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Old 10-16-2012, 02:58 PM   #31
Merlin III
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Kelly, you are 100 percent correct, but one thing to note is that those are fatal attacks, not just attacks. Note when they took place. A quick glance at the stats indicate that they mostly happened in the last 20-30 years. Bears are naturally shy, but over the last 25 years the number of people entering their domain has greatly increased. Also, they are now starting to come back to areas where they haven't lived for over 100 years.
"I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I am not absolutely sure about anything." Richard Feynman, Cal Tech Scientist
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Old 10-16-2012, 09:55 PM   #32
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Merlin, I understood that they were deaths, not just attacks. I was going off of the wiki link that was posted. The lower 48 states is what I was refering to. and using this chart from that site page:

Locations of fatal bear attacks in the United States
Gold: WildBrown Bears
Black:WildBlack Bears
Blue: Captive bears (all species, includes Polar Bear)

I hope that comes out right when this posts. That is at the bottom of the wiki page.
If you look at that page there is a break down from 1900-2012 for all of North America. There were only 38 deaths in the lower 48 according to that page anyway...I do not know for sure though. The point still was that MANY of them were captive bears so that lowers the total wild attacks quite a bit.

The thinking for me is that out of MILLIONS of campers every week in all of the USA and only a few attacks per year and only a few deaths per decade the odds are MUCH higher for a riding injury than a bear injury.

For me, and I can ONLY speak for me-others of course need to make their OWN informed choice, I refuse to live my life afraid of what "might" happen and miss out on what WILL happen if I just try.

We surf here in sunny so cal and there is always a risk of shark attack. My absolutely gorgeous 18 yr old daughter surfs every week at least once. Do I fear that an attack is a possibility? YEP. But I know she loves it and the odds are very low.
Monday I went snorkeling in La Jolla SD Ca and was out about 1/2 mile swimming with a few Sea Lions on the kelp bed edges, a known Great White hang out....I love it though and feel refreshed out in my ocean, alive.

BE CAREFUL, be informed, be SMART....but LIVE life.
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Old 10-16-2012, 09:56 PM   #33
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Crap that cut and paste did not work, but here is the original link, it is near the bottom:
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Old 10-17-2012, 06:07 PM   #34
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Other suggestions

Been living in S.E. Idaho for 35 yrs, backpacking in Yellowstone for over 40. Have had several bears in my camp and met while fishing. No "close encounters" yet..... Some additional suggestions are:

- Do not camp near trails, streams, or lakeshores - bears use trails (especially at night) and patrol waterways for chow.
- Where permitted, camping away from popular campsites is a good idea.
- Do not approach winterkill or other carcasses - bears gnaw on winterkill for weeks and often sleep nearby to protect their (somewhat rank) dinner. If you see coyotes or ravens/eagles on the ground, stay away from that area (yes, eagles will scavange)
- Make noise while hiking, especially where visibility is limited (or autumn berries are present). This is sometimes overdone to a comical degree.

Pilot/guides on bear-viewing tours in Katmai carry railroad flares instead of weapons or pepper spray. Of course, forest fires may be worse than bears.

To the best of my knowlege, Rocky Mtn bears (especially in the Yellowstone area) don't associate people with food and generally avoid humans, unlike the Sierra black bears.
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Old 10-28-2012, 05:01 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by Merlin III View Post
Spot on! I agree, game officials have conflicting motivations in cases like this. There are wolves in Northern Maine. The State and Fed deny this. About ten years ago, a hunter and guide shot a coyote. After viewing it up close, they had their doubts. They took it to the State lab and had it tested. It was a wolf. The Fed fined them 10,000 dollars and to this day still denies that there are wolves in Maine. The same applies to Mountain Lions.
Be aware that wolves and coyotes have been breeding in the east (Canadian maritime provinces have reported cases), which gives you a bigger aggressive coyote/wolf cross. Wolves are not necessarily all that aggressive by themselves (and not nearly as big as myth has it), but coyotes are pretty opportunistic. Glad to see this thread focused on the reality of bear encounters, not deteriorating into "which gun".

It's important to remember that animals have individual differences, so there can be exceptions to the general rule - yes, most black bears will run, but not all. Most grizzlies will ignore you, but not all. I've had a grizzly walk through camp (10' from me) and it was apparent that he was making a point. Never turned his head to look at me (I was pointedly being ignored), but I moved camp, it was apparent that he considered that spot his. They do have personalities. Hopefully you don't meet the Freddy Krueger bear!

