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Bear Cannisters

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Re: Bear Cannisters

Postby Hetchy » Fri Feb 06, 2009 8:46 pm

Good topic!
I am a dedicated soloist and always wondered what other people do with their bear cans.
When I got my first one (a garcia "basecamp" model about 5 lbs!) I would keep it as close as 50 feet from me at night.
A bear attacked it one morning .. I watched her for a while from my sleeping bag(rarely use a tent).. 'cause I like bears.
When I finally decided to stand up, and shouted to spook it away, I heard the sound of claws on bark behind me.. she had a cub along with her... which proceeded to climb a tree.
Mama did not charge but neighther did she flee. So I layed back down in my bag and hoped baby bear did not start crying for mama and possibly escalate the situation. After a few minutes baby bear came down from the tree and rather nonchalantly began to take after my bear can, just like mom. All the while mother bear watched from the edge of the clearing. They both departed minutes later to my relief.
I now tend to put my bear can a ways off and down slope from where I sleep. I also keep all food inside in a plastic garbage bag. Since that time I have always set the can on edge at night to see if anything knocks it over.. years later and nothing ever has.
I don't know if the bears just realize they can't get in or maybe I camp a bit cleaner and they don't come around as much.. I have noticed that my garcia basecamp is so airtight I have trouble opening and closing the inset lid sometimes.. maybe that helps? I dunno.
I just switched to the BearVault 500 and I am curious if in the same places the bears will ignore it as well. My own subjective advice is put the can farther away and sleep soundly through it.
Afterall the approved cans are tested by 1800 lbs zoo bears with the cans slathered in blood, or so we are told. I doubt the average Sierra "Park" Black bear compares to the abuse those babies can dish out. But as I said the bears have not touched my bear can in many years.. so my advice is subjective to my particular experiences. Cheers.
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Re: Bear Cannisters

Postby calipidder » Fri Feb 06, 2009 11:27 pm

I'd also suggest some bright colored tape on your bear can. If those furry creatures get to it and knock it around, you want to be able to easily spot it in a bush, etc. My bear cans all have a mix of bright colored tape/stickers. It also helps differentiate mine when I'm out with a group of people who all have the same canister. :)
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Re: Bear Cannisters

Postby desertrat » Sat Feb 07, 2009 5:47 am

Wow. Thanks everyone for all of the great replies.

I hadn't thought of the reflective tape idea. That really makes sense.

My new BearVault 500 just shipped from Amazon.com yesterday so I am looking forward to getting it.

Thanks again all,

Bill P.
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Re: Bear Cannisters

Postby quentinc » Sun Feb 08, 2009 10:47 pm

Gosh, the idea of a bear bothering the canister seems so unlikely. I've always lived dangerously, keeping it literally within reach of my tent. Particularly if it's cold, I like the idea of being able to haul it in without actually getting out of the tent in the morning. Maybe if I were in the Kearsarge area or Yosemite, I'd take this a little more seriously. 10 feet away?
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Re: Bear Cannisters

Postby homeranch » Mon Feb 09, 2009 11:00 am

Two stories; I ordered four llama sized bear boxes from an outfit in Montana, when UPS delivered them, our dogs went nuts, barking and growling at the boxes. I called the outfit and told them about that. They said that they test each box by putting bacon in it and leaving it out for the neighborhood grizzlies to test. Our dogs picked up the scent of the grizzlies.

Second story, while camped at Bubbs Creek, where backpackers told us there was a problem bear there, one of our daughters left the top off one of the bear boxes, leaving it open all night. We had no encounter with the bears.

