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Thread: Bears Again

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    Default Bears Again

    So, when I did the Long Trail (Vermont) many years ago, I was with a group, and a young and naive lass. So I didn't think about bears if there were any, and if there were (didn't see any), left it up to our fearless leaders to tell us what to do before we started hiking. When I did the bikecentennial with my family 40 years ago, bears were not a topic.

    So now I am planning a thru hike (not this year) of the AT. I am reading as many bear threads here as I can find. I love bears and don't believe in killing them (or relocating them - why should they be relocated if people mitigate things) so I don't want to be a problem for them. I am active in several anti-poaching organizations and make it a mission to try and keep things sane for animals (although no animals will ever be safe from people).

    So my question is - given I want to respect bear habitats as I do my thru-hike - there are canisters and there are tree limbs for hanging food and anything scented - why don't bears follow the hikers who have food in their packs? Wouldn't the scent of food, deodorant, etc. permeate the pack? What about when we're eating at a campsite, or along the trail as we're walking? What is to stop a bear from creeping up behind us and going for the pack?

    Second question, food-related - I will not, will not give up my many cups of coffee a day. Any suggestions for an UL thermos?

    Third question, bear-related - when you carry out your discards, wouldn't bears follow you to the places where you rid yourself of no longer wanted food packets (such as condiment packages)? Are there recycling bins for such small plastics? My community won't recycle those little condiment thingies (like soy sauce packets) - are there places along the trail that will? I see them an an environmental hazard, so I will minimize my use of them, for the greater good of our planet as well as the trail and the bears. Related: do the smokers out there field-strip and then bury their cigarettes? What is the ATC view on this besides LNT? (I'm not a smoker; no-one in my family smokes; just curious.)

    I just received my copy of AWOL on the AT am looking forward to reading it in one sitting.

    Finally, a shout-out to Jack Tarlin. IIRC, we attended high school together. I sent a message via our high school alumni Website. So interesting the ways some of our lives have gone!

    Thanks so much,

    Miel

  2. #2

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    For what ever reason, bears only go after unattended food and be grateful for that. Although there have been a couple of isolated cases where that hasn't been the case, like the kid who was dragged out of a tent in NJ.

    There are few if any opportunities to recycle in towns along the AT, except maybe for bottles. Carry your waste until you find a proper tash can to dispose of it in. Since you repackaged all your food before leaving town, you have very little of it anyway.

    Most tobacco smokers roll their own so there are no butts. Those who smoke filtered cigarettes field strip the last bit of paper and tobacco off the filter and carry the filter out. Except for day hikers. When you start to see butts on the trail, it's a good sign your getting near a road.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  3. #3

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    Bears don't take food from hikers (direct confiscation) because they know they will die, that's why I don't use any special food containers; I simply keep all my food in plastic bags which are in a simple nylon stuff sac and it all stays in the tent with me at night. They know we all have food on our backs and you've probably been spied on before while cooking/eating.

    On the issue of plastic recycling, I'm a nut in this area and really try hard to reduce my plastic consumption as much as possible and I'm pretty much a fanatic at recycling all my plastic waste, including stuff I get at a restaurant I try and take home because I know it's probably going to end up in the trash otherwise -- I'm somewhat of a freak on this issue.

    Having said that, I wouldn't worry too much if there are no recycling places along the AT, if there are great, but if not, don't fret.

    Actually, plastics for the most part are not recycled, rather they are Downcycled. And just because a package has a PETE marking on it doesn't mean it's going to be recycled (Downcycled); it'll probably just be sent to the landfill by the "recycling" center. Read more here: http://ecoramblings.com/why-all-plas...t-be-recycled/

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    Quote Originally Posted by Miel View Post
    ...So my question is - given I want to respect bear habitats as I do my thru-hike - there are canisters and there are tree limbs for hanging food and anything scented - why don't bears follow the hikers who have food in their packs? Wouldn't the scent of food, deodorant, etc. permeate the pack? What about when we're eating at a campsite, or along the trail as we're walking? What is to stop a bear from creeping up behind us and going for the pack?
    ...
    Third question, bear-related - when you carry out your discards, wouldn't bears follow you to the places where you rid yourself of no longer wanted food packets (such as condiment packages)? ...
    Question 1: this is the very reasoning that has convinced me and many others to sleep with their food. Unless they've been habituated to humans, black bears fear us and are not willing to risk a physical confrontation by taking food from our packs or our tents while we are present. Throwing food in the tent, then going off to get water is generally a bad idea if there are no other people around to deter the animals.