Another point, it's all about cost/benefit and risk/reward for animals, they have a tough life as it is. That's why studies have shown a disinclination to attack a group of people - too risky. Therefore the recommendation to be in groups or hold something over your head or otherwise make yourself look bigger and riskier to attack. Make it difficult or appear risky and you decrease the odds of problems. The bear will look for an easier opportunity.

Teenage bears that are "trying it on" are a bit of a problem. They don't know the rules yet, are used to being in a powerful grouping (Mom & maybe another cub) and having their way...they'll test you and are one of the few exceptions where you may want to be aggressive yourself. Look for the "big head" (some mistake this for a big bear) as the body hasn't grown to match the head yet. Expect some goofiness. A bear with a small looking head is often a big guy and confident in what he/she is doing.
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Old 11-04-2012, 09:06 PM   #36
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Old 11-25-2012, 06:33 PM   #37
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I've had about half a dozen encounters with black bears around the Lake Shasta area. Most of those were bears trying to enter my campsite but one was a bear boarding my houseboat.

The rule I've always used is that you can do just about anything to discourage the bear until it gets your food. Then you leave it alone.

So I've stood about 20' from a black bear, throwing rocks and pine cones at it while waving my stick and yelling... felt like one of the more dangerous things I've done but the bear left each time. Happened at night one time, we scared it away and it went over to a nearby campsite where the family tried to be quiet and ignore it. We heard screaming when it started pawing around the tent and ran over to help. Those folks packed up and boated out that night.

This is just my experience with California black bears. I have heard that it doesn't apply to brown bears but haven't had the pleasure of encountering one yet.
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Old 11-26-2012, 12:41 PM   #38
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This is really good reading! I am currently planning a three-month trip trough Canada right now (actually checked out flight connections before coming in here) and it seems like there are some easy measures to keep bears away.

I can only hope that those of you, who carry a firearm on a public campground and start shooting around in the middle of the night once somebody falls over your tent lines, doesn't hit another fellow camper! Bear spray seems to be the much better choice and will be the first thing on my shopping list, after arrival!
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Old 11-26-2012, 02:53 PM   #39
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Bear spray works, will generally be more "accurate" for the average person to use than a gun (unless you go to the range frequently), and will actually be on your person when you need it. It's great stuff. Living in the Yukon bush, I have bears around my place frequently and don't worry about it, they have just walked on by. Bears need a reason to do something, unless they're habituated or have some problem. That typically makes bears in wild areas "safer" than those in popular parks, etc. where they may have a learned behaviour.

On the other hand, here's what they can do. My GF cabin outside Dawson City got hit a couple weeks ago, we just got back from boarding it up. Note, those 2x4 are snapped off or split lengthwise, not a big deal for a big grizzly. No attractants in the cabin, it might have learned the behaviour somewhere it got lucky.

If you're travelling through Canada, don't worry about firearms. We have lots, they're legal, but treated as tools - not around unless there is a defined need. For instance, since the bear that did this damage might have still been around and proven to be aggressive, I did bring a 12 gauge/slugs to hang on the wall while we did repairs, but that's a real exception. Normally, I don't bother with a gun, too heavy and awkward. Handguns are ineffective except in the very large calibres mentioned by someone earlier, which take lots of practice - and then you need to carry around a few extra pounds! Dealing with most bears is common sense. Be reasonable, use the precautions mentioned by several people above, and have fun!

Oh, and as for climbing trees, I'd be surprised if you can climb a tree (or hang food in one) that a bear can't deal with. Here's a mother with 2 cubs up some willows to eat leaves in the spring. No way I could have climbed that. There may be exceptions, but...

She never turned her head as we went right on by, just kept munching. As long as we weren't an apparent threat, it was all good.
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Old 11-27-2012, 03:26 AM   #40
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"Bear spray works"

- have you personally sprayed a bear with it, and if yes, what happened then (I do not doubt that statement, but ask, because I haven't)..?

And even more stupid questions: what exactly does "bear spray" contain, are there different products, and are they widely available in your country, or you need permit to get them?

My curiosity is because I sometimes go to the woods near my fathers house, very close to the Russian border, and in the past few years bear sightings have become much more common in the area. Bears over here aren't as big as yours, but I still would not want to wrestle with them! I always make some noises, when deep into the woods, and actually never seen a bear in the wild, but they are there, plenty of feces around nowadays, and very close to where people live, so I've thought maybe carrying something (but not a gun) might be good in the long run.

