Publisher's View: Bear Predation (Commentary)

Do bear canisters reflect poor management policy and only serve to increase bear tolerance of humans?

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by Ryan Jordan | 2005-10-12 03:00:00-06

Publisher's View: Bear Predation (Commentary)

RIGHT: Daniel Feinberg views the massive expanse of Buffalo Meadows, north of Yellowstone National Park and home to healthy populations of grizzly bears and their food sources: huckleberry, trout, and whitebark pine. Photo: Copyright © 2005 Ryan Jordan Collection.

Backpacking in the most remote areas of the United States (Yellowstone or Alaska) is a humbling experience: you are not at the top of the food chain.

Indeed, there is some (small) probability that you will be the object of predation by a grizzly bear.

Picture this: waking up to the sounds of huffing, snorting, growling, and jaw cracking of a bear ripping through your tent intent on eating you. After consciousness slips away, the bear will drag you some distance and feed on your body (often starting in your midsection). Then, you'll be covered in dirt as the bear guards the cache - you - by taking a nap on top.

This is nonfiction wilderness in its finest hour, no?

Ironically, there may be absolutely nothing you can do to avoid the encounter. Good camping, food handling, and storage practices probably help, but provide no insurance policy against either avoiding an encounter with a predatory bear, or surviving one. Sometimes, in predatory attacks, it is doubtful that even bear spray and powerful guns can be deployed in time to guarantee survival.

Are we sensationalizing the terror of bears in the backcountry? Ask the families of Timothy Treadwell, Amy Huegenard, Glenda Ann Bradley, Kathy Huffman, and Rich Huffman. The common denominator of their existence: they have all been eaten by predatory bears in the past few years.

California wilderness parks make for good case studies of controversial bear management practices. The storage of food in so-called bear-proof containers (while the hiker is encouraged to sit back 50 yards or more and be patient) trains bears to be persistent and further habituated to the odors of human food. YOSE officials believe that keeping your distance will result in a lack of human habituation - an interesting notion considering that the scent of a human - and its food - dominates a bear canister and its hiding location. Through generations of so called "no-reward" training (somewhat of a fallacy, in light of the fact that all food storage systems have been known to fail at some level), our bear canisters may unknowingly be contributing to the habituation of bears to human presence. When bears are no longer threatened by humans - or their food storage devices - the risk of predation may increase. Are YOSE and SEKI time bombs for bear predation? California bears already recognize cars and coolers as food sources. An increasing number of reports suggest that backcountry bears know darn well what's in food canisters. Is it simply a matter of time before a shift in the fragile ecological balance of California's wilderness results in a dramatic food shortage that sends bears searching for humans...as food? If bear predation can occur in GSMNP, it can certainly occur in California.

Another option: keep a night sentry armed with a can of bear spray to guard your "unprotected food" - giving any bear wanting an easy meal a blast in the eyes that will send it coughing and wheezing for an hour. Negative conditioning works. Grizzlies in Yellowstone and Alaska have been known to stop charging at the sight of someone holding up a can of bear spray - or the the sound of the spray exiting the can - without ever getting a taste of it - a sign that it has been sprayed before. Bears that have been sprayed multiple times by hunters in the Yellowstone area have been known to keep their distance from humans and avoid them readily. Much to the chagrin of agency managers in Montana National Parks and Wilderness areas, sleeping with your food - armed - is more common than they are willing to admit.

UDAP may have a better solution: a 3.7 lb backpackable electric fence that can be used to surround your camp and/or food. Again, the focus is on negative conditioning: providing punishment to the bear for seeking a human encounter. Negative conditioning may be the only way that predatory attacks on humans can be minimized. All the best management practices for food handling and camping won't deter a bear that wants a meal bad enough.

Or, maybe in 100 years, after black and grizzly bear populations have exploded, wilderness has dwindled, and climate changes shift food profiles, we may simply be asked by YOSE/SEKI officials to camp only in life sized canister tents provided by the park service.

Think about it: AMC Huts, California style.

