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Recreating in Bear Country


Human behavior is half of the equation in a positive wildlife encounter. Here are some tips on human behavior that will help you prepare for safe outings.

  • Inquire about recent bear activity in the area.
  • Carry and know how to use bear pepper spray for emergencies.
  • Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
  • Travel in groups of three or more people whenever possible and plan to be out in the daylight hours.
  • Stay on trails or rural roads.
  • Watch for signs of bears such as bear scat, diggings, torn-up logs and turned over rocks, and partly consumed animal carcasses.
  • Keep children close.
  • Make your presence known by talking, singing, carrying a bell, or other means, especially when near streams or in thick forest where visibility is low. This can be the key to avoiding encounters. Most bears will avoid humans when they know humans are present.
  • Use caution in areas like berry patches where bears occur.
  • Don't approach a bear; respect their space and move off.


  • Camp away from trails and areas where you see grizzly signs.
  • Keep a clean camp at all times. Keep tents and sleeping bags free of odors.
  • Avoid cooking smelly foods.
  • Hang all food, trash and other odorous items well away from camp and at least 10 feet above ground and 4 feet from any vertical support, or store in a bear-proof container. Livestock feed should be treated the same as human food.
  • Don't sleep in the same clothes you wore while cooking or eating.


  • If you kill a game animal, immediately field dress the animal and move the carcass at least 100 yards from the gut pile. Gut piles can be easily slid on a small piece of visqueen plastic.
  • If you must leave the carcass, hang it, in pieces if necessary, at least 10 feet above the ground. Leave the carcass where you can see it from a distance, and when you return, observe the carcass with binoculars before approaching. If a grizzly has claimed the carcass, leave the area and report the incident to the proper authorities. It's not worth risking your safety or the bear's safety.
  • Elk hunters should be aware that bugles and cow calls can attract bears. Stay alert! Many encounters between hunters and bears occur in dense brush.
  • Read Hunting Safely in Grizzly Country 238 KB for more details.


  • Don't leave fish entrails on shorelines of lakes and streams. Sink entrails in deep water. If you don't properly dispose of entrails you increase danger to yourself and to the next person to use the area.