Pecha72 screwed with this post 11-27-2012 at 03:32 AM
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Old 11-27-2012, 02:16 PM   #41
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I've stealth camped all over the US, up to Alaska and back, all over the Rockies and everywhere that bears like to be. I've also spent a couple of weeks backpacking through Glacier National Park, and have encountered bears a couple of times.

The fact is that bears really don't like being around people and will usually flee from humans. 95% of the time when someone is mauled by a bear, there are extenuating circumstances involved (like they were following it trying to get pictures or they'd rubbed themselves down with bacon beforehand). The other 4.99% of the time, they accidentally startled a bear while hiking or something.

There are the very rare freak incidents where a bear flips it's shit and destroys a campsite, but these are SO VERY RARE that you hear about it on the news. You've got a FAR better chance of getting hit by lightening.

Don't be a dumbass, keep your food stuff away from the tent, don't sneak up on them trying to get a picture, and you'll be fine.

I like carrying bear spray; I'm not sold on having some giant penis-compensating canon of a firearm with me. I don't want to kill the thing, I just want it to go away, and I think in some states there's a huge fine for killing a bear even if it was in self-defense. And having a firearm may limit where you can travel through and camp (Legalities vary on them from state to state and park to park, I haven't looked into it). Besides, when I stumble out of my tent at 2am and there's some vague black shape poking around my dark campsite, I prefer the "fuck up anything within 20 feet" approach rather than firing blindly around hoping that I score a critical hit.
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Old 11-27-2012, 02:40 PM   #42
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Recent bear attack in BC - what not to do...

I was following this thread a couple days back and then coincidentally saw this article in our newspaper today.

Short version is that a couple stumbled upon a grizzly and they were lucky that they made it out alive.

The article mentions it, but they didn't really focus on it, but everything they did wrong has been mentioned in previous posts...

This was all in notable bear country:

1) Hiking along a creek
2) Dense brush
3) Surprised a mama bear with at least 1 cub
4) The bears had a fresh kill they were eating.

The bear turned on them, the couple managed to make it to a road and get help. They had cuts/bites all over their bodies and were flown to hospital but it doesn't sound like it's life threatening.

Let's be clear, we should never take unnecessary risks but this couple did everything wrong and survived an "attack" (I'm saying "attack" as it was defensive, not predatory). If that bear wanted them dead, they would be.

The conservation officers will not track and destroy the bear as they considered it to be normal bear behaviour, and not a vicious attack.

I hope they have a speedy recovery, physically and mentally.
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Old 11-27-2012, 04:14 PM   #43
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2 bear encounters

As many other have mentioned keep any food or stuff the bear may be curious about ( not necessarily food, toothpaste, soap etc ) well away from your tent.
I've had 2 close encounters with black bears. One in Ontario that was sniffing at my head, with only the nylon tent wall between us. I saw in the morning the damage he had done to a campground empty garbage box (about 200m away from my site) that had awakened me just minutes earlier before he sniffed me. It was early in the season and the campground was virtually empty of campers and I had no food on my site or in my tent. It was amazing how he could approach in the dark and leave with not a sound.
The second time in the afternoon while I napped in Glacier National Park in a remote area on the shaded porch of an old cabin. I was asleep lying on my stomach on top of my Aerostich Road Crafter suit using it like a mattress, when I felt a touch on the back of my head. I think that both of us were startled when I sat up and yelled at him. I'm sure that I was lucky that he retreated and didn't take a swat at me. He wasn't aggressive and didn't make a sound. I do think that he was just curious. He left the area slowly and allowed me lots of time to takes some pictures. Needless to say my nap was over and I know I was very lucky.
Both times I've yelled F... O.... and used lots of other words and phrases to suggest that the bears leave. Generally bears are looking for something to eat and don't want a hassle so often they can be discouraged away by making lots of noise.
Bear spray might work well; I carry it but I've no experience using it. At least the spray can't kill anyone like a stray bullet could. Personally I wouldn't want to camp within range of anyone who sleeps with a hand gun.
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Old 11-28-2012, 09:22 PM   #44
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Originally Posted by Pecha72 View Post
"Bear spray works"

- have you personally sprayed a bear with it, and if yes, what happened then (I do not doubt that statement, but ask, because I haven't)..?