Ryan Jordan is the publisher and co-founder of Backpacking Light Magazine. His 2005-06 slide show, "Grizzly Style", presents an honest and frank view of backcountry camping in grizzly bear country, discussing the discrepancies between real practice vs. mandated policy by land management agencies. In addition, Ryan discusses the practical limitations - and consequences - of existing bear management policies by Montana and California land management agencies, with particular attention paid to the policies of Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier, Great Smoky Mountains, Sequoia-Kings Canyon, and Yosemite National Parks. The slide show closes with a testament to the Great Bear and why its preservation is valuable to the health of American Society. For information on booking "Grizzly Style" for an event, please Contact Ryan at BackpackingLight.com.


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"Publisher's View: Bear Predation (Commentary)," by Ryan Jordan. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/bear_predation_jordan.html, 2005-10-12 03:00:00-06.

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Forum Index » General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion » Electric Bear Fence


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kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Being on top of the food chain --the sequel on 10/12/2005 20:14:10 MDT Print View

just when you thought it was safe to go Ultralight....

"I don't think that little electric fence is going to stop me".......muwa hahaha!

Edited by kdesign on 10/12/2005 22:38:58 MDT.

John Coyle
(Bigsac)

Locale: NorCal
Electric Bear Fence on 10/12/2005 21:05:52 MDT Print View

A friend of mine once showed me slides of his backpacking trips on Kodiak Island, Alaska from 15 years ago. He had lived there for several years during high school while his dad worked at the Kodiak Island Naval Base. I noticed in the photos he had a huge handgun strapped to his waist (Desert Eagle 44 magnum auto.) I was surprised to learn that this was for protection from the Kodiak Island brown bears, which he said were even bigger than the Grizzlies in Montana and Wyoming. According to him it was common practice to carry such a weapon for bear protection while backpacking in that area. Also I noticed from his slides that the designated backpacking campground he used was completely enclosed by a strong chain link fence-even fenced on top. I can't remember if he said the fence was electrified, but it may have been. That was bear management Kodiak Island style.

R Alsborg
(FastWalker) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Re: bears on 10/12/2005 22:04:12 MDT Print View

Is it just me or does anyone else feel they’d rather take their chances dealing with the bears versus the gun toting humans.

Edited by FastWalker on 10/12/2005 22:10:17 MDT.

Joshua Scholnick
(skinnyskier) - F
Bears on 10/12/2005 23:34:34 MDT Print View

Having spent a summer in Lake Clark National Park in southwest Alaska, as well as some other time in the mountains, I've had a fair amount of (close) contact with brown and black bears. Brown bears are *BEEP* impressive animals. We carried .44 Magnum revolvers, pepper spray, and 12 ga. shotguns for bear protection. Interesting that firearms are allowed in the 1980 "ANILCA" parks and preserves, but nowhere else in the park service.

I think I could stop a charging bear with a shotgun and slugs, but what about a hungry bear who rips open your tent in the middle of the night? While the chances must be small, recent events have proven them to be greater than zero. The option of sentry duty at night is pretty onerous for a small group.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: bears on 10/13/2005 00:21:33 MDT Print View

Roger,

depends upon the particular humans, oh...and the particular bears. on some sections of the AT near more populated areas, CT & MA, unless i were hiking with some others (rare), i wouldn't go near the shelters. is that b/c of bears or humans? don't get too many bears round these parts! (though have seen one some yrs ago - it was road kill..oh...the pick-em up truck that hit it...judging by the trail of debris leading away from the impact site, sorta' like drops of blood, the truck was....mortally wounded too.)

