The gathered people would follow it from site to site, keeping a distance. Another time we were on a narrow trail right by the campground and up ahead, in the middle of the trail, sat a bear. It looked at us, but as far as I know, didn’t move (I didn’t look back). Needless to say, we carved a new trail through the brush as we hightailed it down the (small) mountain! Another time there was a mama and 3 little cubs slowly making their way up a hill toward the campgrounds.

You’ve gotten some great tips here. I don’t know, but would guess that the bears in Wisconsin aren’t as ‘friendly’ as the ones in the Smokies. The main thing I would stress is to always keep your dogs on a leash, and not a retractable one. Look forward to hearing about it when you get back!

KRD's avatar

A way to put food out of bears reach, bear spray, flares, a lot of fire fuel, and a semi automatic 40 caliber rifle for extra defense.

Jonsblonde's avatar

@smudges I look forward to sharing. :)

Jonsblonde's avatar

FYI- I did something really stupid when I was young so I can’t legally own a gun. I need other options.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

would guess that the bears in Wisconsin aren’t as ‘friendly’ as the ones in the Smokies

It sounds like tourists taught the bears that campsites=food. If instead they learn that humans are noisy annoyances without treats, they stay away

Inspired_2write's avatar

I have a bear banger on a necklace when hiking.

But only use it if the bear attack’s as any loud noise will scare it and it WILL attack.

It sounds like a shot gun and so far I haven’t needed to use it.

Most times when confronted the black bear saunters off away.

However since Covid and NO one out hiking the wildlife have taken over the trails and so on until Tourists come and they back off to there usual haunts.

Here is a video of the same Bear Banger and how to use it.

kritiper's avatar

Since you can’t legally carry a gun, at least follow my two other suggestions.

SnipSnip's avatar

Don’t approach a black bear. They can hurt you without even being violent. We were always told to keep a 40 ft distance at all times. The bear goes where he wants; you wait. The advice about food is true. Hang it at least 15 ft off ground. Black bears will destroy a car to get at the food inside. Brown bears are another story altogether. They are vicious.

Jonsblonde's avatar

Things I’ve learned from north wood locals concerning our soon to be camping trip near Lake Superior:

#1. Black bear are just oversized raccoons.
#2. Your food will be safe in your car.
#3. You’ll see wolves after 9 pm.
#4. Don’t bottle feed in your tent. A bear tore open a tent to get to a bottle.
#5. Ticks are your true enemy.

SnipSnip's avatar

My previous comments are the result of camping in the Smokies and the Blue Ridge in North Carolina. The comments made right above this post are completely untrue and incorrect for the areas I know.

Caravanfan's avatar

Mine too. A black bear will tear through a car out here in California

jca2's avatar

Here somewhere local, a bear tore into a car to get food. The car doors were locked.

RocketGuy's avatar

Here are some cool pix:

Jonsblonde's avatar

I was viciously attacked by my upstairs neighbor’s dog this morning. I’m now on two antibiotics and hoping I don’t get an infection before our trip. It’s in eight days.

It looks like I’m in more danger of dogs then bears.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

@RocketGuy I have to guess (I am guessing, not declaring) that if those bear intruder pics are valid, they are in areas where bears are starving and/or careless people have been feeding them.

As a kid I would summer in the Colorado mountains. I saw bears a couple of times in the neighborhood. And yet my aunt & uncle would let us kids go “camping” by hiking up from the house with blankets and pillows. We slept under the stars. We kept a fire or kerosene lamps going. We didn’t eat outside.

I also hiked around the mountains above Los Angeles a lot in the early 2000s. There were no dire warnings of bear attacks. Here are the Angeles National Forest’s Be Bear Aware guidelines

Bear sightings and activity seems to be increasing this year. Be aware of bears and follow these safety recommendations.

Keep a clean campsite. Store food and garbage out of sight and in closed vehicles.

Never put food scraps or litter in the campfire; it attracts bears and skunks.

Don’t keep food, medicine, chap stick, shampoo – Anything that smells – in tents or sleeping areas

Store stoves, barbeques, and dutch ovens in a vehicle or secure place when not using. Do not pour used cooking oil or food remnants on the ground.

When camping in the back country hang food and garbage from a tree limb, at least 10 feet from the ground and 5 feet from the tree trunk. This tree should be at least 100 yards from your sleeping area.

Some bears also target motor oil, insect repellant, liquor and other things that look like food. Make sure you put these items away.

Remember: Never feed a bear. A fed bear is a dead bear.

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