    Question 3: "discards" and other trash gets disposed of in town.

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    Quote Originally Posted by illabelle View Post
    Unless they've been habituated to humans, black bears fear us and are not willing to risk a physical confrontation by taking food from our packs or our tents while we are present. Throwing food in the tent, then going off to get water is generally a bad idea if there are no other people around to deter the animals.
    The A-T is a breeding ground for habituated bears. Particularly in the places (I'm looking at you, New Jersey and New York!) where they don't allow hunting them.
    I always know where I am. I'm right here.

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    AT 4000+, LT, FHT, ALT Blissful's Avatar
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    Bears are not normally habituated to human food unless they find it by thoughtless hikers. Yearling bear esp are susceptible as they are trying to find their way after being kicked out of the den. They have no reason to follow you unless they become accustomed to human food as their source and suddenly want that instead of for grubs, berries, nuts etc.







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  7. #7

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    It's important to note that there are different levels of habituation. I've seen two bears that were badly habituated, one in SNP and the other somewhere in NY, but still those bears were not at the point where they were attempting to take my food; the bear in NY watched me as I cooked and ate my food -- and no, I did not hang my food that night.


    This is the one in SNP that showed very little fear



  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Another Kevin View Post
    The A-T is a breeding ground for habituated bears. Particularly in the places (I'm looking at you, New Jersey and New York!) where they don't allow hunting them.
    NJ has bear hunts.

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    Unhappy About recycling

    > My community won't recycle those little condiment thingies (like soy sauce packets) - are there places along the trail that will?

    Like you, I am fastidious about recycling as much plastic as possible. I'll even pick up other people's recyclables (glass, aluminum, numbered plastic) to the extent that it doesn't take up too much space. To the best of my ability, I try to carry these to the "next" recycling place.

    Invariably, that means I carry them back to my car, after which I transport them back to my house and then to the recycle bins where I live. Plain and simple, places to recycle ANYTHING are quite rare on The Trail. When there are places for recycling, their drop-offs are usually limited to aluminum cans, glass bottles, and MAYBE #1 plastic bottles. During my 1100 miles of section hiking I'm not sure I've ever seen even one place where you can recycle more than that -- even at hostels.

    Indeed, even trash cans are a rare sight -- the sad fact is that cans ATTRACT more trash than they keep out of the wilderness. So sometimes I'll carry a bag of trash for three days, until I get back to my car.

  10. #10

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    All the bears I've seen so far have been appropriately scared of me, and ran off as soon as they saw me.

    If I encounter a bear that doesn't run off, I will be somewhat concerned. But still, black bear attacks are incredibly rare. Most times a black bear attacks a human in the lower 48, it's captive, or the situation involves a human improperly interacting with it (trying to get a photo, etc.). Most times.

    Don't be too worried about them. It sounds like you've got the sense to be cautious and mindful.

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    Last year Florida reinstated a bear hunt and mercilessly murdered hundreds of black bears...as a believer in Karma I now feel less safe on the Florida trail which runs right through Ocala national forest, home to a large number of bears and their cubs.
    Just a thought, will those cubs grow up to be more scared of humans now or more hateful because we murdered their Dad for no good reason?

