Jul 6, 2007 at 12:50 am #1223982
Looking for some feedback on what others do for large carnivore/omnivore protection. Where I do most of my backpacking in Idaho and Montana, that means black bears, grizzly bears (some places), mountain lions, and wolves.
I've personally employed a range of strategies that include:
1. nothing but my looks
2. bear bells
3. bear pepper spray
I am curious if rescue whistles or dog whistles are effective, but don't know how to test the theory. I would really like a lightweight solution (like the dog whistle) that I felt a high level of security carrying.
A bit more background:
I personally believe that 99 percent of black bears here represent no threat whatsoever – most are outright skittish. A very few bears are more of a nuissance. However, there are the exceptions. An acquantance of mine shot and killed a very aggressive black bear that tore up multiple camps on the Middle Fork Salmon last week.
I've never met a problem grizzly bear, but I believe they exist – particularly northwest of Yellowstone where the NPS relocates the 'problem' bears. That's where I'll be backpacking in a couple weeks.
I have only ever seen one cougar while backpacking, but I've found tracks and scat on top of my tracks on out-and-back hikes more than once. Cats seem to be more of a threat with small children (my son is not old enough to go along yet), and possibly when I'm soloing.
Wolves here seem to be growing increasingly bold. They are currently still protected under ESA and they seem to know it. I've had three encounters with wolves at less than 50 yards. Only one of the three acted like it was afraid of me. The other two acted like I was barely there. They will ruthlessly hunt down and destroy dogs in their range, and they concern me with small children.
I was interested to hear that Erin and Hig are carrying a flare to ward of the coastal bears, but I would get a bill for a big forest fire if I tried that approach.Jul 6, 2007 at 5:11 am #1394545
John S.BPL Member
5. Hike in groups (4 or more for bears)Jul 6, 2007 at 6:25 am #1394548
Roleigh MartinBPL Member
@marti124Locale: Moderator-JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group
6. Carry a PLB (I use the McMurdo FastFind, 11 oz) – a Personal Locator Beacon — for getting help fast if hurt — I also carry Bear Spray, I use a Carribeaner against my metal coffee cup as a no-extra-weight bear bell; and carry a loud ultralight whistle too.
7. Your hiking poles might be of use too.
8. And if a cat jumps me and all else fails, I have a knife that opens with one hand too.
But to date, the only thing I've had to spray was an over aggressive marmot. We've had bear encounters every year but one in Sequoia National Park but they were mid-day (never night), and nothing dangerous because we kept them at a distance. I've seen the cat tracks though.Jul 6, 2007 at 7:42 am #1394550
I like to hike among a group of 4 or more bears—-that keeps the lions away. As an added bonus— pesky scout troops will camp nowhere near you.
:-DJul 6, 2007 at 7:54 am #1394554
Its simple; you do not have to be faster than the bear; you just have to be faster than your hiking companion(s). Plan accordingly.Jul 6, 2007 at 9:11 am #1394563
Adam RothermichBPL Member
@aroth87Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Do you use hiking poles? Just start swinging. I thought I might have to do that to a deer one time.
We don't have much in the way of large, scary animals here. Some bears and mountain lions are thinly spread out. There have been recent reports of wild boars too. Something tells me I wouldn't stand a chance against any of them if they decided it was my time to go. Personally, I have my whistle around my neck and trekking poles in hand. That way I can get a few whacks in as I'm being mauled and blow my whistle to alert others in the area to run while they still have a chance.
AdamJul 6, 2007 at 12:33 pm #1394588
Ron BellBPL Member
7.9oz, also works on herbivore mammals gone rabidJul 6, 2007 at 1:27 pm #1394593
jim baileyBPL Member
@florigenLocale: South East
That's hysterical! can only imagine snoring loudly under that would deter even the most savage of beasts.Jul 6, 2007 at 1:34 pm #1394594
This from the man who turned me on to the use of spectra cord as a SUL Marmot garotte! >:-)>
Bring back team MLD!Jul 6, 2007 at 4:33 pm #1394619
Bob BankheadBPL Member
@wandering_bobLocale: Oregon, USA
In the true UL philosophy of multi-use gear, this will (1)provide protection from bears, cougars, agressive rodents, and noisy Boy Scout troops; (2) enable you to rest your weary legs on those long up-hill climbs, as well as protect your feet from the hot blacktop during roadwalks; and (3) the basket provides a convenient place to carry your bear canister, camera, snacks, etc.
The Deluxe model is equipped with a large golf umbrella to keep the sun off, but hey – we're trying to keep the weight down, right? Don't be a whimp.
Wandering BobJul 6, 2007 at 5:25 pm #1394624
…for backcountry defense, why not up the ante a bit with the venerable victorian sword cane—a walking stick w/ a sticker one can pull out.
Only a matter of time before some enterprising trekking pole manufacturer produces such a strategic deterrent. But, then, you must learn the art.
There's one in your eye, you blackguard!
You, too, can help create a Backcountry Arms Race. (You know you really want to indulge in those primordial childhood fantasies…… ) En garde, rascally bruins!