And even more stupid questions: what exactly does "bear spray" contain, are there different products, and are they widely available in your country, or you need permit to get them?
Yes, the bear turned and ran. The active ingredient is typically 1% capsaicin. Bear spray is widely available in Canada, does not require a permit, but you may be required to sign a disclaimer or waiver: "...I understand the bear may still eat me". I've read a number of studies, it's good stuff and certainly much better for the average person than a gun. A precaution, I would always move my camp if I had to spray a bear. One study showed that grizzlies left, but a small percentage of black bears came back a few hours later to investigate, perhaps a WTF? reaction.

There is a joint study/video that was sponsored by Yukon/Alaska/B.C. (maybe it was Alberta) that produced two DVD, one is "Staying Safe in Bear Country", the other is "Working in Bear Country". Both are very good, but you have to wonder how much they paid the grad student to go approach the bears...

Total agreement with those who wouldn't be near someone who thought a gun was the only (or even recommended) solution. In most cases, I just want the bear to leave me alone, and most are doing that naturally, it's quite rare to get charged or be investigated. I have talked to a bear biologist from Alaska who had gone 30 years doing field work without being charged, he was almost disappointed!

Clarification on the cabin repair - I had a shotgun (you need about 4,000 lb. ft. of energy to kill a bear, most handguns have around 400 lb.ft. for, say, a .45 - ineffective) because I wasn't sure the propellent in the bear spray was going to work at -30, there were only the two of us for miles (no worry about hitting an innocent), the bear was behaving oddly (should have been hibernating) and was aggressive about opening cabins, and my GF is going to live there next spring, so I didn't want the bear coming by again. This particular bear needed to be gone, and I learned after that the Conservation Officers have done so, shot it from a helicopter. It's been sent for necropsy to see why it was behaving this way, wasn't skinny, had good teeth. Might have been learned behaviour from somebody being sloppy with their camp/cabin. Up too late in the winter though, they're guessing it might have been sick, had odd scat.

There's lots of good literature out there on bear behaviour, interesting animals. Read the more recent info, approaches have changed over the years as more is learned.

A couple quick points, don't rely on bear bells, they can sound like natural noises. Simply yell ("Any bears in there?"), the human voice is distinct. Don't go into thick bush that has bear tracks going into! Don't camp on a trail used by bears. Obvious stuff, just keep thinking.
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Old 11-30-2012, 06:41 PM   #45
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(you need about 4,000 lb. ft. of energy to kill a bear, most handguns have around 400 lb.ft. for, say, a .45 - ineffective)
Being as this is an area of interest of mine I've got a few points as an aside to this statement. First the biggest factor in lethality in a shooting is always placement. Bear, deer, or person the bullet placement is the most important single thing. That being said there are certain issues with bears in particular. normal self defense ammo is designed to use on people and is designed to penetrate to a particular depth to achieve the most damaging result. When you shoot a bear you want better penetration to optimize the lethality of the ammo. So both shot placement and ammo choice is more important than pure power. As to the .45 400 ft lb is a bit low but in the area but you can get ammo that is over 600 ft lb and if you are very skilled and shoot it much better than anything else it may very well be the best personal defense weapon for a particular person, tho not what I would use. I have to say the claim of needing 4000 ft lb to kill a bear is a bit strange when you the talk about carrying a 12 gauge. Much more powerful than a .45 but it normally is only about 2500 ft lb's itself. There was a hiker in 2010 that killed a Griz in Denali with a .45. He fired 9 rounds and the bear was found about 100 yards away from the shell casings. luckily for the hiker the bear fled before succumbing to it's wounds because it may have made it to the hiker but the others with the hiker would have been saved regardless. There are issues with using a 12 gauge also tho that seems to be the automatic "bear gun" reply anytime the question comes up. Buck shot just doesn't penetrate very deep and both buck and slugs loosed force quickly with distance. The "best" bear gun would of course be a high powered rifle but in self defense situations you have a lot of additional factors. One is that the bear needs to be close, within 50 yards, for self defense can really be claimed as a necessity. The gun would also need to be with you at all times, quickly deployable, and something you can move with in brush and quickly acquire a close target with. That would be a benefit to a shotgun as well as the familiarity and comfort many find in it's use but by the numbers a camp rifle in a heavy pistol cartridge would be better if you go by the numbers and something like the .444 or the old 45-70 would be a great choice.
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