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Where to camp to avoid bears

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Re: Where to camp to avoid bears

Postby rlown » Fri Jan 08, 2016 10:24 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:I wonder if being alone (no human talking) vs being in a group (lots of chatter) makes a difference? Bears have keen senses of smell but not great eyesight. But what about their hearing?


http://www.blackbearbb.org/bearfacts.html

A bear's hearing ability is excellent, and like dogs, bears hear high pitches, exceeding human frequency range and sensitivity.



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Re: Where to camp to avoid bears

Postby Ikan Mas » Fri Jan 08, 2016 10:37 am

Over the past 15 years I've not had any problems with bears, but I also use canisters religiously for all backpack trips regardless of where I am. Canisters became part of my standard kit and really don't understand the resistance to them at all. I do know there are bears out where I'm at from their scat and other signs.

Unless there are no fish, I am fishing almost every camp and eating what I catch. I use a frying pan with my stove and never use a campfire. I am admittedly a bit careless on one item; I tend to cook relatively close to my tent, but I also tend to use established camps when on trail, which tend to have a heavy human odor already from others campfires. I believe I have had more deer lick my canisters than bears!

On one occasion in 2010 did I go into heavy bear avoidance mode. We were in Hoover where the PCT intersects Matterhorn Canyon. There was a nice meadow there with an abundance of Beldings Ground Squirrels, which were probably a significant bear attractant. I had fished the creek and had a handful of tiny brooks for my effort. I was coming back to camp with my catch when about 50 feet from my tent I found a fresh pile of bear poop. It had obviously been deposited that afternoon, perhaps after we had set up tents. I decided that was too close and disposed of the fish far downstream of camp, forgoing that part of dinner. We notified our neighbors, who were from New Zealand, and both parties stashed their canisters out of camp. The bear came through camp that evening (we heard him) but didn't disturb anything. He/she probably knew that canisters were a waste of calories and went back to hunting squirrels. You will have bears where there are rodents to munch on.

The Marbles seem to be real bear heavy despite some pretty real hunting pressure from the locals. Marble bears are pretty cautious and there is lots of brush for them to hide in, so I smell more bear there than I see there.

Like squirrels, berries are an attractant. August-September in the OR-WA Cascades is prime bear time with the ripening crop of purple tasty treats. Generally, the bears stay focused on their natural diet and seem to leave us alone. I did have one show up at night last year in the Pasayten after cooking a monster cutthoat I caught. One shout sent him packing.
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Re: Where to camp to avoid bears

Postby AlmostThere » Fri Jan 08, 2016 12:18 pm

I really do not think hunting is anything that affects the attitudes of the bears. I know that in Yosemite they chase habituated bears around with paintball guns, yet they continue to plague campgrounds -- looping around and coming back to be chased again and shot with paintballs. And the rangers do in fact shoot to kill the ones that start to be actually aggressive (not just assertive) about bothering people for food, and it has zero impact on how other bears behave. The decrease of incidents in that park has to do with increases in proper food storage. The ranger micromanage proportionately -- in Yosemite they tag and monitor problem bears to the nth degree, which is probably the only reason there are so few injuries and no deaths due to bears there. I talked at length with one ranger who was assigned to do just that -- track and follow and drive problem bears out of Little Yosemite. They just come back, and come back, and come back. They used to move bears to other parts of the Sierra, and they just. come. back. Nothing fazes a bear in pursuit of easy calories, except proper food storage. Yet you can avoid the bears even in Yosemite -- stay out of previously mentioned areas. Don't hang out in parking lots in Yosemite too long... we crossed paths with a bear leaving Curry trailhead parking. He was strolling toward the cars, we were hiking away from them. In the backcountry on trails other than the JMT, you may see a bear, but he probably won't be bothering you.

Meanwhile, over in Dinkey and Kaiser wildernesses, where hunting is allowed, rangers are all but requiring bear canisters, due to increased incidents there. You probably cannot camp far enough from those lakes to be clear of bear -- the wilderness areas just aren't that big and the lakes too close together.

In SEKI I see bears all the time, and they are huge problems -- picking up packs when you stop to pee along the High Sierra Trail, apparently. Bear poop is one of those things often sighted up high. One walked right into the campsite in lower Paradise when I had a class up there, so I got to show folks how to get a bear out of camp without issues and teach them about bear body language. No eye contact, scare the bear gently away. His hackles were up but he moved the heck out when I followed him. Distantly, with arms wide, waving poles....

