Mar 19, 2009 at 8:44 am #1234927
@hitmanLocale: West Florida
I know, I know…the chances of a bear attack is slim to none.
But I'm about to embark on my first AT week-long trip. There is a faint thought of bears in the back of my mind.
I don't want to carry a heavy bear spray container. From what I've read, the bears on the AT in NC are pretty small (compared to most bears).
Would one of those air blast horns (which are much lighter) scare off a black bear?
I'd rather not be stuck with simply a hiking stick in the event I meet a bear.Mar 19, 2009 at 8:48 am #1487088
@naman919Locale: Richmond, Virginia
soooooo many threads on this, but for a quick answer bring a whistle and/or bell (with magnet to stop the rattle!) and you'd be as audible as need be.
Remember to stay big when/if approached by a black bear. They're more curious than "ferocious."
– DanaMar 19, 2009 at 9:13 am #1487094
John, you've been watching too many of those bear videos. :) I think the dummies were filled with fish sauce or something like that…same goes for that tent.
Years ago I would take an air horn with me but I never got a chance to use it, they would always run away before I even had a chance to use it. In reality, any loud noise (actually, any noise at all) will usually send them on their way. My current choice is the whistle around my neck and clapping my hands.Mar 19, 2009 at 9:35 am #1487098
<"In reality, any loud noise (actually, any noise at all) will usually send them on their way.">
Usually. However, I had this black bear (cinnamon in color) two years ago that actually ran toward the air horn (a big one) like it was a freaking dinner bell! Happened twice.
He must have had a bad experience with someone else with an air horn. :-/Mar 19, 2009 at 9:46 am #1487100
A whistle is a signalling device in the backcountry, not something to blow mindlessly to frighten wildlife real or imagined.Mar 19, 2009 at 10:37 am #1487125
John, please do not take Davids' advice (no offence David). You should NOT mindlessly blow your whistle to scare real and imaginary animals…
Use your whistle as an "alternative" to your bear spray…meaning that the bear is not leaving you alone/aggressive. Don't blow it when you 'see' a bear, take a picture instead. :)Mar 19, 2009 at 10:38 am #1487126
"A whistle is a signalling device in the backcountry, not something to blow mindlessly to frighten wildlife real or imagined."
Thank you. If I heard a whistle in the wilderness I would divert from wherever I was going to provide aid. If I went several miles out of my way to find that it was a substitute for a bear bell, well…hope I am not carrying
Do bears learn that a bear bell is a signal that food will appear in the evening? They always seamed to me to be like Pavlov's whistle.
Hear the bell…
sniff nearby for dropped lunch/dinner/snack bits…
listen for next bellMar 19, 2009 at 11:23 am #1487137
@iwillchopyouhotmail-comLocale: Lake Tahoe
I don't know where I heard this, but it seems logical to me–bears are more likely to avoid sounds that other mammals create (like sticks breaking, etc) than sounds that birds might make (like a bear bell).
I've always just yelled, clapped my hands, waved my trekking poles when I've encountered bears. I don't think a jingling bell well send them running, and I don't know how far that sound would travel anyway.
I developed a sort of "hey bear" terret's syndrome while on the CDT in Montana. Every few minutes or so I would yell out a loud "NUP!" and after awhile I didn't even realize I was doing it. It did make for some strange looks, but I'll take those over a griz encounter.Mar 19, 2009 at 11:42 am #1487149
@bleanLocale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
On a recent hike, there were bunches of cows on the trail from time to time. I found that if I "sang" — kind of like a military Jody cadence — when I saw the cows, they got off the trail for me. Definitely a lot better than being quiet.
I presume that my noise was was unnatural and/or human, so they moved. I wonder whether a bear would have the same reaction?
(OK — so the Bay Area hills are not wilderness like the big mountains — it still made me wonder whether the effect would work.)
–MVMar 19, 2009 at 12:01 pm #1487152
I guess it depends on your singing voice. I tried a little "Yellow Submarine" in the Shenandoahs when a bear was looking at my snickers bar, and that got rid of him real fast. But not everyone is as vocally challenged as myself, I'd imagine.Mar 19, 2009 at 12:45 pm #1487170
Just some personal experiences;
Ran into 3 black bears in eastern PA, actually my buddy and I were sitting on a ridge cooking pasta, and these guys showed up about 30-50 feet away, sitting on some rocks, looking at us and no doubt thinking that tortellini sounded like a fine dinner. My dog started barking his head of, my buddy started banging on a pot. They didn't exactly run off. but they left.
Olympic national park, early evening, I came across a blackie digging grubs or roots in a meadow. He was maybe 10 feet off the trail that I needed to walk down. I sang "like a virgin" (Don't ask me why that song) at the top of my lungs for a minute or so, and he ran off the trail, although he stood in the alders about 50 yards away watching me, no doubt critiquing my choice of music, which made me pretty nervous.
