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Topic: Almost ruined my trip because of paranoia, Worried about bear attacks< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 12:50 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Hello all!

First time poster to this forum, I hope you can help reduce my anxiety.  

I took my 10 year old daughter on a 2 night backpacking trip to the lower elevations of Mt. St. Helens.  I was prepared as I could be with all the new ultralight gear as I could afford.  We found a great campsite not too far into the woods and we were only a mile or so off the road.  We had a great time.  

However, I only got 2 hours of sleep because any sound I heard was a bear.  I was so paranoid from reading and watching TV about bear attacks, that I couldn't sleep and kind of mentally ruined my time.  I am going to keep going backpacking, but I want to know if I am just being overly crazy or what?  We did all the bear preventative measures; talked loud, made our presence, hung the food in a tree etc. etc.  I had no bear spray or weapon except a long survival blade (not that would help any).  

Any advice or stories that alleviate my anxiety would be helpful.    I know millions of people camp out like that, and very few ever see a bear, but I want to take my kids (4 of them) and I want to know they are not as scared as Dad.

Any online links you could share would be helpful too.

Thanks in advance-
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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 1:03 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Bring bear spray, if it'll help you.  $45 well spent.  And if you ever do meet a bear that gives you trouble (trying to get into your food at night, most likely) it'd be the most effective deterrent.  I generally only carry spray in Brown/Grizzly bear country (it's on my hip during numerous solos in Alaska), but everyone has their own comfort level.

However, like you already noted in your self-reflection, you're not really fearing actual bears here as much as media hype about bear attacks.  With your kids, it's far more useful to watch out for hypothermia, dehydration, proper water treatment, biting insects and excess exposure to sun.  Believe it or not, any one of those is more likely to get you or your kids into trouble than a bear.

But regarding bears... make noise while on the trail (they'll most likely leave before you'd ever be aware of them), keep your food and all smellables properly stored in camp at night, and you'll be fine.  They generally don't want any more trouble from you than you want from them.

And FWIW, stop deliberately reading hyped cherry-picked stories about bear attacks.  Most journalists writing those stories know far less about bears than nearly anyone on these forums.  There are far better sources for information.  In the meantime, stick around awhile, and welcome to the forums!

- Mike


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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 1:10 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Well, it is difficult to aleviate another's fears.  If you read  relevant literature and study the statistics, you will see that bear attack is extremely rare, especially black bear attacks in the PNW are almost non-existant.

My only real advise is to simply tell you to keep going and the absence of dangerous bear interactions will hopefully overcome your fears.

BTW, black bears are after your food, not you.  The real danger is to your food bvag at night, not you.  Get an Ursack or bear canister and learn how to use it.  If bear spray will help aleviate some of your fears, then get it and learn how to use it.

Rumi


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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 1:25 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Bears sole goal in life is to attack and eat every human they can find. Or at least the sensationalists would have you think so and that's the effect it's having on you.

The fact is you're safer from wildlife, including bears, in the wilderness than you are from random attacks by other humans in an urban setting* and much safer than you were just driving to the trailhead. Pick up a copy of "Bear Attacks, Their Causes and Avoidance". Good book and may help allay your fears.

I solo in grizzly country against all recommendations, as do some others  here, and the only defense I carry is bear spray. With numerous encounters over 45+ years, many at less than 50', I've never had to use  it.

*Kind of funny story. I worked in Boston some years ago and was assigned a local temp worker as an assistant. He found I solo BPed and was utterly dumbfounded that I'd do something so dangerous. This from a guy who lived in a high crime area with security bars on the alarmed doors and windows and slept with a gun.


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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 1:28 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(GoBlueHiker @ Sep. 04 2013, 11:03 am)
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keep your food and all smellables properly stored in camp at night,

I know what GBH means, but to clarify, store your food and smellables away from camp, preferably 100 feet away.

The more you get out, the less your fear will become. Read Steven Herrero's book "Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance."  And stop watching shows about bear attacks  :)


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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 1:33 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Woodswoman @ Sep. 04 2013, 11:28 am)
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(GoBlueHiker @ Sep. 04 2013, 11:03 am)
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keep your food and all smellables properly stored in camp at night,

I know what GBH means, but to clarify, store your food and smellables away from camp, preferably 100 feet away.

Yes, that. :)


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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 1:37 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thanks for all the quick replies.  It's true the kids have a greater chance of falling off a rock than an attack from a bear.  I'll keep going.  I have all this gear I have to use!

Thank you so much!
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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 1:47 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

A forum member here had his dad eaten alive by a bear.

But don't worry about stories like that. You have a greater chance of being killed by other bears than that one.
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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 2:15 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(JasonWatson @ Sep. 04 2013, 12:50 pm)
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I only got 2 hours of sleep because any sound I heard was a bear.