Canisters everywhere, for me, and I camp in less used sites as a matter of course unless there is a reason to use heavily impacted ones. In some areas the rangers ask you to use the too-close-to-water, heavy used sites, to avoid making more sites -- minimizing impact by minimizing sites in very heavily used areas.
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Re: Where to camp to avoid bears

Postby Tom_H » Fri Jan 08, 2016 12:44 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:The Canadians I know who backpack, when in bear territory, cook dinner before they reach camp then pack another mile or two to sleep. That is taking the "cook away from the tent" one step further. And they ALWAYS carry bear spray.


I would presume you also are referring to backpacking in Canada, in which case the bears may likely be grislys. The discussion now becomes a whole other story.
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Re: Where to camp to avoid bears

Postby cahiker » Fri Jan 08, 2016 5:50 pm

I have seen bears on trails or front country campgrounds several times, but only once in camp. That was at Bear Pen in the Granite Chief Wilderness, which isn't very heavily used. From this I could draw the conclusion that one can camp anywhere without "Bear" in its name to avoid bears!

A bear knocked over my canister while I was asleep in a heavily used campsite near the Half Dome / Clouds Rest junction a couple of years ago. That was a bit of a disappointment because the volunteer who was camped nearby to shoot bears with her beanbag gun had led us to believe there would be a big commotion when the bear came through camp and we would surely wake up.


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Re: Where to camp to avoid bears

Postby EagleB » Fri Jan 08, 2016 8:14 pm

I will have to second that any of the trails heading out of Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon have a lot of bear activity, at least at the lower elevations. Many of these trails are very popular in the summer months, and I have had multiple close encounters in Paradise Valley in particular when stopping for a night. Unfortunately, many bears quickly learn how to get to food from careless hikers and they tend to be very bold. The last time I was there, a mother and two cubs sauntered into our camp only a few feet away from us as if we weren't even there! There were four of us, and it took quite a bit of shouting, etc. to scare them off. Of course, that was only the beginning...they spent the whole night trying pestering us, and we started the next morning exhausted.

I personally love to see bears and always look out for them, but circumstances like that can be disconcerting. Like most others here have said, once you reach higher elevations and are in less crowded areas you will be less likely to encounter a bear. Regardless, it is always imperative to practice caution. Just my 2 cents :)
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Re: Where to camp to avoid bears

Postby RoguePhotonic » Fri Jan 08, 2016 9:09 pm

Obviously I have spent allot of time in the backcountry. I think I am around 650 days now in the last 7 years. The number of issues I have had with Bears? None. I don't recommend it but I have also spent a very large amount of time sleeping with food in my tent. When I find myself 14 days without resupply it just doesn't fit in the barrel so what do I do? I lay it all out on the floor of my tent. No issues yet. My only real thing about where to camp to avoid bears comes down to that fact that if I know I am going to have food in my tent and I'm in an area I know has problems like Lyell Canyon I don't want to be sleeping with food in my tent and avoid it if possible. But who knows maybe I am just lucky. I once stayed at Cathedral Lake after a resupply and I set up camp and set out to climb Cathedral Peak. I had two large bags of breakfast cereal and much more food just laying in the center of my tent in this massive bear use area! No issue. :D

Of course now that I have made this post next summer i'll come back with a story of my tent ripped to hell. :angry:
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Re: Where to camp to avoid bears

Postby rlown » Fri Jan 08, 2016 9:38 pm

just lucky. I saw them play with the hangs on the wires before. Cans have done much to make them less likely to steal. When it happens Rogue (tent rip), please post the pic :)

and please don't tell people it is ok to keep food in the tent.
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Re: Where to camp to avoid bears

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Jan 08, 2016 10:03 pm

In the old days, we would carry our food in a duffle bag and use it for a pillow! Times have changed. I too sometimes have more food than will fit in one bear can. And no, I will not use two bear cans! I put the extra in a stuff sack and hang it. Within a day or two it fits in the can.

Rogue- you have spent lots of time in the Sierra- but mostly in the last 5 years. I have noticed a real reduction of bears, mostly attributed to the use of bear cans so bears now do not get rewarded for raiding camps. It has gone from 15+ bears seen a season to now maybe 1-2 bear.

Hey- maybe you are more scary than the bears. They take one smell, and say- no way! That guy is gross!