BTW, in case anyone is thinking "handgun" defense for griz. back in the 60's there was this program called "American Sportsman". originally, they took TV/Movie stars & atheletes on various types of "hunts" or fishing trips - later on a kinder, gentler Am. Sportsman developed, cameras were usually used instead of guns (yes, fishing was catch & release). one episode took this NFL player, a big guy (was it Dick Butkus??? can't remember), hunting for brownies in alaska - with a handgun. can't remember if it was a Ruger Redhawk (not even sure when it was first mf'd, but as i recall it had a chrome alloy color to it and no blueing), but it was identified as a .44 magnum handgun and had a scope mounted on top of it (i don't think 'Dirty Harry' was even out yet). some yrs later, when i first handled a Redhawk - scope and all - (way too much gun for me), it reminded me of that gun in that Am. Sp. episode.

well...to cut to the chase...they approach this innocent bear foraging in the ground for whatever an innocent bear forages in the ground for that time of year ...as they slowly approach (stalk) real close (50ft or so, maybe less), out of curiosity, the bear "pops tall" to get a gander and try to pick up a scent. guide whispers "now", NFL player aims for the heart. one shot. one kill. game over, man. of course, a predatory bear isn't gonna be adopting this "go on, i dare you, shoot me in the thoracic vitals pose", is it now?!! it already knows "what" you are (i.e., din-din) and "where" you are. so no need to pop to attention. that bear was a big, big, big, big bear. seen some like it in the Yale University Peabody Museum of Natural History (~1500lb and over 7' tall - move over Shaq!). NFL player was dwarfed by the size of his kill. very formidable looking animal.

y'all out west can keep your griz and brownies. i don't want to be messin' with even a 300lb hungry black bear. hope my bear spray works. REAL QUESTION: anyone know if "Counter Assault" is a decent product, or should i get the product Dr. J uses?

oh...one more thing. as if y'all don't have enough problem with griz. read in the news recently, some real intelligent folks are attempting to get permission to set up African game preserves complete with large herbivorous mammals, plus lions and hyaenas out in the flatter parts (savannah-like) of your neck of the woods. they say it's the only way to insure survival of these dwindling species. oh...yes...i've read that bear spray does work on lions, but then, generally speaking (if it's not a young or very old lone male), don't the females of the pride generally hunt in groups of at least 3-5 (one or two chasers and an ambush group)!!! better carry 2 or 3 cans of bear, er...i mean lion spray with you at all times.

in most food chains, there is room for only one "apex" predator. go ahead and intelligently cull (not wipe out) the bear "herds" (you get my meaning, right? maybe there are too many? don't know.). how many human lives equals one bear's life?...or...is it the other way around??? wonder how PETA would ans. that ques?


Josh,

i'll take the 0400 watch.


"Fun" Factoid for the day: just in case anyone is not aware, and enjoys learning about animals. Dr. J mentioned the predatory bear going for the mid-section. here's what i've read some years ago: wild cats, wolves, etc do the same. in packs the alpha beast gets the mid-section. why? they eat first. why the midsection first? partially digested food in the small intestine & the internal organs - both good sources of nutrients - that's why they can stay alpha the longest - they eat the best. remember, not bears (being omnivores, though they still exhibit this mid-section first behavior), but carnivores don't eat much vegetable matter, so they try to get it (and its nutrients) from the prey's small intestine and internal organs (store houses for some nutrients).

Edited by pj on 10/13/2005 07:01:42 MDT.

Andy Lewicky
(romanandrey) - F
hang the can? on 10/13/2005 09:37:52 MDT Print View

Seems like bear cannisters are a big experiment. How will they impact bear behavior, over time? Will they make hikers safer or less so?

I worry about the scenario where a bear finds a can, smells food inside, and spends a frustrating 15-30 minutes trying to get in, but can't. The bear probably goes into an appetite frenzy...and then notices, hey, there's something else nearby that smells the same...coming from that tent.

Maybe, crazy as it sounds, we should be hanging bear cans to lessen the possibility of the bear playing with it.

?

Donald Horst
(donhorst) - F

Locale: Sierra Nevada
Bear Predation on 10/13/2005 10:41:10 MDT Print View

Interesting commentary, but it is a strange mixture of fact, rumor, and pure speculation. It jumps back and forth among grizzly bears, black bears, and Alaska brown bears, Eastern and Western bears -- often lumping them all together. According to Herrero, the total number of people killed by bears is divided about equally between black and grizzly bears. It surprised me too. The grizzly attacks tend to be defensive, though of course not all of them are. The black bear attacks appear to be mostly predatory attacks by occasional psycho bears. Bears seem to be a lot like people. <g>

Alaskan fatalities are still another story. The bears sound like they are more aggressive in general, but there are not very many fatal cases to generalize from. The Treadwell case is unusual, but so was Treadwell.

