Everyone that has known us for awhile can tell you that our favorite places to be during the summer and fall are the Sierra Mountains. Yosemite National Park, Fallen Leaf Lake, and Lake Tahoe are some of our usual destinations. One thing these three places have in common is Black Bears.
I would like pass on what Rangers have told me about Black Bears. I learned some of this while camping with Rangers testing bear proof containers above Hetch Hetchy reservoir, just outside Yosemite National Park, California. This area is where they took bears then that were causing problems in the Yosemite valley. I have bear stories from that trip, but that is another blog . Other information came from the Lake Tahoe area Back Bear safety pamphlets.
A bear’s prime motivation is food! Bears are attracted to easy meals, anywhere people prepare or leave food. If a bear doesn’t find food, it moves on.
Black Bears are normally docile. When given a way to avoid conflict with people, bears usually take it. When they have food though, they will protect it and their cubs. Have a can of bear pepper spray repellent with you and ready to use, but only use it if the bear attacks.
Black Bear attacks are rare. Even if a Black Bear charges, it will usually stop before reaching you as long as you give them space and are not between the bear and cub. An important thing to remember is not to run.
Bears are not vindictive and do not get mad when food is stored where they can’t get to it. They will stay around until they have run out of ideas though.
Black bears are smart. They learn rapidly and know where they have found food in the past. When there is a smell of food, sweet drinks, makeup, or they have found food at a location before they will search for it. They can easily get into a tent and have been known to pry into cars, home window screens, and doors.
While camping, it is always best to store food in a bear box (found in developed campsites), or hung on a tree line or small limb out of reach of bears. And don’t forget that garbage smells like food to a bear.
People around you need to be educated. If you do all the right things and your neighbor does not, an attracted bear will look around you too.
Black Bears climb trees when frightened. Treed bears will eventually come down if left alone, but may stay in the tree for several days.
Black bears, not used to people, are normally like cattle. They scare away easily with noise and thrown rocks. Never try to take back food a bear has found and never get between a mother bear and her cub(s).
Just like people, when you think you know their habits, someone breaks the mold and does something different. It is the same for Black Bears. Black Bears in the Lake Tahoe area are used to people. They will walk right into your camp looking for food and they are harder to scare away. See our post Purchase Bear Pepper Spray For Camping & Hiking for examples.
Unfortunately, Lake Tahoe area Black Bears will come to your camp, people there or not. This is where they can be dangerous and un-informed people can get hurt. If a bear comes into your camp and gets food, do not try to get it back. Just like a dog, they will protect their food. They will also protect cubs, so give them space until they leave.
Be safe out there and remember to purchase bear pepper spray repellent for camping and to use it only in defense of a bear attack.
More true stories to come.