We have heard ancedotal tales and we seemed to experience the same thing. Bears won't go near llamas. The llama scent is so odd to the bears that they stay away. At least, so far.
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Re: Bear Cannisters

Postby AldeFarte » Mon Feb 09, 2009 8:12 pm

Gosh, I feel like an antiquated ogre regarding this topic. It is very interesting to read the opinions of fellow backpackers regarding interaction with sierra bears. People, these are smart critters capable of physical and mental feats you can't even imagine! I live with bears in my neigborhood. Mostly , they keep to their bidness and I keep to mine. I always give a "brother" a break. Usually they get the message. Occasionally they don't. I cannot stress it enough-- "The only way and safest way for the bears and people to coexist in the same space in the same time is aggressive aversion techniques such as pelting the fellows with rocks." If this was a consistant policy , there would not be anywhere near the bear problems that exist now. I do not use a bear cannister , tho the people I pack with do. The cannister is tough enough to defeat any bear. If you want to lose your cannister , by all means move it well away from camp. My advice no matter what technique you use with your food storage is to never crash without a sufficient supply of ammo at your fingertips next to your flashlight . Works for me. jls :smirk:
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Re: Bear Cannisters

Postby gdurkee » Mon Feb 09, 2009 8:50 pm

I vote for at least 25 feet or so -- there's probably an official NPS distance, but I don't know what it is. A couple of years ago, a guy sleeping outside sat up in his sleeping bag and got swatted across the face by a startled bear. He'd kept the canister a couple of feet from his sleeping bag. Bad idea. Give it some room between you and the bear.

But the really good news is, bears do not even bother most canisters -- they know it doesn't do any good. I've seen them walk right by a canister at night and not even sniff them. If it's a new model or type, they will, but the well established ones like the Garcia and Barrikade (spelling?) they won't, usually.

Aversive conditioning isn't a bad idea but, on the trail, it's just not consistently applied enough to be effective. Everyone has to do it or it doesn't work. In Sequoia Kings, as a direct result of bear boxes and canisters, there's been a huge improvement in bear/human interactions. The last two years has seen only a handful of cases where bears have gotten food. In the early 1980s, probably 70% of bear scat in the Kearsarge area had plastic or foil in it. Today it's only a couple of percent, if that.

As a side note, there's been a discussion between Roland Knapp and I about the possible influence of frog decline and/or loss of human food to bears that's caused them to expand over to the east side of the Sierra. I'm thinking it's somewhat possible that the huge loss of frogs as a food source, combined with the loss, in the 80s, of human food, caused them to set off for Mammoth in a Great Migration (The Great Beartreck). Lots of blanks in the data, but not impossible:

http://anuranblog.blogspot.com/2009/02/effects-of-frog-declines-on-bears-in.html

g.
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Re: Bear Cannisters

Postby Hetchy » Mon Feb 09, 2009 9:59 pm

I wasn't gonna bring this up cause I don't want to cause waves with the thru hiker crowd, amongst which I will be treading very soon.. What the hell? When has that ever stopped me?
Here goes:
I have been keenly researching for my upcomming hike along the PCT on popular email blogs. There has been quite a discussion on how to avoid using bear cannisters. I know I am a newcomer to at least the PCT thru hike scene. But I am well travelled in other parts of the sierra legendary for bear problems.
I find the idea of carrying food into a wilderness area and setting it out where a bear can (and will) get it, as tantamount to killing that bear. If we humans care enough to lug heavy packs laden with food into the wilds in the effort to enjoy that wilderness.. (bears and all) can we not see the value of protecting that wilderness (bears and all)? And further the weight of a bear canister as a neccesity towards that end? It might come down to a moral choice for some. But I would feel pretty bad if a good bear went bad so I could save.... ounces.

As for losing a bear canister.. I truly cannot imagine a black bear walking on three legs holding a slippery object but I give those that do their props.. The Bears are very much smarter than most people realize. (Would make an awesome picture at any rate)

Now for something stupid but funny:
In the "old" days (before we knew better.. of course) We used to pack in these beanie weenie cans for meals. After we were finished we would cook them clean in the fire.. I mean burn the #### out of them. If they disintegrated to nothing all the better. The sooty remains went into a garbage sack to be hung like the food sacks(before we had canisters).
Well we had been troubled by bears that trip(probably the stinky food and roasting cans.. DUH! anyways).
So one fellow decided to hang the "burnt can" bag about three feet off the ground and just under the same tree the food cache was hung from some 15 feet above.
Sure enough just as things in camp got quiet and we were all in our bags we begin to hear the thumping of something big coming through camp at a good clip.. I mean you could feel this thing coming through the ground vibrating with each footfall!
And.. BANG.. rattle rattle rattle. The bear hit that sack and instead of the motherlode he got a face full of burnt tin cans for his troubles! Of course the mess was a pain to clean up the next day but we sure never saw that bear again!
I would never advocate this childish tactic.. just thought I would relate it cause it was pretty dam funny, if stupid on our part.
Those days are gone anyways, tin cans are too heavy and I ALWAYS carry a bear canister. I prefer to shoot my wildlife with a camera not a gun but I also understand the wilderness ain't all mine or about me so I don't condemn those who do otherwise.
But consider this: For every bear the park service has to eventually shoot, there is one less bear for you hunter types to shoot. We all lose this game. We have a choice.. the bears do not.
Cheers, Hetchy
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Re: Bear Cannisters