As I recall, few or none of the fatal attacks have been in California, at least not in my lifetime. I have been backpacking in the Cascades and Sierra for over half a century, and I see bears from time to time. In the past 10 or 12 years, I have managed three to five trips in the Sierra each summer, and I camp near fresh bear tracks or scat fairly often. I have been using canisters for almost ten years now and have never had a bear even tip one over. A friend who also hikes a lot had his chewed on once in the middle 1990's, when they were still a new device, but not since. While there may be rare cases of bears spending a lot of time trying to get into a canister and even an occasional success, my experience is that most bears have learned that they are not food, no matter what they smell like. They are NOT like cars, most of which are easy to open [for bears]. I think canisters have been a fantastic success.

Ryan asks "Are we sensationalizing . . .?" I would say "Yes, in the extreme." Most of the grizzly fatalities I have read about in the Lower 48 did not even involve eating their victims. There are no such cases on the West Coast. The East seems to make everyone a bit meaner, including black bears. <g>

Ryan discusses pepper spray and electric fences. Others mention guns, and the Park people sometimes use rubber bullets. I suspect that more of all of these could help keep the bears afraid of people. Note that the wonderful 44 Magnums probably do more for confidence than safety. Unless you are an expert with a hand gun, youprobably won't even hit a charging bear with a hand gun, and compared to a shotgun, a 44 Magnum hand gun is a pop gun. Herrero recommends a shotgun when needed for protection against grizzly or Alaskan bears, but with all the obvious caveats about hikers blasting everything in sight.

But Ryan seems to have a second agenda dear to the heart of the fanatic ultralighters -- "Don't make us carry bear canisters." The paragraph about what MIGHT happen in the Sierra as a result of using canisters is a combination of non sequiturs and the wildest speculation, and is counter to any facts I am aware of. Instead, how about setting up roving check points on the PCT and arresting every hiker without proper food protection. Then, maybe ALL the bears would leave us alone, as MOST of them do now. <g>

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Bear Predation on 10/13/2005 11:34:52 MDT Print View

Donald, good comments. A few responses.

>> but it is a strange mixture of fact, rumor, and pure speculation.

Agree 100%. Bottom line is that there is precious little data to work with. I've tried to ditch the rumor part of it, but not the speculation. That's intentional.

>> The grizzly attacks tend to be defensive

The ones I mention specifically in the editorial were predatory. I'm not real concerned about defensive attacks by grizzlies. You really can't do much to "manage" that aside from hiking in large groups and making a bunch of noise, not hiking at dusk/dawn/night etc. One purpose of the editorial was to ask the question: "can we manage predatory attacks better?"

>> Alaskan fatalities are still another story. The bears sound like they are more aggressive in general...

In the ANWR and interior, maybe. Based on what I've read, they don't seem any more or less hostile than bears in Glacier or Yellowstone. They are truly "wild" bears. All of these populations (AK interior, MT) are quite aggressive, relative to AK coastal bears, which tend to be well fed (salmon) and quite docile (at least until the salmon quit running, but by that time most tourists and hikers are gone anyway). They are very tolerant of humans, not because they are used to them, but because they aren't really a threat to their food source.

>> but there are not very many fatal cases to generalize from.

Yes, we "need" more data, unfortunately :)

>> As I recall, few or none of the fatal attacks have been in California

That's right.

>> I have been using canisters for almost ten years now and have never had a bear even tip one over.

You are going to the right places then. The areas I'm speaking about are primarily those backcountry locales where habituated bears live.

>> I think canisters have been a fantastic success.

Success, if it's measured by keeping bears from food, I agree. I'm posing the question for discussion (and not necessarily advancing the position) that canisters *may* have a habituation downside, a theory supported by long term observation at those camps in the Sierras where habituated bears are active.

