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Black Bear Safety




GSMNP Nancy Gray tells how to stay safe around black bears

Video courtesy of WBIR-TV


American Black Bear

Copyright US Fish & Wildlife Service

Used with Permission

From the Washington D.C. Library: Usage Must Be Under Terms


Bears in Great Smoky Mountains National Park [as well as other areas] are wild and their behavior is sometimes unpredictable. Treat all bear encounters with extreme caution and follow these guidelines:

> If you see a bear remain watchful and do not get close to a bear or any wild animal.


> If your presence causes the bear to change its behavior (stops feeding, changes its travel direction, watches you, etc.)óyouíre too close. Being too close may promote aggressive behavior from the bear such as running toward you, making loud noises, or swatting the ground.


> Slowly back away, watching the bear. Talk and let the bear know you are a human. Try to increase the distance between you and the bear. The bear will probably do the same. Most black bears will run away from you.


> The National Park Service says that If the bear continues to follow you, shows no interest in your food and you're physically attacked for some reason, fight back.

> Most injuries from black bear attacks are minor and result from a bear attempting to get at people's food. If the bear's behavior indicates that it is after your food and you're physically attacked, separate yourself from the food and back away.


The more you learn about bear behavior the more you can assess the situation. Knowledge is power.

Report all bear incidents to a park ranger immediately.

Re-Printed In Part, with Permission to KMG by National Park Service. Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


 Seeing A Black Bear In Your Neighborhood


Black Bear in Residential Yard, Fox Island, State of Washington

Used With Permission. Copyright John Ohlson, Dragonwyck Web Design



A bear in your neighborhood is still a wild bear. Do not approach a bear in your neighborhood or yard. Bears are extremely powerful animals - they are very rough with each other and communicate that way. A bear would think nothing of pushing, hitting, or biting. So for this reason, you should stay away from bears, no matter where you see them.

There are certain things in a residential neighborhood that may attract a bear to your yard, if you live in or near bear country. Here are a few things to consider:

> Keep all garbage secured, don't leave any food out; bear-proof bins are best if you have bears in your area

> Keep your barbeque pit very clean

> Rethink using a compost heap; if you do use one, turn it frequently

> If you have fruit trees, pick the fruit as it becomes ripe or bears will pick it for you

> Feed your pets at mealtime and remove the food bowls; don't leave any pet food outside

> If you are a fisherman, don't leave any trout food outside

> Pick up your birdfeeders Spring-Summer-Fall, and feed the birds only in the winter when bears are denning

If you are outside when you see the bear, follow the rules listed previously above for what to do when you meet a wild black bear. If there is a bear outside, you need to be inside. Never go outside to get a better view or photo of the bear, and make sure your children and pets are inside also. Take your pictures through the window - bears are very unpredictable.

In addition, it is always a good idea to keep the phone number of your local state Department of Natural Resources handy, just in case. That is the agency that will have officers who are experts with black bears and the situations that may arise.

Chances are, the bear is just traveling through and will cause no problems. If he has a way to leave, he usually will. If you give him a reason to stay, or return, then the bear becomes a problem bear ("nuisance bear") because he continues to habituate one area where people live. At this point, the bear may pay with his life.

A lot of states now will try non-lethal means to solve the problem of this bear in your neighborhood. They may allow the bear to leave on his own; they may make a lot of noise so the bear will be afraid and run away, and be afraid to return; or they may dart and trap the bear and move him far away, in the hopes that he will not return.

Preventive measures are always best, so do what you can to not attract bears to your neighborhood!

BEAR CAUTIONS AND ADVICE FOR GLACIER NATIONAL PARK - There are both black bears and grizzlies in this Park.

Hiking in Bear Country! - Donít Surprise Bears! Bears will usually move out of the way if they hear people approaching, so make noise. Most bells are not enough. Calling out and clapping hands loudly at regular intervals are better ways to make your presence known. Hiking quietly endangers you, the bear, and other hikers.  A bear constantly surprised by quiet hikers may become habituated to close human contact and less likely to avoid people. This sets up a dangerous situation for both visitors and bears.

Donít Make Assumptions! You canít predict when and where bears might be encountered along a trail. People often assume they donít have to make noise while hiking on a well-used trail. Some of the most frequently used trails in the park are surrounded by excellent bear habitat. People have been charged and injured by bears fleeing from silent hikers who unwittingly surprised them along the trail. Even if other hikers havenít seen bears along a trail section recently, donít assume that bears arenít there. Donít assume a bearís hearing is any better than your own. Some trail conditions make it hard for bears to see, hear, or smell approaching hikers. Be particularly careful by streams, against the wind, or in dense vegetation. A blind corner or a rise in the trail also requires special attention.

Donít Approach Bears! Bears spend a lot of time eating, so avoid hiking in obvious feeding areas like berry patches, cow parsnip thickets, or fields of glacier lilies. Keep children close by. Hike in groups and avoid hiking early in the morning, late in the day, or after dark. Never intentionally get close to a bear. Individual bears have their own personal space requirements which vary depending on their mood. Each will react differently and its behavior canít be predicted. All bears are dangerous and should be respected equally. Bears may appear tolerant of people and then attack without warning. A bearís body language can help determine its mood. In general, bears show agitation by swaying their heads, huffing, and clacking their teeth. Lowered head and laid-back ears also indicate aggression. Bears may stand on their hind legs or approach to get a better view, but these actions are not necessarily signs of aggression. The bear may not have identified you as a person and is unable to smell or hear you from a distance.

