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While hiking and camping can be fun activities, they can also be dangerous when people are not well prepared or are inexperienced. Heading into the wilderness brings you closer to nature, but sometimes close proximity leads to confrontations with wildlife as frequently happens with bears. The presence of bears at many camping and hunting sites shouldn’t be surprising; after all, we’re encroaching on their territory, and they were there long before we arrived. Certain steps can and should be taken to avoid bears while participating in these activities – for our own safety and theirs.

National parks are among the sites where visitors are most likely to encounter a bear. Some of them are frequented by grizzly bears, including Grand Teton and Glacier Parks. At these parks, visitors are advised to have bear spray on them at all times. However, Yosemite is one national park where visitors are not permitted to carry it since there are no grizzly bears in the park, only black bears.

Navigating sites with grizzly and black bears call for similar tactics in the name of protection. In general, it is best not to go hiking first thing in the morning or right before sundown. These are the times of the day when bears are more active.

Experts recommend that any hiking expedition should include at least four people. Groups smaller than four are more likely to be targeted. Groups of hikers should always make enough noise that any nearby bears know they are on the premises. They can do this by clapping, singing, chanting, and hitting the ground with their hiking poles. However, it is best to avoid screaming or whistling, as this can scare the bears and make them more aggressive. Hikers should also keep in mind that background noise, such as howling winds, may render bears unable to hear their human adversaries.

There are also extra precautions that should be taken when camping. It is crucial to avoid leaving food lying around where a bear could get to it, which attracts them to campsites. Food should be stored properly, preferably in a metal locker. Other items that should be kept away safely include toiletries, cookware, and even empty Tupperware containers.

Bears are attracted to tents that emit a foul smell, so it is best to keep dishes and unused food washed and clean. Dishes should be washed with as little unscented liquid soap as possible. Dirty dishwater should never contain bits of leftover foods. 

By taking these precautions when hiking and camping, you can prevent run-ins with the local bear population leaving you with more time to enjoy the scenery and less dangerous wildlife. 

Article originally published on Medium