View Full Version : animal safety

03-06-2006, 01:40
so as i weigh weather or not i should charge a thru hike this year (i will be alone)... one thing that freaks me out is the thought of coming across a bear on my 'lil lonesome. i know put your hands up and look big... but beyond that, how do you respond? when is it safe to turn and proceed? do you string your food up everynight? how far from it should you sleep?
and my last question... should i go for it?

03-06-2006, 10:21
so as i weigh weather or not i should charge a thru hike this year (i will be alone)... one thing that freaks me out is the thought of coming across a bear on my 'lil lonesome. i know put your hands up and look big... but beyond that, how do you respond? when is it safe to turn and proceed? do you string your food up everynight? how far from it should you sleep?
and my last question... should i go for it?
You'll be extremely lucky if you see more than a g;impse of a bear as it runs or sneaks away.

Most hikers don't protect their packs from bears every night, though they probably should -- not because bears are a nuicance, but because proper bear proofing keeps bears from becoming a nuiicance.

Areas with nuicance bears usually have cables or bear poles, which make hanging easy.

Bottom line: Bears are not really a danger to hikers; though occasionally they are a danger to a hiker's pack.

03-06-2006, 11:58
I concur with Weary. Be good about bear bagging all your smelly stuff (including trash and toiletries) and bears should not be a problem. Even if your shelter or campsite mates choose not to bear-bag their stuff, you probably should to set the right example. It may be a hollow gesture with 10 other foodbags hanging from mouse-strings in a shelter, but it's probably worth it from a simple ambassadorial perspective.

Note that I am being a bit of a hypocrite here. I generally only bear-bagged in areas where bears were reported as a nuisance or when camping away from a shelter. Usually I hung my bag from an anti-mouse hanger in the shelters. But this is one of those cases of do what I say, not what I did. A lot of life is like that.

03-06-2006, 12:09
I had read all the info on what to do if I encountered a bear -- raise your hiking poles up, look big, make loud, low noises -- before I started solo section hiking last year. In August at Low Gap Shelter in Georgia, I was packing up my hammock when I saw a dark shape not more than 50 feet away, then I saw another and another and another. It was a mother bear and three cubs. I totally froze. Then I realized they were just ambling by and didn't even seem to notice me. By the time I'd found my camera they were gone. The whole experience made me a lot less freaked out about bears -- most of the time, if you're lucky enough to see one, they won't go out of their way to cause trouble for you. They simply don't see us as potential prey.

To answer your specific questions, I'd say it's safe to proceed as long as doing so wouldn't put you between a mother and her cubs. I generally hang my food at night (including everything that has any scent). A lot of shelters have bear cables, or you can hang it on a tree limb. If you want to do it by the book, do a google search for bear bagging, and you'll find some diagrams that show a triangle of where to cook, where to sleep, and where to hang your food. But most people cook where they sleep and just try to hang their food not right beside their tent and generally that's fine. And besides, you're unlikely to be alone if you sleep in shelters during thru-hiking season, and a bear isn't going to come into a full shelter!

Finally, go for it! I've never thru-hiked, but it sounds like a tremendous experience, so I'm hoping to go next year. If you have a chance to go now, do it! I'd imagine you'd be much more likely to regret not going than giving it a try.

max patch
03-06-2006, 12:11
If you're lucky you'll see a bear...one of my favorite memories is time I woke up a daybreak and saw a bear walking up the creek that the shelter overlooked. I was careful not to make eye contact and was able to watch him for several minutes.

If bears have been sighted around a shelter then you can be sure that it will be mentioned in the shelter register.

03-06-2006, 18:34
every bear I have seen has run from me before I could even get my camera from side pouch. Let alone make noise. However always be prepared. Bear cables are convenient, but I admit I am not the best at "always bear bagging." Alot of the heavy bear areas in the Northeast have or will lockers instead of cables. In MA they are installing some lockers.