And remember—-It's better to stick than to be stuck!Jul 6, 2007 at 6:35 pm #1394627
I realize that there is a serious side to this topic, too, and that not all can be fun and games (although it has been fun). So, a serious response.
What I do—know thy potential predator, use common sense, and not let the presence of lions and bears prevent me from enjoying the outdoors. In the lower 48, even in grizz country, I generally have never bothered with firearms, sprays, or bladed weapons—either alone or travelling with others. In Canada and Alaska, I have carried pepper spray and once, a number of years ago, on the request of the NW territorial gov't, a rifle, as we were in a treeless subarctic region (Logans) w/ heavy brown bear presence and little human interaction.It was never used, was a heavy nuisance and the bears stayed at long binocular range (gawd, they were amazing)…
I have had some amazing sightings of both mountain lions and both black and grizzly bears. The lions were generally very shy, distracted by stalking their usual prey and fled at first sight of me. Black bears, I've had the most interaction with—I've never felt threatened by them but generally give them a respectful space but will lob a rock at them if they come too close to camp or kitchen—-I've never lost any food to them, I practice sound food pro methods. Grizzly, I stay out of thickets, generally travel in terrain with long sightlines and have made detours to prevent close encounters. Never have been bluff charged, let alone attacked—so I've never had to test the spray. Perhaps I've been lucky, but I have been travelling among the top feeders for quite awhile. Ultimately, one picks their risk level and (hopefully) intelligently plans to recreate within it.Jul 6, 2007 at 7:00 pm #1394630
Roleigh MartinBPL Member
@marti124Locale: Moderator-JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group
Such a hiking pole has been invented and is for sale:
The LuxuryLite® Big Survival Stik
3-Piece Big Survival Stik — weighs 9 ounces for a 50" Staff
1-Piece Big Survival Stik — weighs 6.6 ounces for a 48" Staff
Hidden inside both versions of the Big Survival Stik is the intimidating Needle Knife (think giant hypodermic needle). This scary ultrahard T-9 aluminum weapon is sharp enough to leave a big hole in any creature unwise enough to attack you.Jul 6, 2007 at 7:10 pm #1394631
One—it's not a trekking pole.
Two—looks ideal for picking up trail litter.
Three—it has none of the panache of a sword stick. We want Coolness!
Four—it wouldn't go with a frock coat.
cheers.Jul 8, 2007 at 12:13 am #1394746
I made a little quip here the other day about how silly the LL modular packs look, so now that I know their walking sticks conceal needle-knives, I really need to watch my back! I'd prefer not to be cored like an apple.
Perhaps I need to stop by the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone on my way through next weekend, and discreetly blow on a dog whistle. With any luck, Stoke or Revel will come right through the fence and smite the offender, at which point you will all know what not to do!Jul 8, 2007 at 4:14 pm #1394788
Tom KirchnerBPL Member
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
One question, Ron: does it work on the California Saber Toothed Chipmunk??? If yes, I'm on my way to your website, credit card in paw.Jul 11, 2007 at 12:39 am #1395049
I live in Alaska and have lived in the bush for most of my summers up here and have had many, many bear encounters and have been charged by Grizzlies twice.
Grizzlies are your only real worry and frankly if the bear is stalking you it does not matter what you are carrying. A noise maker of some kind is very effective if you stumble on to each other but I find that talking or yelling at a bear works very well.
The best protection:keep a clean camp, cook away from where you sleep, make noise in brush and heavy cover, (my singing makes small birds fall from the sky). If you are lucky enough to see a bear yell at it and do not run.
Wolves are really no threat to humans, too smart and too shy.Jul 12, 2007 at 9:52 pm #1395252
Reginald DonaldsonBPL Member
@worthLocale: Wind River Range
I just returned from a paddling trip to Churchill, Manitoba also known as "Polar Bear Capital of the World". For protection we carried an air horn, bear spray and bear bangers shot from a flare pen.
I could not locate the bangers in the Lower 48 and have never heard of them being advocated outside of Alaska and Canada. Not sure why? They can be purchased from http://www.gear-up.com
The pen weighs 1.3 ounces and 6 bangers weigh 2.7 ouncesJul 13, 2007 at 6:52 am #1395273
Michael CrosbyBPL Member
I purchased bear bangers from this location http://www.truflareusa.com/productcatalog.htm a few years ago. They do not seem to have them any more. Being around aviators so much in the military, I have carried pen flares for quite some time as a “just in case” backup. The work well and can be seen a long distance. minimal weight (two flairs and thumb launcher is 54.2 grams).Add a bear banger for an additional 13.6 grams.
Once in a driving rain storm I used a flair to start a fire and it worked great.Jul 13, 2007 at 10:06 am #1395295
Bear bangers might be a little extreme for the Lower 48, but I'm glad to know they exist. Definitely something that I'd keep in mind for AK or Canada trips with significant numbers of Browns, Griz, or Polar Bears.
I did notice that Gear-Up lists the Fox 40 whistle under Bear Deterrents, so perhaps that's part of my answer.
I've seen some small air horns, but not sure what they weigh.
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