Last summer (late june) my wife and I were hiking in Glacier. We were in pretty good shape, so we were moving pretty quickly, and about a quarter mile from the car a grizzly cub shot across the trail and hauled it into the brush on the other side. my first thought was "oh how cute" and my second was "oh crap, where's mom?" I pulled out my bear spray and popped the safety, yelling all the while. my wife turned around so we were back to back and started blowing her whistle (I defend that choice by the way, there were hikers behind us with kids who needed to be alerted)we did this for a couple of minutes, until we were sure the local fauna had beat it. The hiking group behind us, who had no bearspray (and whose tween kids were ahead of my wife and I, two snack sized bear treats) caught up to us and we walked to the cars.
Loud noise seems to do the trick, and madonna is apparently aurally toxic to black bears.Mar 19, 2009 at 1:27 pm #1487184
@sarbarLocale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
The first face to face bear encounter I had – I came around a bend to a bear shoveling berries in its mouth. Apparently I can still scream like a 3 year old running from a mouse. Lol.
I scared the poor bear and he ran uphill, a few feet above the trail trying to hide behind a Huckleberry bush. Yeah, it didn't hide him ;-)
All went well and we eventually passed by each other.
Black bears I don't fear. Grizzlies are different of course!
Truly on black bears, they seem to want to get away from off key singing and high pitched "Eeks!" ;-)Mar 19, 2009 at 1:42 pm #1487189
Joshua Gilbert (joshcgil2) posted:
"I pulled out my bear spray and popped the safety, yelling all the while. my wife turned around so we were back to back and started blowing her whistle (I defend that choice by the way, there were hikers behind us with kids who needed to be alerted)"
So let me get this straight. If you are on the trail and you hear a distant whistle being blown, you run the other way figuring that there is danger at the source of the sound?
My understanding is that the whistle I carry is to summon help to me, not to tell them to get away.
Edited for the speling thingMar 19, 2009 at 1:53 pm #1487191
During the day the bears are not a problem. Most will run from you. They are hunted outside of the national parks. Two times they will give you trouble are (1) If you leave your pack to go up on a ridge for a view or to climb down to a water source. A couple of years ago one at Standing Indian became famous for stealing packs. Never leave your pack unattended. 2) At night they will come to the shelters to look for food. Make sure you hang everything with a smell at night (even if you can't smell it). They know that hikers drop food around shelters and they are just coming to clean-up. At Walnut Mountain (just south of Hot Springs, NC) there is a bear making Bluff Mountain Outfitters rich. The bear has learned how to retrieve bear bags out of trees. I met a hiker last year that lost everything. I suggest using the PCT method to hang your bear bag. It's not fool proof but the bear will have to work a lot harder than if it is hung by the traditional method. Cooking away from where you camp is also a good idea. Most of the hikers I have met north of the Virginia line cook at a shelter (near by water and shelter from frequent rain) and then camp in a tent.
If a bear does confront you back away slowly and give him space. I have had them sniff my shelter at night, run across the trail in front of me and once one stood up and stared at a fellow hiker then just walked away.
By far if you need to worry about a trail animal on the AT, it's the mice!!!!
Good Luck on your hike. I'll be up between Allen Gap and Damascus late April early May.Mar 19, 2009 at 2:03 pm #1487192
Joseph R Jacaruso (CaptainJac) posted:
I suggest using the PCT method to hang your bear bag. It's not fool proof but the bear will have to work a lot harder than if it is hung by the traditional method.Mar 19, 2009 at 3:21 pm #1487233
I understand your point of view on the whistle. My understanding is that it would be used as an alternative to bear spray – which is what the OP is asking about. My view on bear spray is that it is to be used only after all other options are exhausted. Meaning that you are in immediate danger and the bear is not curious, nosey, or just poking about….he means business. Therefore, I do whatever I need to do to – blow my whistle, yell for help, etc. If you just see a bear, or come upon a bear, plenty of options other than using any type of device to resolve the issue.
Funny, story though…The first time I ever came up close on a bear (and I had one of those marine airhorns) was a bushwhacking trip up north. I came around a tree through some bush and he was scratching/clawing the side of a tree. It completely caught me (and him/her) off guard. I freaked. :) My heart sunk like a bag of rocks, and I turned and bolted in a side step sort of technique. If there was someone behind me, I would have stepped on their back after knocking them over. After a few seconds, I looked back and saw the bear running in the opposite direction. That was also the first time I understood why you shouldn't try to outrun a bear…they can really move.
So, I would honestly like to know what are people using as an alternative to bearspray? The bear is panting, snorting, paws stomping on the ground, pacing back and forth, maybe a bluff charge or two…can I blow my whistle now? :) (smiley means that last comment is in good fun)Mar 19, 2009 at 3:28 pm #1487237
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
"So, I would honestly like to know what are people using as an alternative to bearspray?"