>> Most of the grizzly fatalities I have read about in the Lower 48 did not even involve eating their victims.

Most fatalities are defense attacks, not predation. Predation fatalities nearly always results in the bear eating their victim.

>> But Ryan seems to have a second agenda dear to the heart of the fanatic ultralighters -- "Don't make us carry bear canisters."

No, no, not at all, actually. I'm happy to carry a canister where it's required. 2 lbs is really not that big of a deal if it means keeping your going by saving your food.

>> The paragraph about what MIGHT happen in the Sierra as a result of using canisters is a combination of non sequiturs and the wildest speculation

Yes, agreed. I do want to foster open discussion that is a little out of the box, however.

Good points, thank you.

Ryan

AK Hiker
(akhiker) - F
BEARS BEARS BEARS ALASKA on 10/13/2005 12:08:14 MDT Print View

This is a very interesting topic. Although there are general rules for "bear country" not all bear country is the same. Dr. Jordan was right on when he noted the difference between the Coastal bears and Interior bears. They behave differently. Although there is still alot of research being done, there are about 3 cases where a bear in the Interior specifically targeted people for food.

The Hula Hula attack was an interesting one. The Huffmans were well practiced in bear country and took many precautions to prevent attacks. They were not tourist that didn't have a clue. It is a very sad attack. Are Alaskan bears more aggressive in general? It depends and alot of these comments stated earlier are "speculation." The predatoary bear attack is not normal for Alaska (although it has happened and will continue to happen) and worries alot of biologist. The 9 year old bear from the Hula Hula attack was taken to the Fairbanks Fish and Game office.

Having used portable electric fences, they certainly have their place. I used them in camp while doing research for Fish and Game. One a side note, this is not "new" technology. Electric fences have been used for years in Alaska. I don't see, however using them my self while backpacking.

One note about pepper spray in Canada (response to another post), in Alaska if you are backpacking and start in Alaska and backpack into Canada you can carry pepper spray. You cannot, however drive to Canada with that pepper spray.

So do we fear enough for our lives that we need a gun? It depends I guess. I have taken guns and pepper spray. We possessed guns in field camp and pepper spray. One interesting thing is pepper spary versus guns. Research shows no significant difference between those carrying guns and those carrying pepper spray that got attacked. A gun will not do any good if you don't know how to use it, nor will pepper spray. Although pepper spray is easy to use, when faced with fear it can be difficult. (Although don't test spray your pepper spray!)
http://www.absc.usgs.gov/research/brownbears/pepperspray/pepperspray.htm

If you do have a gun and have killed a predatory bear in Alaska, you have to pack out the hide, claws, and skull and turn this into to the Fish&Game Office ... I guess that would ruin you base weight, not to mention skinning a bear is a messy process that we might not be prepared to do with our "ultralight" knives. I have used pepper spray on an attacking bear and it has not worked to get rid of the bear. (To be used effectively, pepper spray must hit the eyes and nose of the attacking bear).

Interesting enough, there haven't been attacks on groups sized 6 or more.

A good article published in the ADN (Anchorage Daily News) can be found here:
http://www.adn.com/outdoors/craig_medred/story/6717777p-6605075c.html

Let's face it: predaceous attacks are rare. As long as we are doing all that we can, we shouldn't fear. Part of the lure of bear country is the fact that everything isn't controlled, if we want protection and peace we can go to the zoo where animals are caged. When we go to the backcountry, we are no longer the big guys on the food chain and we have to respect that.

Edited by akhiker on 10/13/2005 12:11:47 MDT.

David Bonn
(david_bonn) - F

Locale: North Cascades
why I'm not worried about bears... on 10/13/2005 12:24:31 MDT Print View

I think humans are generally extremely bad at sorting out risks. Especially when the risk of a spectacular, messy death is involved.

A hiker is far more likely to die from bee stings than from a bear attack. But you don't see anyone carrying bee repellent (even if such a thing exists). You don't see National Parks giving handouts and videos about "bee safe camping" (although the alliterative possibilities are quite impressive).

Other than the fact that humans are very bad at math and statistics, why is this so?