Easy -- ear plugs. Then the bear sounds won't bother you.

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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 3:13 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I have hiked and backpacked in Yosemite for 30 years. I can count on one hand the number of times I have spotted a bear. Most of the time they are in a tree waiting for you to leave the area before they will come down.
The few times they  have come into my campsite in the campground have resulted in a quick visit and a quick exit. I practice LNT at the campgrounds as well as out in the backcountry. Brown bears are not after you. All they want is a easy meal. If you see one, make noise, shout. That is all it takes for them to retreat to find easier pickens.
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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 3:17 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Senses are often heightened at night but unless your tent smells like food, 99.99% of the time animals will avoid your polyester palace.  The most animal encounters in camp have been porcupines and birds eating gear for the salt residue on packs, gear, and clothing, ... even eating through a tent.  Worse case just carry bear spray but watch out for accidental discharges inside of vehicles.  The stuff is no joke.

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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 3:20 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The odds of running into a crazed ax-murderer are much higher that close to the road. Sleep tight.
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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 4:07 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

My advice?  Hike farther in.  You'll be too tired to wonder about sounds.

Seriously, my first couple trips to Colorado where I was camping alone (car camping, no less) I would end up sleeping in the car because I was terrified of bears.  Totally psychological, unfounded, unreasonable fears.

On my last trip, those Colorado nuts hiked me so hard my eyes were closed before my head hit the pillow!  

That, and a few incident-free trips should put your mind at ease a little.


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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 4:09 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I only bag and hang my food when I am away from camp.  At night I keep the food in my tent.  Never had a problem with bears, or any other critters.  Black bears are rarely a problem in the back country.  The problem bears are raiding dumpsters near towns or grabbing coolers in organized campgrounds.  I've never found the need for bear spray either.

Grizzly country is another story.
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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 4:21 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Plus get a bear resistant food storage canister. Food hangs can tempt knowledgable bears to give it a try, keeping them around camp to possibly be a bother. Bear resistant canisters they give a poke at and wander off or, in places where the bears are more knowledgable such as Yosemite etc. they see the canister and don't even bother.

Plus they're a nice convenient way to keep food rodent proof which is probably the more usual issue many places.
http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/bearcans.htm

Bear behavior is largely learned so different regions have different black bear behavior issues, but they all like easily available food...

I've quipped before I think of canisters as "Fast Food" since they're easy and fast to use... just close (or open) three or four fasteners and the food's available or safe. Walk out a hundred feet or so from camp and set it down, no special skills needed to judge how high the tree is and whether the branch is flexible enough to scare a cub sent out it to cut the cord while not being too flexible so the food, under the cub's weight, would be lowered to where mom can rip the bottom out, all judgement being done at the end of the day when you have far better things to do.

ETA: look up Black Bear natural history and find out what they like to eat. It's vegetable matter mixed with ants, other insects and grubs for the most part and certainly not big live prey the size of a human being with any regularity. Knowledge can be a good thing so get some idea of what black bears are really like. People are NOT on their list of foods so the only issue is getting between a rather strong animal and the food it does want: hence the clean camp and food canister.

http://sierrawild.gov/bears/feeding-and-hibernation
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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 4:36 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(JRinGeorgia @ Sep. 04 2013, 12:15 pm)
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(JasonWatson @ Sep. 04 2013, 12:50 pm)
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I only got 2 hours of sleep because any sound I heard was a bear.

Easy -- ear plugs. Then the bear sounds won't bother you.

I forgot about that. I usually wear plugs for that reason. If something is intent on killing and eating me, then I don't want to hear it  :p

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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 4:44 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Marmotstew @ Sep. 04 2013, 1:47 pm)
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A forum member here had his dad eaten alive by a bear.

Several times.

As you've probably noticed, in the quiet of the natural world, you're much more able (and likely to) focus on individual sounds.  A mouse (or even insect) crawling through the duff 100 feet away is almost deafening.
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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 4:56 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

So, did the bear eat the heart, or the head last, in order to keep Dad alive to the end?

I have always wondered about the sequence in that scenario.


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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 5:03 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Growing up by Yellowstone we were around bears a lot and never really in any danger, now in the redwoods my property has a lot of apples, pears and plums and blackberries, so yes, bears.  They don't really want to attack humans, so the logical things to do are let them know where you are, with sounds that are decidedly human, your voice works, and then you don't surprise them, don't get between them and their cubs, or between them and the only escape route they see.  

I like this advice http://www.bearsmart.com/resources/north-american-bears/behaviour because it points out that your own fear makes you more likely to misread the bears behavior and react in a threatened way.


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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 5:08 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I think it's fairly typical to sleep lightly/not at all when you're new to BPing.