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    If you are trying to learn about besrs, here is a good Web site. This by a research institute that has been studying black bears for many years. This page points out that in many occasions conventional wisdom is not accurate (for example habituated bears are not necessarily more dangerous).

    http://www.bear.org/website/bear-pag...-a-humans.html

    A few years ago I communicated with a well known bear expert. I asked essentially the same question you did. He said that a bears desire to avoid you is much greater than his desire to get your food. Not understanding this leads to advice that is groundless (such as changing clothes after cooking so food odors in clothes don't attract bears). You will also sometimes hear advice about bear repellents. Evidence suggests that smelling like a human is the best bear deyerent. Thus one good bit of advice is to avoid ising scented toiletries as you do t want to mask you human smell with fruits and flowers. As you point out it is very rare to hear of a bear taking food from a human. However I routinely hear of bears that steal food that is left unattended (including hung from trees). If bears are becoming habituated to human food, it is due to people leaving food inattended.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hoofit View Post
    Last year Florida reinstated a bear hunt and mercilessly murdered hundreds of black bears...as a believer in Karma I now feel less safe on the Florida trail which runs right through Ocala national forest, home to a large number of bears and their cubs.
    Just a thought, will those cubs grow up to be more scared of humans now or more hateful because we murdered their Dad for no good reason?
    Certain states will look for any reason to kill wildlife. Oregon does it with sea lions claiming sea lions are stealing the poisoned salmon from polluted waters, a killing done with the blessing of the Feds. It looks like Taiji (Japan with its dolphin slaughters) there during killing season. Closer to home, a young bear recently killed in the Boston, Mass. suburb of Newton because it encroached into tony Chestnut Hill - rather than relocating the bear. A trigger-happy state trooper. Last year's state legislature vote in Georgia on trapping (smaller animals) - most Georgians didn't support it but the hunting lobby won out. Wolfs buffalo always in danger in the plains states. Certain bears being considered for removal/threatened species list. Now Hawaii wants to capture more wild dolphins for aquarium.

    No time is more urgent than now to respect wildlife such as bears, so hunters have no excuse as far as we hikers are concerned to kill a bear. Other animals I cited: also urgent, but this is an AT thread.

    I will do my upmost best to respect the bears during my hike - for my own life yes, but also for theirs.

    I know there are hunters in all outdoors forums but I'll be damned if I am in any responsible for the killing "fun."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Odd Man Out View Post
    If you are trying to learn about besrs, here is a good Web site. This by a research institute that has been studying black bears for many years. This page points out that in many occasions conventional wisdom is not accurate (for example habituated bears are not necessarily more dangerous).

    http://www.bear.org/website/bear-pag...-a-humans.html

    A few years ago I communicated with a well known bear expert. I asked essentially the same question you did. He said that a bears desire to avoid you is much greater than his desire to get your food. Not understanding this leads to advice that is groundless (such as changing clothes after cooking so food odors in clothes don't attract bears). You will also sometimes hear advice about bear repellents. Evidence suggests that smelling like a human is the best bear deyerent. Thus one good bit of advice is to avoid ising scented toiletries as you do t want to mask you human smell with fruits and flowers. As you point out it is very rare to hear of a bear taking food from a human. However I routinely hear of bears that steal food that is left unattended (including hung from trees). If bears are becoming habituated to human food, it is due to people leaving food inattended.
    Thanks for the link, We are our own worst enemyy - and the bears'.

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    Quote Originally Posted by glaux View Post
    All the bears I've seen so far have been appropriately scared of me, and ran off as soon as they saw me.

    If I encounter a bear that doesn't run off, I will be somewhat concerned. But still, black bear attacks are incredibly rare. Most times a black bear attacks a human in the lower 48, it's captive, or the situation involves a human improperly interacting with it (trying to get a photo, etc.). Most times.

    Don't be too worried about them. It sounds like you've got the sense to be cautious and mindful.
    Thank you, glaux.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GoldenBear View Post
    > My community won't recycle those little condiment thingies (like soy sauce packets) - are there places along the trail that will?

    Like you, I am fastidious about recycling as much plastic as possible. I'll even pick up other people's recyclables (glass, aluminum, numbered plastic) to the extent that it doesn't take up too much space. To the best of my ability, I try to carry these to the "next" recycling place.

