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Guidelines for Grizzly Country
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Guidelines for Grizzly Country on 09/13/2011 13:27:46 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Guidelines for Grizzly Country

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
po0p on 09/13/2011 13:59:56 MDT Print View

I'm pretty psyched you used that photo for the banner.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Trees on 09/13/2011 20:43:41 MDT Print View

Q - Is it true that grizzly's can't climb trees? Or are some grizzly's able to? Obviously you'd wouldn't want to climb a small-medium tree that the bear could push over.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Trees on 09/13/2011 20:59:55 MDT Print View

Study bear claws and you will see the answer. Black bears have a hooked claw that is very effective for tree climbing. Cub bears and yearling bears are very good climbers, but full-grown black bears generally get too fat to climb very far up a tree. Grizzly bears have a straighter claw that is effective for digging. Cubs and yearlings can climb some, but not nearly as easily as black bears. Full-grown grizzlies are generally much too fat to climb far. On the other hand, if they are escaping from some enemy and if they are running full tilt, they seem to run halfway up a tree trunk before they stop. Grizzlies do much better at running than climbing.


Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Spelling on 09/13/2011 22:35:00 MDT Print View

Isn't it "hyperphagia"? I think "hyperphasia" is a sort of speech disorder.

Keith Selbo
(herman666) - F - M

Locale: Northern Virginia
Information on 09/14/2011 06:19:50 MDT Print View

I didn't find this article very informative. More platitudes than substance.

John Arana
(qgecko) - F

Locale: Oklahoma
Respect on 09/14/2011 07:51:22 MDT Print View

Good article. It might be more platitudes than substance, but most guidelines fail to convey a good sense of respect for that which can kill you. I especially appreciate the book suggestion:

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Oops on 09/14/2011 08:10:22 MDT Print View

Good catch on the spelling mistake Dean.

As for the lack of specific recommendations, that is the point, largely. I run into too many folks around here (Glacier NP, the Bob) who read a website, get the NPS lecture, and think they're good to go. There's also the intended audience for this article. If you already have a bit of experience hiking in Griz country, you should be reading journals and professional literature, not periodicals for a general audience.

Mark Ries
(mtmnmark) - M

Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
Great start on 09/14/2011 10:20:32 MDT Print View

Thanks David a great start on a subject that needs to be addressed with facts more than personal opionions. My first backpacking trip to Glacier involved close incounters with a mother and cubs, then a single bear sniffing my head through the tent and then the fear in my head when finding out on our last night out that it was the aniversary of the night of the grizzleys and we were staying at the granite park campground. When I got off the trail I bought the "Night of the Grizzlys" book as well as the Dr. Steven H. book and have bought and read maybe 5-6 other books since then. One can just say dont worry cause statistically few people get hurt or killed but tell that to the wifes and familys of the victims such as what has happened lately in YSNP. Alot of the bear deaths that have happened could have been avoided. Now if I ever get nailed the bear can dine on my educated A$$ seasoned with pepper spray :^) Thanks again for the article and I hope to see more on this subject that has science behind it rather than the "I travel in griz counrty all the time and they never hurt me yet" opinions

John Coyle

Locale: NorCal
Guidlines for Grizzly Country on 09/14/2011 10:32:17 MDT Print View

My girlfriend and I did a car camping/dayhiking trip to the Tetons and Yellowstone this summer in mid-July. We were a little apprehensive because a day hiker had been killed a week before on the Wapiti Lake Trail near Canyon Village, which was a trail I had planned to hike. We decided not to hike that trail, but we did camp at Canyon
Campground which was only two miles from the attack location.

We didn't see any Grizzly's near the campground, but we saw a Grizzly on a day hike up Mt. Washburn. We took the Dunraven Pass trail and saw the the Grizzly as we approached the fire lookout on the top of Mt. Washburn. The bear was a half mile away, near the Chittenden Road, which is a hiking trail, but also a road used by Park Service vehicles to maintain the fire lookout. The bear appeared to be digging in the ground eating grubs, as a ranger watched from 50 yards away holding back 6-7 hikers. The bear took off when a Park Service maintenance trunk came up the road to work on the fire lookout. I had never seen anything that big move so fast; that bear must have been going 30mph. I talked to the people in the truck, and they didn't even realize they had scared the bear off until after the fact. After the bear ran off, the ranger walked to the fire lookout, where we were, and described the incident to the people in the lookout. He said the bear was not aggressive or threatening anyone,just feeding on the grubs. I noticed the ranger had a bear spray canister on his belt, just like me.

My girl friend and I followed most of the guidelines in the article while hiking in Yellowstone, but we did carry bear spray and sing loudly in areas where it seemed there might be a bear around the corner. I was fixated on the Cat Stevens song "Moonshadow" which somehow seemed appropriate for the situation. "And if I ever lose my hands..." and so on.

John Coyle

Locale: NorCal
Guidlines for Grizzly Country on 09/14/2011 10:43:20 MDT Print View

Here you go. Just sing this song loudly in Yellowstone and the bears will run the other way, at least the way I sing!

Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Spelling on 09/14/2011 12:32:39 MDT Print View

The misspelling has been corrected. Thanks!

