More Bear Basics

 A grizzly sow and three cubs – it was our lucky day! Of course the fact that we were in the car at the end of the day, instead of on the trail, made the whole experience slightly more enjoyable.

Sow grizzly with triplets. (Photo: Chris Blanchard)

Outdoor adventures in the summer increase chances of wildlife sightings. One of the best ways to avoid unexpected bear encounters is to make lots of noise. There are bells and horns and bangers – but which one is best?

  1. Bear bells – one can sound quite melodic… for the first few minutes and then they just become annoying for other hikers around you. The other thing about bear bells is that the sound doesn’t carry very far and by the time you are close enough for the bear to hear you coming, you are probably already in full sight.
  2. Bangers – we were up at an alpine lake last fall when we heard what sounded like a gun shot. Later that afternoon we came across a pair of hikers and mentioned the noise. They shuffled their feet and then said it was them, with a bear banger. The owner had never fired it before and he wanted to see how it worked. As he tried to fire it off, the banger fell off at his feet. He tossed the cartridge launcher aside and ran just before the banger went off. Bangers – well, they might work if you know how to use them.
  3. Air horns – they are loud and obnoxious, but if you really want to clear the trail, this’ll do the trick. Of course, you then have to worry about other hikers wanting to kick you out of the backcountry!

Personally, I like to use my voice on the trail when I can’t see ahead or I’m traveling next to a noisy creek. Singing (even slightly off-key) works; as does shouting out the occasional “Yo Bear.” And it’s only slightly embarrassing when another person not in your hiking party rounds the corner!

What noise makers do you use to help avoid bear encounters?

© 2011

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