BEAR ATTACKS - The vast majority of bear attacks have occurred because people have surprised a bear. In this type of situation the bear may attack as a defensive maneuver. In rare cases bears may attack at night or after stalking people. This kind of attack is rare. It can be very serious because it often means the bear is looking for food and preying on you. If you are attacked at night or if you feel you have been stalked and attacked as prey, try to escape. If you cannot escape, or if the bear follows, use pepper spray, or shout and try to intimidate the bear with a branch or rock. Do whatever it takes to let the bear know you are not easy prey. If you surprise a bear, here are a few guidelines to follow that may help:

  • Talk quietly or not at all if you suddenly come upon a bear; the time to make loud noise is before you encounter a bear. Try to detour around the bear if possible.
  • Never run or climb a tree to escape a bear! Back away slowly, but stop if it seems to agitate the bear.
  • Assume a nonthreatening posture. If it is a brown bear, turn sideways, or bend at the knees to appear smaller.  If it is a black bear, group together to appear larger.
  • Use peripheral vision. Bears may interpret direct eye contact as threatening.
  • Drop something (not food) to distract the bear. Keep your pack on for protection in case of an attack.
  • If a bear attacks and you have pepper spray, use it!
  • If a grizzly bear makes contact, protect your chest and abdomen by falling to the ground on your stomach, or assuming a fetal position to reduce the severity of an attack. Cover the back of your neck and head with your hands. Do not move until you are certain the bear has left.  If a black bear makes contact, you must fight that bear with whatever you have, make lots of noise, throw rocks, look as large as you can - do not ball up unless there is nothing else you feel you can do.  You must fight off black bears, remaining passive could get you killed. Pepper spray is allowed in this national park - know how to use it properly.


 Black Bear Safety Tips For Autumn Of Any Year

September 22, 2006
With autumn just around the corner, many Pennsylvanians will be spending increasing 
amounts of time outdoors. This also is when black bears become more active, setting the 
stage for an increase in bear  sightings and possibly encounters.
Mark Ternent, Pennsylvania Game Commission black bear biologist, noted that bears 
have started increasing their food intake to prepare for the upcoming denning season, 
which begins in mid- to late-November. For some bears, the search for food may lead 
them closer to people or homes.

Ternent offered suggestions on how to reduce the likelihood that your property will 
attract bruins and how to best react when a bear is encountered.

"Bear activity increases during the fall because they're foraging to consume as many 
calories as possible from any source they can find in preparation for denning," 
Ternent said. "As a result, sightings of bears can increase.
"While Pennsylvania bears are mostly timid animals that would sooner run than 
confront people, residents should know a few things about how to react if they 
encounter a bear, or better yet, how to avoid an encounter altogether by reducing 
the likelihood of attracting bears in the first place."

Ternent stressed there are no known records of a Pennsylvania black bear killing 
a human, and there have been fewer than 20 reported injuries resulting from black bear 
encounters during the past 10 years in the state. However, deaths caused by 
black bears have been reported in other eastern states, such as New York (2002) 
and Tennessee (2000 and 2006). Pennsylvania's bear population currently is 
estimated at 15,000 animals, and reports of bears becoming bold because people 
failed to keep food away from them are not uncommon.

"Pennsylvanians need to understand that when bears become habituated to their homes 
or communities, it can lead to conflicts and possibly serious injury," Ternent said. "Feeding 
wildlife, whether the activity is intended for birds or deer, can draw bears into an area. Once 
bears become habituated to an area where they find food, they will continue to return, 
which is when the bear can become a real problem for homeowners and neighbors.
"Even more disturbing are the reports we receive about people intentionally 
feeding bears to make them more visible for viewing or photographing."
Since March 2003, it has been illegal to intentionally feed bears in Pennsylvania. 
Also, the unintentional feeding of bears that results in nuisance complaints filed with 
the Game Commission can result in a written warning that, if ignored, could 
lead to a citation.
"We recognize that people enjoy viewing wildlife, and we are not attempting to 
impact that activity," Ternent said. "But, in light of the state's growing bear and human 
populations in some areas, the agency has an obligation to take action to reduce 
conflicts when and where we can. All too often, human complaints about bears can 
be traced back to intentional or unintentional feeding of bears. To protect the public, 
as well as bears, we need to avoid the dangers of conditioning bears to finding 
food around homes. It would be irresponsible to do otherwise.

"Also, as a result of Pennsylvania's large human and bear populations,
bears and people are coming into contact more frequently. These encounters
are occurring because human developments are encroaching into bear habitat
while bears have likewise expanded into new areas. Chance encounters in the
field also appear to be more common than before in some areas."