    Invariably, that means I carry them back to my car, after which I transport them back to my house and then to the recycle bins where I live. Plain and simple, places to recycle ANYTHING are quite rare on The Trail. When there are places for recycling, their drop-offs are usually limited to aluminum cans, glass bottles, and MAYBE #1 plastic bottles. During my 1100 miles of section hiking I'm not sure I've ever seen even one place where you can recycle more than that -- even at hostels.

    Indeed, even trash cans are a rare sight -- the sad fact is that cans ATTRACT more trash than they keep out of the wilderness. So sometimes I'll carry a bag of trash for three days, until I get back to my car.
    Thank you GoldenBear for your thoughts.

    The town of Swampscott, MA, a coastal town has removed trash cans from its beaches in the hopes that people will carry out their trash. The experiment is still in progress.

    You mentioned hiker hostels. Interestingly enough, the hostels on Cape Cod (not hiker hostels just youth hostels) are great at recycling and composting just about everything they can. I'm like you, I carry trash bags with me and carry out trash (trails or other communities). Thanks for doing all that!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pedaling Fool View Post
    It's important to note that there are different levels of habituation. I've seen two bears that were badly habituated, one in SNP and the other somewhere in NY, but still those bears were not at the point where they were attempting to take my food; the bear in NY watched me as I cooked and ate my food -- and no, I did not hang my food that night.


    This is the one in SNP that showed very little fear


    He was a curious little guy! (And a beauty too.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blissful View Post
    Bears are not normally habituated to human food unless they find it by thoughtless hikers. Yearling bear esp are susceptible as they are trying to find their way after being kicked out of the den. They have no reason to follow you unless they become accustomed to human food as their source and suddenly want that instead of for grubs, berries, nuts etc.
    Thank you for that information, Blissful!

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    Quote Originally Posted by illabelle View Post
    Question 1: this is the very reasoning that has convinced me and many others to sleep with their food. Unless they've been habituated to humans, black bears fear us and are not willing to risk a physical confrontation by taking food from our packs or our tents while we are present. Throwing food in the tent, then going off to get water is generally a bad idea if there are no other people around to deter the animals.

    Question 3: "discards" and other trash gets disposed of in town.
    Thanks, illabelle!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pedaling Fool View Post
    Bears don't take food from hikers (direct confiscation) because they know they will die, that's why I don't use any special food containers; I simply keep all my food in plastic bags which are in a simple nylon stuff sac and it all stays in the tent with me at night. They know we all have food on our backs and you've probably been spied on before while cooking/eating.

    On the issue of plastic recycling, I'm a nut in this area and really try hard to reduce my plastic consumption as much as possible and I'm pretty much a fanatic at recycling all my plastic waste, including stuff I get at a restaurant I try and take home because I know it's probably going to end up in the trash otherwise -- I'm somewhat of a freak on this issue.

    Having said that, I wouldn't worry too much if there are no recycling places along the AT, if there are great, but if not, don't fret.

    Actually, plastics for the most part are not recycled, rather they are Downcycled. And just because a package has a PETE marking on it doesn't mean it's going to be recycled (Downcycled); it'll probably just be sent to the landfill by the "recycling" center. Read more here: http://ecoramblings.com/why-all-plas...t-be-recycled/
    Thanks for the link Pedaling! (I like his nic - EcoPatriot. I am one who considers attention to the planet as part of my patriotic duty.)

    I'll probably go with the mini-bottles (such as those suggested in the honey threads), at least they can be re-used. If I have a real craving for soy sauce and I run out, then I'll just get of the trail at the nearest town that has a grocery store or, more likely, a Chinese restaurant (does WB have a spreadsheet for Chinese restaurants along the trail?). Chinese would be my go-to for restaurant going, when or if possible.

    I hate plastic bags even though I know they have their uses when traveling. I bring my own containers to the supermarket for deli, etc. But those containers will take up needed space in a backpack.

    Too much gets downcycled and more policy changes have to be made.

    Just out of curiousity, how do the bears know they'll die?

    And - is doing the best we can to LNT enough? How do we do more than the best we can?

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