Postby BSquared » Tue Feb 10, 2009 8:47 am

As one who has lost (and then happily found again) a canister to a bear, I have to say that it definitely is possible for a bear to remove one from your campsite. I don't know exactly how this one got taken, but I'm assuming the bear just rolled it out of camp -- we hadn't bedded down yet (we were away washing in a nearby stream) and so hadn't tried to put the (happily closed) canisters in any kind of order, like in a small depression or under a log, and the campsite was on top of a small rise. The bear worked really hard to get into the canister, apparently jumping out of a tree onto it numerous times (judging by the sound). Now: this was five years ago, it was a known problem bear (rumor has it that the bear was ...uh ... "removed" just the next day, but that is strictly rumor), it was in Yosemite (than which there is no whicher), and I think it was just at the time that the Bear Vault people began to realize that the model then in circulation could have its lid popped off by just such vigorous physical assault (we were using a Bearikade and it was utterly unscathed by the ordeal, and apparently Bear Vault fixed their problem soon after). The point is that a determined bear can definitely remove a canister from a campsite!

Aldefarte: a few days later on the same trip we ran into a group of hikers who, in the course of campfire conversation, wryly observed that finding a nice little pile of throwing-sized stones in a potential campsite wasn't necessarily a good sign ;)

-B2
Last edited by BSquared on Fri Feb 13, 2009 8:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Bear Cannisters

Postby homeranch » Wed Feb 11, 2009 7:50 pm

A note regarding chasing bears out of camp. It is best not to wear your headlamp. My friend, chased the bear out of camp in Big Whitney Meadow wearing his headlamp, the bear left at a run, turned and headed straight for him, by the time Doug realized the bear was going to run him over, it did. It did not attack him, merely ran him down, clawed him a little in the passage and was gone into the night. Doug did a bit of research and found he was not the only person to have been run over by a bear while wearing a headlamp. The light apparently confuses the little buggers.

Oh, Doug has become quite conservative in his approach to bears since that incident.
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Re: Bear Cannisters

Postby gdurkee » Thu Feb 12, 2009 10:08 am

Homeranch:

Where was that? Nothing about bears surprises me, though I've never connected injuries to a headlamp. Bear could have been blinded and not realize there was a person under the light shining in his eyes. Glad no serious injury.

g.
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Re: Bear Cannisters

Postby homeranch » Fri Feb 13, 2009 7:35 pm

Hi, Big Whitney Meadow is west of Cottonwood Pass out of Lone Pine. The bear had run out of camp before he did a 180 and headed for Doug. Doug tells the story much better than I, especially after a few cocktails.
He had taken a Brit, a Japanese friend and his diabetic cousin on this trip. He was awakened in the night by shouting in Japanese, which took him a few moments to recollect that his friend was shouting bear in Japanese.

The bear did succeed in getting his diabetic cousin's hanging med and candy supply.

After the run over they decided to walk out, his cousin began to suffer the imbalance symptoms diabetics without insulin will suffer and they had no candy left either. By the time they got out, the cousin was seriously unhappy.

At the trail head the Brit friend, asked Doug if all back pack trips were like this..


Another story, the guy in the hospital in Bishop, he had been eating his canned food dinner below Kearsarge Pass when a bear entered camp, the guy tossed his can of supper to the bear, then decided against that and attempted to retrieve the can, hence the hospital.

No telling what silly stuff humans will do.
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