Doing five simple things will lessen the chance that a black bear visits your campsite this year:
- Store your food and scented items, such as deodorants and toothpaste. Don’t leave them out where a bear can get them.
- Keep your campsite or cabin area clean. Don’t toss food scraps and other trash around.
- Don’t keep any food in the same area where you’re sleeping.
- If an item has a strong smell to it, you should probably leave it at home.
- Never feed a bear.
“If you follow these rules, you’ll not only help yourself, you’ll help other people too,” says Justin Dolling, game mammals coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources.
“A bear may not visit your campsite while you’re there, but the food you leave out and the litter you leave behind could bring a bear to that same area after you leave. And that could create a serious problem for people who camp in the area after you.”
Keeping your camp clean
Dolling says bears are usually attracted to people by strong smells and the food that’s usually associated with the smells. By doing a few simple things, you can cut those smells down. And that will greatly reduce the chance that a bear visits your camp or cabin:
* Don’t leave food out. Instead, lock your food and coolers inside your vehicle. You can also suspend them at least 12 feet high between two trees, so bears can’t reach them. You can also store your food in a bear-proof container. But remember that most containers, including plastic food coolers, are NOT bear proof. Various sporting goods stores and outdoors stores sell containers that are bear proof.
* Don’t scatter garbage, food scraps and fat drippings around your campsite. And don’t leave them in your fire pit, either. Instead, place them in an airtight container, lock them securely in the trunk of your car or inside your trailer and take them home with you. If bear-proof garbage cans are available in your campground, you can also leave them in the cans.
* After you’re done cooking and eating, immediately clean your cooking grills. And also clean anything used to prepare, eat or clean up food.
* Don’t keep any food in the area where you’re sleeping.
* Cook away from your tent or sleeping area. And don’t sleep in the clothes you wore while cooking or the clothes you wore while cleaning fish. Leave those clothes at your cooking area, along with utensils, rags and anything else used to prepare, cook, eat or clean up food. Or, better yet, seal the items inside a vehicle or in a bear-proof
If you’re camping in the backcountry, hang your food and the clothes you used while cooking between two trees and at least 12 feet off the ground.
* Don’t bring items with you that have a strong odor. Bears have extremely sensitive noses. Anything that has a strong smell, including deodorant, perfume and certain soaps, could draw a bear to your campsite.
* Never feed a bear.
More tips on how to stay safe in bear country, including what to do if you encounter a bear while hiking, are available at