I'm to the point now where I sleep like a baby--all of the sounds that used to creep me out in the wilderness just seem to soothe me now. When I can't sleep at home, sometimes I imagine that I'm in my sleeping bag in the mountains somewhere, in fact.
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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 5:25 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Bring a bottle of honey. If you get freaked out, squirt on everyone else around you and bolt away like a rabbit going after a mate.

Seriously though, outside of Ran D eating that bear that ate his dad, you ain't got much to worry about in Black bear territory although caution of bear spray is not something you should overlook along with respect by using an ursack, etc.

Personally, I supposedly live in Black bear territory but have seen a handful about 25 years ago...and that's the last time I've seen one. I don't even bring bear spray or an ursack and I've lived to tell the tale so far.

Try night hiking for a while so you can be scared of the dark instead. It will get your mind off the bears.


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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 6:06 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Just don't mess with a bear with cubs.  That's a danger zone.

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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 6:32 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Its natural for we urban humans to be really afraid the first time we venture out into remote places alone where large potentially wild animals are about.  Suprises a lot of people how afraid they become.  The inate human fear is strong enough that there are a modest number of first time backpackers including otherwise macho men, that after that first experience never go out there again, instead sticking to more gregarious road camping.   One ought never really trust the behavior of large intelligent wild animals as each has its own personality and experiences, much like dogs.  So there really is something to be cautious about even after one learns to be calm.

Something about a dark moonless night in a creepy forest where the sound of crunching twigs out beyond one's camp is likely to make any new person's heart start pumping.   :p   Worse still for our psyche is the actual huffing snorting sound of a bear.  Any kid would describe such as the perfect sound of a monster.  

Most of our ancestors had the same fear as well as Native Americans.  Some backpackers may wonder what I'm talking about because they never were so afraid.  But usually those folks were not alone those first times, not in an actual bear area,  and or not really remote.


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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 6:47 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I am waaaayyyy more afraid of spiders than bears! But at least I can run away from spiders without fear of being chased down and smacked around  :p  :D

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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 7:18 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

+5 to everything said here. I even do as LameBeaver does and sleep with my food in my tent -outside of grizzly country-, though many people here probably frown on that. Indeed, many of my very best sleeps are now spent out of doors. When out long enough, I sometimes have great trouble readjusting to sleeping INdoors.

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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 8:57 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

A racing mind ruined many a night for me in the woods when I first started backpacking. A prescription sleep aid helped me quite a bit but I later found anti-anxiety meds work even better. I keep a Rx of Klonopin on hand just for backpacking. One at bedtime and a bear could tap dance on my tent and I wouldn't have a clue.

I should note that I did try several OTC and natural sleep aids first to no avail, but everyone is different.


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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 9:43 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I'll be the third to enthusiastically recommend Herrero's book.  It is excellent.  With knowledge come both safety and courage.  Read it.

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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 10:08 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Woodswoman @ Sep. 04 2013, 9:28 am)
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(GoBlueHiker @ Sep. 04 2013, 11:03 am)
QUOTE
keep your food and all smellables properly stored in camp at night,

I know what GBH means, but to clarify, store your food and smellables away from camp, preferably 100 feet away. ...

Not meaning to quibble .. but the standard round here is 100 yards, not 100 feet, away. 100 feet doesn't really cut it when it comes to a bear finding food. But the real important thing, imo, is moving them to an 'unlikely' location; somewhere a bear probably won't be wandering right by - don't leave that stuff alongside the trail, next to a berry patch, etc, etc. Stash it deep in a pile of thick, thorny brush, etc.


(TDale @ Sep. 04 2013, 2:06 pm)
QUOTE
Just don't mess with a bear with cubs.  That's a danger zone.

With black bears that's rarely, ever, a problem .. black bears with cubs are highly unlikely (i.e., virtually never) to be a problem. Grizzlies are quite the opposite.


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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 04 2013, 10:17 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Bears are likely the most over-rated danger in the outdoors. Even backpacker forums add to the fear. There are often several active threads at a time with people discussing avoiding attacks, what to do if attacked etc. It is one of the rarest ways to die in the outdoors. Experience will lesson your fears.

About 2 1/2 million people die every year in the US. About 1 dies from bear attack on average. Not worthy of worry. Nothing to be ashamed of though with all the press it gets.


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PostIcon Posted on: Sep. 05 2013, 1:36 am Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thanks everyone!  So many great responses.  I actually sleep with earphones at home because my wife snored so much with pregnancies I got used to it, we have 4 small children.  I didn't take a radio and we tried to find a battery powered one too.  I guess my solution is take a radio and enjoy the wilderness.

Thanks everyone!  I appreciate the warm welcome!
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