Ternent listed five recommendations to reduce the chances of having a close 
encounter with a black bear on a homeowner's property:

    Play it smart. Do not feed wildlife. Food placed outside for wildlife, such as corn 
for squirrels or deer, may attract bears. Reconsider putting squash, pumpkins, 
corn stalks or other Halloween or holiday decorations outside that also may attract bears. 
Even bird feeders can become " include: restrict feeding season to when bears den, 
which is primarily from late November through late March; avoid foods that are 
particularly attractive for bears, such as sunflower seeds, hummingbird nectar 
mixes or suet; bring feeders inside at night; or suspend feeders from high

    Keep it clean. Don't place garbage outside until pick-up day; don't throw table scraps 
out back for animals to eat; don't add fruit or vegetable wastes to your compost pile; 
and clean your barbecue grill regularly. If you feed pets outdoors, consider placing 
food dishes inside overnight. Encourage your neighbors to do the same.

    Keep your distance. If a bear shows up in your backyard, stay calm. From a safe 
distance, shout at it like you would to chase an unwanted dog. If the bear won't leave, 
slowly retreat and call the nearest Game Commission regional office or local police 
department for assistance.

    Eliminate temptation. Bears that visit your area are often drawn there. Neighbors 
need to work together to reduce an area's appeal to bears. Ask area businesses to keep 
dumpsters closed and bear-proofed (chained or locked shut).

    Check please! If your dog is barking, or cat is clawing at the door to get in, try to 
determine what has alarmed your pet. But do it cautiously, using outside lights to full 
advantage and from a safe position, such as a porch or an upstairs window. All 
unrecognizable outside noises and disturbances should be checked, but don't do it 
on foot with a flashlight. Black bears blend in too well with nighttime surroundings 
providing the chance for a close encounter. If bears have been sighted near your 
home, it is a good practice to turn on a light and check the backyard before taking
pets out at night.

    "Ideally, we want bears to pass by residential areas without finding a food reward that 
would cause them to return and become a problem," Ternent said. "Capturing and moving 
bears that have become habituated to humans is costly and sometimes ineffective 
because they can return or continue the same unwanted behavior where released. 
That is why wildlife agencies tell people that a 'fed bear is a dead bear."

Ternent noted that although bears are no strangers to Pennsylvanians, bears are 
misunderstood by many.

"Bears should not be feared, nor should they be dismissed as harmless; they simply need 
to be respected," Ternent said. He also advised:

    Stay Calm. If you see a bear and it hasn't seen you, leave the area calmly. Talk to the 
bear while moving away to help it discover your presence. Choose a route that will not 
intersect with the bear if it is moving.

    Get Back. If you have surprised a bear, slowly back away while quietly talking. Face 
the bear, but avoid direct eye contact. Do not turn and run; rapid movement may be 
perceived as danger to a bear that is already feeling threatened. Avoid blocking the bear's 
only escape route and try to move away from any cubs you see or hear. Do not attempt to 
climb a tree. A female bear can falsely interpret this as an attempt to get at her cubs,
even though the cubs may be in a different tree.

    Pay Attention. If a bear is displaying signs of nervousness or discomfort with your presence, 
such as pacing, swinging its head, or popping its jaws, leave the area. Some bears may bluff 
charge to within a few feet. If this occurs, stand your ground, wave your arms wildly, and
shout at the bear. Turning and running could elicit a chase and you cannot outrun a bear. 
Bears that appear to be stalking should be confronted and made aware of your willingness to 
defend by waving your arms and yelling while you continue to back away.

    Fight Back. If a bear attacks, fight back as you continue to leave the area. Bears have 
been driven away with rocks, sticks, binoculars, car keys, or even bare hands.

"Learning about bears and being aware of their habits is a responsibility that comes with 
living in rural Pennsylvania or recreating in the outdoors," Ternent said.

Intelligent and curious, black bears are heavy and have short, powerful legs. Adults usually 
weigh from 200 to 600 pounds, with rare individuals weighing up to 800 pounds. An adult 
male normally weighs more than an adult female, sometimes twice as much.

Bears may be on the move at anytime, but they're usually most active during evening and
morning hours. Bears are omnivorous, eating almost anything from berries, corn, acorns, 
beechnuts, or even grass to table scraps, carrion, honey and insects.

More information on black bears is available on the Game Commission's website 
(http://www.pgc.state.pa.us) by selecting on "Hunting" and then clicking on the 
black bear photograph.
Created in 1895 as an independent state agency, the Game Commission is responsible for 
conserving and managing all wild birds and mammals in the Commonwealth, establishing 
hunting seasons and bag limits, enforcing hunting and trapping laws, and managing habitat 
on the 1.4 million acres of State Game Lands it has purchased over the years with hunting and 
furtaking license dollars to safeguard wildlife habitat. The agency also conducts numerous wildlife 
conservation programs for schools, civic organizations and sportsmen's clubs. The Game Commission 
does not receive any general state taxpayer dollars for its annual operating budget. The agency is 
funded by license sales revenues; the state's share of the federal Pittman-Robertson program, 
which is an excise tax collected through the sale of sporting arms and ammunition; and monies 
from the sale of oil, gas, coal, timber and minerals derived from State Game Lands.

Printed with Permission to KMG by: Pennsylvania Game Commission




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