03-06-2006, 19:06
.."raise your hiking poles up, look big, make loud, low noises.."

I thought this was the right thing to do as well. This DID NOT WORK with a pissed off momma bear north of Fontana a couple of years back. AND, do not talk to the bear like you would talk to a little puppy either. That made things worse. What did work was a slow sidestep further & further away from the cubs (which I was not that close to to begin with) and NO eye contact with momma, who charged three times and a fourth would have been at my leg.

I suspect it was just a bad fur day or something.....

03-06-2006, 19:23
Hike with someone slower then you. That way you don't have to outrun the bear, just your hiking partner. Seriously, go for it. New Jersey, my home turf has a real bear problem and I've never had a problem during the day with numerous encounters. At night, cable your foodbag in bear problem areas. Don't forget to include all items such as tooth/paste, deoderent, chapstick etc.that the critters will perceive as food. Remember, they don't want you, just your food.

03-06-2006, 19:32
Kittyrock. Please forgive my selective short term memory. I re-read your post and let me add:

1) I say go for it (but I'm not close kin or friend...who might be a bit worried about such a venture). To reduce stress all around, prepare well and show anyone who has doubts how prepared you are.

2) The momma bear I encountered would probably have not come any closer. She simply set up playtime & the playground where the trail was at the time I was on it. Now that that little event is past me, my main concerns aren't bears but lightning and a very few people NOT hiking but hanging around a trailhead.

3) I try to hang food & food-like items most of the time and away from where I sleep, downwind if you sense how that'll be a blowin'. Sometimes i'll eat last meal and hike another bit before making camp but still hang the food bag.

4) Try some forum searches. There is a bunch of good advice in here, from a bunch of worthy hikers.

03-06-2006, 19:36
Check out some of these pics of the longlake bear. Some bears are more resourcefull than we give them credit for.


03-07-2006, 18:45
I carry a few firecrackers in my pocket sometimes, but they're mostly to scare off dogs. You're not likely to run into trouble with them on the AT either, but firecrackers do send the critters runnin.

05-08-2006, 22:49
Go for it, but make sure you're prepared.

As for bears, I've seen them on several occasions in Shenandoah National Park. Once, I was in a line of stopped cars on the parkway. A bear cub was staring at us from up in a tree. People were getting out of their cars and taking pictures. I didn't see mama bear, but I'm sure she was nearby.

Another day, I was passing by some dense undergrowth on a park trail. A bear stopped and looked at me, turned, and ambled back down the mountain. Instead of just looking at the bear, I should have made some noise and not stared at it.

There also have been lots of bears on the Miller's Head trail in the Shenandoah National Park, but that's not on the A.T. I wonder if the bear sightings in this park are in part b/c people pay them attention, take pictures, and leave trash around that they eat.

05-10-2006, 10:30
Go for it for sure.
Most experienced hikers NEVER try to tie their food up so that bears can't get it. Especially on the AT. If the bears want it, they will get it regardless of your hanging it up, and it makes for wet food bags all too often.
Most sleep with it, in their tent.
Bears won't charge you unless you give them a reason to. like threaten their cubs or scare them.
Don't act agressive, but don't run either.
Just stand your ground until they go away or you can sneak away.
It's only happened to me once in 20+ years of hiking and it was exciting.

05-10-2006, 11:07
Go for it, you may never get another chance when things work out so well...As far as black bears they arent even predators, if you see one at all it is ussualy only interested in your food. I don't bear bag most of the time but it is a good idea to try and hang it out of reach of the mice. Should you have a bad encounter with a bear don't run, and don't try and defend yourself. (I once read a story where a woman was mauled b/c she hit the bear with a stick when it false charged her) Even if you are false charged they may do it several times but its ussualy just a bluff just make yourself look big,make some noise and if that doesnt work back away slowly. Worst case scenario give up some food, but only worst case as they will learn if you scare hikers they drop their food and they become a threat to other hikers.