Bears at Your Campsite
When participating in outdoor activities in occupied bear habitat, thinking ahead can help prevent bear encounters.
Outdoorsmen should be as noisy as possible when walking in bear habitat, especially when fresh bear sign is encountered. If possible, avoid walking at dawn, dusk and during the night, as these times are when bears are most active.
Remember, however, bear encounters can occur at any time.
It is much easier to keep bears from being attracted to hunting camps, campsites or picnic areas before a problem starts, than to deter them once attracted. Camps are sometimes visited and damaged by bears searching for discarded food and garbage. A bear that finds food at one camp may decide to visit others and cause problems there. As bear numbers increase, it will become more important for camp owners to maintain clean, garbage-free grounds. Bears are like very big raccoons, except bears are much stronger and are capable of causing considerable damage in search for food.
When camping, the easiest way to prevent attracting a bear is to eliminate or hide appealing items such as food, but also toothpaste, deodorant, and other items with strong scents. Bag your food in airtight, odor containing bags, store the food in a sack or other container, and hang this at least 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet from the tree or pole away from your campsite. Campsites, including buildings, should be kept as clean as possible. Specific areas should be designated for cleaning fish and game, and these areas should be cleaned thoroughly after each use. Refuse from cleaning should be buried deeply or stored in a bear-resistant container and removed from the site. Keep garbage in a locked container and remove it when you leave the camp.
Bears will search a container for any cracks or openings they can get their teeth or claws into to rip open the container. Bears will claw or chew on the material until it gives way or knock or jump on the container until it breaks open. Sealed containers that reduce odor or leaking of food material are recommended. Suitable containers include a locker or a steel drum with locking snap rings, PVC plastic tubes may be used as long as the diameter is large enough to prevent the bear from crushing the tube with its mouth.
Absolutely no food or garbage should be left in an unoccupied campsite. Corn or other foods used for baiting should be kept in a locked food container inside a storage shed or in the camp. Do not leave any food in deer stands or in a parked vehicle, including a four-wheeler or boat. Discarded food wrappers, including candy bars, soft drink cans and pastry wrappings, are attractants and should not be thrown on the ground.
The best thing to do is what not to do: DON'T LITTER!
Black bears have damaged wooden structures constructed of pressure-treated lumber in parts of the historic range. Some deer hunters have found the wooden supports of tower stands gnawed so extensively that they were rendered unsafe for use. Gnawing bears have also caused extensive damage to wooden signs and outbuildings in some areas. Presumably, chemical salts used to preserve the wood were the main attractant.
Use of alternative construction materials should be considered where bears regularly damage wooden structures. Steel, aluminum, fiberglass, and other durable materials can be used instead of treated wood to build and/or shield deer stands, signs, and other structures.
Foodstuffs that may attract foraging bears should be removed from unoccupied buildings and stored in bear-resistant containers. Contact the wildlife department regarding what is considered bear resistant. This includes human and pet food and food items commonly used to attract wildlife (e.g., molasses, salt blocks, corn, wheat). Bear-resistant doors, window shutters, and fences can also be used to protect unoccupied buildings.