Seriously I am surprised you do not run into more bear while hiking. I see them all the time. Not that I see a full on huge bear in front of me - but I see them through the brush and trees in the distance. They pretty quickly run off. I think if you made a point of looking for bear you would see some.

It would not hurt my feelings if I NEVER saw another bear in my life! No matter when I have seen them, it has been a bit terrifying. I am way over the "cool" factor in seeing bears. I would rather hike without the worry and anxiety.
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Re: Where to camp to avoid bears

Postby LMBSGV » Fri Jan 08, 2016 10:21 pm

Rogue, I’d like to suggest an alternative to having your food in the tent when you have too much to fit in the canister. This is the method I used when camping near timberline and above in the late 1980s until 2000 when I got my first canister. I never had my food disturbed.

Put the food in a stuff sack and find a big erratic somewhere near your campsite. Make sure the erratic is at least 8-10 feet high with sides sheer enough a bear can’t possibly climb it. Take the food sack and climb the erratic and place the sack at the top above the erratic's sheerest point six inches or more from the edge. Put a good size rock on top of the end of the stuff sack. Climb back down and enjoy a good night’s sleep.

Back then, when I was out with my family for several days, I sometimes had two stuff sacks of food. My son thought it was fun to help me climb the erratic and place the rock(s) on their end(s). I never had to walk more than a hundred yards to find a good erratic. As I mentioned, we never had our food disturbed. And it’s a lot safer for you and your tent.
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Re: Where to camp to avoid bears

Postby SSSdave » Fri Jan 08, 2016 11:47 pm

As related in my opening thread, let's not broaden the discussion into food storage methods thus continue to focus on where to camp to avoid bears. If any want to discuss that please start your own thread. I have a lot to say but am heading up to ski for a day and will make more inputs later.

Like Wandering Daisy I come across a lot of black bears and that is because I tend to ramble off trails in places bears are at. Those who cross country primarily at or above timberline are not likely to meet bears except where people travel and camp about, along streams in canyons, or routes across saddles on ridges. In other words if one is above timberline and in areas people don't tend to route or camp at, and not at natural areas deer and bear cross ridges at, one is not likely to ever see bears. Where bears want to be during summer is in tall dense conifer forests. Those forests tend to be below timberline, however there are patches of such forests even at timberline elevations though they are the kind of places people don't visit. The reason black bears like those forests is because when afraid their natural instinct is to climb trees. Even better is where large talus below cliffs meet such dense forests. When bears are rambling about at night or early morning they prefer to follow up stream drainages. That is because sumping night breezes flow down such drainages bringing to them all odors above flowing down. If however one climbs up on a canyon slope well above air flows in canyon bottoms, air tends to rise up towards the ridge lines. That is also where one tends to find deer bedding. Deer avoid nighting down in canyon bottoms because the air is chillier and bears might smell their fawns. More later.
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Re: Where to camp to avoid bears

Postby markskor » Sat Jan 09, 2016 11:28 am

Where to camp to avoid bears? Why? A bit presumpuous too that Dave throws in his caveat... "In this thread, PLEASE, let us not get into how we are storing or protecting food and focus only on camp spots that avoid bears." Thinking this all connected, but... Thoughts:

Much like many HST members here, have been known to backpack/get out some myself...somewhere in the thousands of nights...hundreds of bear sightings. Since the advent of the bear can, I just don't worry about the bear anymore...just not a problem. BTW, Through their keen sense of smell, the bear knows exactly what food you have, where it is, how much you have, and has also learned the futility of opening up a closed bear can.

Interesting too why some even feel the need worry about bears. Unlike as stated above, I keep my Weekender at the side of my tent (helps as a seat to put on boots). We regularly cook trout at camp...(foil packages in frypan over canister stoves), and leave the utensels close too. Fishing gear? It's right there. Super clean camp? Food smells? Sure we try but neither one has ever been an issue. Bear Scat? So? Sleeping with food? As hanging is no longer allowed Yosemite (gets you a ticket if spotted?)...few other reasonable options are available those first few days out. Campfires? Where legal we often use them, if just for cooking up trout. Best advice - stay alert, and not be averse to chucking granite at ursine intruders.

The bear is known to frequent all areas Sierra depending on season, conditions, water - If you really want to totally avoid seeing one, stay out of where they live - Sierra. Myself, any bear sighting today is always a welcome experience.
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