I think it is mostly because bears are kind of cool. Let's face it, they are the most interesting large animal a hiker in North America is likely to see. We have a complicated kinship relationship with them, and they are a symbol of untamed America on a par with the buffalo and bald eagle (by the way, I saw an eagle this morning just down the hill from my house -- the steelhead are running and it was feeding well -- made my morning). We humans have coexisted with bears for our entire history, and the body count has been enormously in the human's favor.

It is a great and wonderful thing to see a bear out in the wild. Kind of a privilege, too. Most of the time I suspect the bears are well clear of us before we even have a chance to see them (I'd steer well clear of humans too if I were any bear). I'd miss them if they were gone.

If the point of being in the wilderness is maximum safety (which it can't possibly be!), it is logical to start with the risks that are most likely to end in painful death. So we'd need to get rid of thunderstorms and bees before we started on the bears...

I'd agree with Ryan's assertion that present bear management policies might well be making for bigger bear problems down the road. I think that is a very safe prediction based on the track record of the agencies involved. The NPS and Forest Service are staffed with nice, well-meaning people (most of the time). But they have a profound history of well-intentioned mismanagement.

David Bonn
(david_bonn) - F

Locale: North Cascades
why I'm not worried about bears... on 10/13/2005 12:29:39 MDT Print View

I think humans are generally extremely bad at sorting out risks. Especially when the risk of a spectacular, messy death is involved.

A hiker is far more likely to die from bee stings than from a bear attack. But you don't see anyone carrying bee repellent (even if such a thing exists). You don't see National Parks giving handouts and videos about "bee safe camping" (although the alliterative possibilities are quite impressive).

Other than the fact that humans are very bad at math and statistics, why is this so?

I think it is mostly because bears are kind of cool. Let's face it, they are the most interesting large animal a hiker in North America is likely to see. We have a complicated kinship relationship with them, and they are a symbol of untamed America on a par with the buffalo and bald eagle (by the way, I saw an eagle this morning just down the hill from my house -- the steelhead are running and it was feeding well -- made my morning). We humans have coexisted with bears for our entire history, and the body count has been enormously in the human's favor.

It is a great and wonderful thing to see a bear out in the wild. Kind of a privilege, too. Most of the time I suspect the bears are well clear of us before we even have a chance to see them (I'd steer well clear of humans too if I were any bear). I'd miss them if they were gone.

If the point of being in the wilderness is maximum safety (which it can't possibly be!), it is logical to start with the risks that are most likely to end in painful death. So we'd need to get rid of thunderstorms and bees before we started on the bears...

I'd agree with Ryan's assertion that present bear management policies might well be making for bigger bear problems down the road. I think that is a very safe prediction based on the track record of the agencies involved. The NPS and Forest Service are staffed with nice, well-meaning people (most of the time). But they have a profound history of well-intentioned mismanagement.

R Alsborg
(FastWalker) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Re: why I'm not worried about bears... on 10/13/2005 13:38:01 MDT Print View

My backpacking territory extends throughout the Southwest (Colorado to California). Being outdoors is my passion. I feel fortunate to have encountered many wild animals including black bears, big horn sheep, wolfs, cougars even diamond backs in their natural environments without ever an incident. I feel that has something to do with having a serious respect for all wildlife. I also feel canisters, electric fences and guns will never replace common sense.

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
what, me worry about bears? on 10/13/2005 13:50:43 MDT Print View

Roger, that's absolutely right.

The Wilderness would be a more boring place without a few objective dangers. We can make up all the subjective ones we want.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh cool!