Always, ALWAYS, make sure to hike with someone who is slower than you.Mar 19, 2009 at 4:08 pm #1487251
Steve,as far as bear spray is concerned I would have only used it if I was charged by the bear, but I didn't want to wait until she was running at me. (I also became acutely concious of the breeze blowing gently in my face, and the fact that if she did charge me my only hope was that she didn't like spicy food, since I would have maced myself)
Thinking the whistle thing through, maybe we weren't as concerned with the hikers behind us (they were fairly clueless, as evidenced by their letting their children hike about 1/2 a mile ahead)so much as we were trying to avoid being mauled. ;-
This could have been one of those textbook bad situations; heavy brush, cub, and we weren't sure where we were in relation to Mom (we never saw her)
But, on the whistle thing, most people know that three long blasts is the classic "I need help signal", well, at least anyone who carries a whistle should know that. So I am going to assume if I hear a lot of loud whistling in a place where Grizzlies are as common as racoons in Seattle that someone is trying to scare a bear. If I hear three blasts, I know it didn't work, and if I hear discontinuous muffled whistles, I know the bear has the whistle caught in its teeth.Mar 19, 2009 at 4:56 pm #1487262
The best deterrent is to be in a large group. In prime Grizzly country (like the U.S. Glacier N.P.) this is a very good and common approach (tag along with someone else). The statistics are quite striking (lots of attacks on solo hikers, a few on pairs, and then the numbers drop off to zero pretty quickly). Sorry, I don't have references for the statistics (you can look for it or just take my word for it).
Yelling ("Hey Bear") works well. Whistles aren't recommended — they sound too much like birds. Clickers (used for dog training) are recommended. Of course, that is just the latest recommendation. Bears have been known to change their behavior based on their experience (gun shots have been known to attract bears because hunters leave the guts after cleaning the animal). Personally, I use a combination of yelling and a clicker when I'm in Grizzly country (and I carry bear spray).Mar 19, 2009 at 7:44 pm #1487346
Tom, that's why I hike with my girlfriend. :)
Ross…clickers? Like the little things to make a noise when your dog does a good thing? How does that work.
Joshua, what we are supposed to do and what we actually do tend to change quite a bit during the encounter. I'm living proof of it! :) Like I said, I understand the concern with blowing the whistle. In no way did I recommend just blasting it while you hike down the trail. As some have pointed out, maybe it isn't a good idea, or maybe it's not recommended, so feel free to give me ideas…or better yet, give John ideas as he was the one who started the thread.
So, if I open my tent door and see this, can I blow my whistle? :)
Mar 19, 2009 at 8:29 pm #1487356
@hitmanLocale: West Florida
If I blow a whistle, it will be for good reason. If a bear is standing his ground and not willing to leave, I'm blowing it.
How loud are those clickers? They'll work better than an air horn?Mar 19, 2009 at 8:32 pm #1487358
@rezniemLocale: San Francisco
The clickers are like bear bells..they exist only to make bears aware of your presence. They are not loud and not meant to intimidate a bear that is standing his or her ground.
Good luck!Mar 20, 2009 at 5:11 am #1487403
Don't worry. I hiked the mountains of Georgia, NC, Tenn, and Va for three years before I saw my first bear. I take extra time to clean-up after I eat so I really do not leave a trace.
However do I think during that time bears saw me? I'm sure of it. Signs of bear are all along the trail. My son and I have step over numerous fresh pile of scat.
In the GSNP my son actually walked up on a cub by accident. He froze and looked for mom. Then eased back away from the cub. Only because he respected the bear's space did the encounter turn out positive. On Cheola Bald my Scout Troop was visited by two bears in the middle of the night. They sniffed each tent and then continued on down the trail. Knowing how to conduct yourself around bears helps prevent a lot of trouble. Almost every attack in this area is because someone wants a picture with a bear or it involved food. If a bear wants my food, it his.
As for safety in numbers, according to Mike Clelland there are no reported bear attacks in groups of four or more. NOLS requires all participants to stay in groups of four, even when digging catholes. A little too much togetherness for me.
Again the mice are a much bigger problem on the AT. They chew into packs and run accross you while you sleep. If you respect the bears they will respect you. Mice will literally run all over you.Mar 20, 2009 at 5:35 am #1487405
From my own experience and what I've read bears (and cougars) act differently in different areas. Black bears in California can usually be treated like troublesome dogs but with food-stealing skills even Yogi and Boo-Boo would envy. In Canada they apparently are more of a personal threat but less wily when it comes to stealing food. I'm amazed if AT bears can be fooled by a single-bag food hang.
The bottom line is to find out what precautions are needed/effective in the area you plan to hike.
Personally I have never thought that pepper spray is needed in the Sierra- the statistics say that they only want food, not my children.Mar 20, 2009 at 6:09 am #1487411
Last night's (March 19, 2009) The Story on NPR included an interview with a woman who was in the CCC (California Conservation Corps) 20 years ago or so.
One of the things she mentioned was that the staff in backcountry crews took turns sleeping (separate from the rest of the crew) with the crew's food so they would be awakened if a bear came on a raid and could chase the bear off.
Gave me a good chuckle.
Kinda places the "inconvenience" of lugging a bear canister into a different perspective, eh?
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