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john braun
(Hitman) - F

Locale: West Florida
Warding Off Bears on 03/19/2009 09:44:25 MDT Print View

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.

Dana S
(Naman919) - F

Locale: Richmond, Virginia
Re: Warding Off Bears on 03/19/2009 09:48:54 MDT Print View

John,

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."

- Dana

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: Warding Off Bears on 03/19/2009 10:13:28 MDT Print View

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.

P. P.
(toesnorth) - F

Locale: PNW
Re: "Warding Off Bears" on 03/19/2009 10:35:46 MDT Print View

<"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. :-/

David Dixon
(Talusman)
Whistles on 03/19/2009 10:46:52 MDT Print View

A whistle is a signalling device in the backcountry, not something to blow mindlessly to frighten wildlife real or imagined.

Edited by Talusman on 03/19/2009 10:47:23 MDT.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: Warding Off Bears on 03/19/2009 11:37:18 MDT Print View

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. :)

Michael Landman
(malndman) - F

Locale: Central NC, USA
Re: Whistles on 03/19/2009 11:38:27 MDT Print View

"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 Wink


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...
enjoy snack...
listen for next bell

Zack Karas
(iwillchopyou@hotmail.com) - MLife

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Warding off bears on 03/19/2009 12:23:50 MDT Print View

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.

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Does singing to bears work? on 03/19/2009 12:42:14 MDT Print View

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.)

--MV

Ryan Linn
(ryan.c.linn)

Locale: Maine!
Re: Does singing to bears work? on 03/19/2009 13:01:05 MDT Print View

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.

Joshua Gilbert
(joshcgil2) - F

Locale: Seattle
re:Warding Off Bears/ singing and whistle blowing on 03/19/2009 13:45:12 MDT Print View

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.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Hahhah on 03/19/2009 14:27:03 MDT Print View

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!" ;-)

Michael Landman
(malndman) - F

Locale: Central NC, USA
Re: re:Warding Off Bears/ singing and whistle blowing on 03/19/2009 14:42:36 MDT Print View

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 thing

Edited by malndman on 03/19/2009 14:47:32 MDT.

Joseph Jacaruso
(CaptainJac) - MLife

Locale: Southeast
Black Bears on the AT on 03/19/2009 14:53:47 MDT Print View

John

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.

Michael Landman
(malndman) - F

Locale: Central NC, USA
Re: Black Bears on the AT on 03/19/2009 15:03:46 MDT Print View

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.

Find it here:
BackpackingLight article about Bear Bag Hanging Techniques

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: Black Bears on the AT on 03/19/2009 16:21:55 MDT Print View

Michael,
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)

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Black Bears on the AT on 03/19/2009 16:28:47 MDT Print View

"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.

Joshua Gilbert
(joshcgil2) - F

Locale: Seattle
Re: Warding Off Bears/ whistling on 03/19/2009 17:08:34 MDT Print View

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.

Edited by joshcgil2 on 03/19/2009 17:34:26 MDT.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Bears on 03/19/2009 17:56:36 MDT Print View

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).

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: Bears on 03/19/2009 20:44:17 MDT Print View

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? :)
grizzly