Nancy Lethcoe
(nlethcoe) - F
Re: Guidelines for Grizzly Country on 09/14/2011 16:44:56 MDT Print View

I hike alone in bear country in Alaska and almost always see sign and frequently bears. From my reading, it seems most bear problems here occur when people fail to alert possible bears to their presence, so I wear loud sounding bells, sing, and blow a whistle before rounding a blind corner.So far, I've had no problems. I also even on day hikes put all food in a bear canister. I think this helps reduce the food odor.
I'd certainly like to see more discussion in the backpacking light and ultra light about bear safety equipment, etc.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Guidelines for Grizzly Country on 09/14/2011 17:46:15 MDT Print View

I really like your guideline about humility. Also, Herrero's book is a good read for sure. Have not hiked Yellowstone or the Bob yet, but will during next couple of years.

Well done! Thanks

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: guidelines for griz country on 09/14/2011 18:41:49 MDT Print View

Thanks for the input everyone. I think a discussion of the choices people make in bear country and why is very valuable.

When I pitched the article I had in mind a more traditional, what to do and what not to do sort of thing. Once I dove into the research I realized that for this subject that approach, tempting though it is, is just a bad idea. There are always exceptions to any rule, and too many of them when bears are concerned, and the most important issues are in the end just obfuscated by such an approach anyway. So I wrote what I wrote.

It may be asking too much of a lot of folks, but once you understand a bit about Griz and their habits you can make much better choices for yourself. The Soda Butte (car) camp ground outside Cooke City, Montana which was the site of the predatory attacks last summer is in a terrible location, as is Cooke City itself. There's a good reason Fishing Bridge doesn't allow tents, and why there have been so many incidents in the big quadrant between the Yellowstone, Lamar, and Pelican Creek. Understanding why is very valuable.

Sean Staplin
(mtnrat) - MLife

Locale: Southern Cdn Rockies
I almost didn't read the article. on 09/15/2011 03:19:16 MDT Print View

I almost didn't read what I thought was going to be "just another article with very little real info". I was pleasantly surprised with a great little read and was impressed that rather than tell people what to do, a reference was given to a higher authority on the subject. In my eyes this lent the author instant credibility as someone who has actually really thought about the subject. I actually had Herrero as a prof back in early eighties.

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Good work, David on 09/15/2011 04:43:10 MDT Print View

David, you were correct in thinking that your article should have been a sort of basic primer, and not pretend to be any sort of definitive treatise on grizzly safety. There are several excellent books, notably Herrero's, that go into myriad aspects of griz behavior, and you simply didn't have the time or space to get into all of that. Your article was intended to get people to think about what they should learn, and that came through nicely.

Many hikers go to Yellowstone, the Tetons, and Glacier thinking that "the ranger will tell me everything I need to know about grizzlies." This is unfortunate, because those rangers don't have the time to give everyone a solid understanding of the various aspects of how bears operate. They have the people watch a short video on bear safety, discuss food hanging and cooking, and general hiking habits.

My buddy Jim Williams, who is YNP's head backcountry ranger, has a tough job. He issues the backpacking permits, and he has scant time to educate every single hiker that steps into his office. I have sat in that office several times, listening to him go through his orientation spiel. I am astounded at the general lack of knowledge that many backpackers have regarding grizzly safety (most come from out of state, so that's understandable). There's no way that Jim can get people truly educated in a matter of just a few minutes. Most hikers seem to ask the right questions, listen carefully to Jim's answers, then go to the store and buy extra pepper spray, and maybe Herrero's book to read the night before they start their hikes. A few others come in rather arrogant, acting like they already know everything about bears.

My favorite Jim Williams story involved a cocky guy from California (no offence, people). Jim asked him how he planned to care for his food. The guy said, "I know all about bears, I've seen all the safety videos, and I always use a bear canister in Yosemite." Jim mentioned that the preferred YNP way was to hang the food on the provided poles. The guy seemed astounded, and he said he would use his canister, thank you. Jim, a bit tired at the end of a long day, simply shrugged and asked the guy, "Well, would you rather have the bear look up and think, 'darn, the food is hung up high again,' or would you rather have him play soccer with your canister outside your tent all night long?"

And, as long as the subject of learning more about animal habits and behavior is being discussed, I would suggest for people to also learn a bit about moose--those are the critters that seem to cause me the most anxiety out there.

Thanks for a well written piece, Dave. It's a nice contribution.

(Edited for spelling)

Edited by Zia-Grill-Guy on 09/16/2011 08:39:51 MDT.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
the real way on 09/15/2011 19:19:13 MDT Print View

heres the real way on how to survive dem fuzzay wuzaays ....

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Griz protective devices on 09/15/2011 21:12:47 MDT Print View

I carry a full size bear spray canister in Yosemite. Never been in griz country but I'd carry that canister there too.

In addition (in the U.S.) I'll carry a titanium Tarus .44 magnum revolver, the mimimun needed to stop an upset gizzly bear. Smith & Wesson also makes an even slightly lighter (& more 'spensive) ti .44 mag revolver.

This last statement may upset some and elict some "I would never carry a firearm in grizzly country" or "You're a redneck.", etc. - but then maybe they've never talked to a survivor of a grizzly attack.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Griz protective devices on 09/16/2011 17:39:45 MDT Print View

"I'll carry a titanium Tarus .44 magnum revolver, the mimimun needed to stop an upset gizzly bear."

IF you manage to place the shot, you'll probably only get one, in a vital location.