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
My misgivings about bear predation, canisters, humans as prey, the situation in SEKI on 10/13/2005 17:28:34 MDT Print View

Lots of interesting comments since I posted my original thoughts. Kevin, if you're interested in documentation about incidents in SEKI, the White Mountain RS in Bishop is a good place to start. That's where I picked up most of my info. Also one second hand report from a friend of a guy that got bear-handled in Mitre Basin(he went back with a .357 after he got out of the hospital-don't know how he fared). Ken, I agree; I, too, will take my chances. But I have never carried a canister and so far so good. My strategy is to be where they ain't, which is in the remoter parts of Sequoia NP. I have gotten away with it so far by camping high and dry where there's nothing to attract bears, including other humans. I call it "coyote camping". As for Bearikade failure, according to the folks at Wilson's Eastside Sports, even properly closed canisters have distorted enough to spring the lids. Don't know if that's valid, but they seem generally to be pretty knowledgeable. Keep the good comments coming, this is a subject near and dear to my heart and general sense of self preservation. Bottom line: They're bigger, faster, meaner and plenty smart. Interesting odds.


(Anonymous)
electric bear fence and bear cans. on 10/13/2005 20:10:54 MDT Print View

Ryan,
I suggest you contact the Park's biologist at Sequoia Kings NP if you are looking for more real world data. They would be happy to talk to you if you explained the purpose. The park has been using bear cans for at least 15 years and as far as I know (at least as of 2002 when I last worked there) has never had a failure of a can except due to human error, such as not seating or latching the lid properly. They have also tried wiring entire cars with electricity with little long term effects. Sure the bears didn't like it but they soon just learned to avoid that make and model of car. This is similar to how the bears seem to have learned that bear cans can not be opened and they don't bother with them any more. When bear cans first went into use bears would spend hours trying to get into them, but now it is rare even in highly used areas for bears to spend any time playing with a can and most often will not even touch them. The Sequoia website is www.nps.gov/seki they have some info on the site and you can find there main contact phone number there. Hope you find it usefull.

Michael Fickes
(mikefickes) - M
Solo Hiking In Grizzly Country on 10/13/2005 23:24:21 MDT Print View

Anyone have experience backpacking solo in grizzly country? Wondering if chances of attack are really greater when solo.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Solo Hiking In Grizzly Country on 10/13/2005 23:30:12 MDT Print View

Yes, the majority of my backpacking (distance wise at least) in the Yellowstone area is solo.

I've seen many more grizzlies while solo or with a single partner than as part of a group of 3 or more. Why? To speculate: while solo or with a partner, we're making less noise, generally. Less on-trail conversation. In addition, while solo or with a partner, I hike earlier and later in the day, and most (80%+) of my grizzly encounters and sightings have been in the magic hours of 5 am to 9 am.

On the flip side, both times I've had seemingly predatory bears enter a camp, I was in a group of 4-6 people. The bear I talked about above that was after the gut pile of a recently shot elk, there were three of us.

William Siemens
(alaskaman) - F
alaska bears on 10/14/2005 00:15:03 MDT Print View

I have more than once been false-charged by grizzlies...not at all pleasant. Still sometimes I "pack" when out there, sometimes not...that's when I'm alone...when I have the kids along, I take a very large bear preventer...call me a wuss if you want.. to me it is no different from taking an avalanche probe in winter, or a spare tire for that matter. Bill

William Siemens
(alaskaman) - F
alaska bears on 10/14/2005 00:17:46 MDT Print View

I have more than once been false-charged by grizzlies...not at all pleasant. Still sometimes I "pack" when out there, sometimes not...that's when I'm alone...when I have the kids along, I take a very large bear preventer...call me a wuss if you want.. to me it is no different from taking an avalanche probe in winter, or a spare tire for that matter. Bill

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Bear predation on 10/15/2005 18:51:05 MDT Print View

The discussion may or may not be far out of the box IMHO, Ryan. Recent events in the upper part of the Bubbs Creek drainage, between Vidette Meadows and Forrester Pass show an ominous trend. While no actual bear predation of humans has occurred, yet, there have been several injuries in recent years, and earlier this year Center Basin was closed to overnight camping due to extremely aggressive bear behavior resulting in at least one injury. And this is in an area where park rangers rigorously enforce regulations requiring the use of canisters. Bluff charging has occurred in this area. It seems to me that the bears, or at least a subset of the population is edging closer and closer to "the Line". I, personally, have avoided this area for years now in favor the remoter reaches of Sequoia NP, where there are very few people and even fewer bears, canister free, and so far unscathed.