Camping and Hiking in Bear Country
Although black bears are generally shy and avoid contact
with humans, it's important to remember that bears are the state's largest predators.
Bears must be respected for their size and strength. Do not deliberately approach
a bear or try to become chummy with one that's coming to an established feeding
site. Play it smart. Keep your distance.
If you camp or hike in bear country, you're responsible for
doing all you can to prevent close encounters and conflicts with bears. Your giving
a bear food may serve as encouragement for it to approach someone else, someone
not looking for a close-up opportunity with a bear. If the person doesn't give
the bear food, it could lead to an unpleasant and possibly dangerous experience.
Never reward a bear for associating with people. It's what's best for you, the
next person and the bear.
Here are some steps you can take if you're spending time afield
in Penn's Woods:
- Keep your camp clean and odor free. Wipe tables and clean
eating utensils thoroughly after every meal. Burn all grease off grills and camp
stoves. In short, keep your tent, camper and sleeping bag free of all food smells.
- Store your food in safe or bear-proof places. Place foods
and coolers in your car trunk or suspend them from a tree branch. Never leave
food in your tent.
- Dispose of garbage properly. Use the camp receptacles if
provided, or store trash in your vehicle. Pack out your garbage if you must, but
never leave your garbage behind and people.
- If you hike at dawn or dusk your chances are greater of meeting
a bear or other wildlife. In places where hearing or visibility is impaired (roar
of fast-moving water, thick vegetation), reduce your chances of surprising a bear
by talking or making noise.
- Leave dogs at home or keep them on a leash.
What To Do If You Meet a Black Bear
Bear attacks are rare compared to the number of close encounters.
In most cases, a bear will detect you first and leave the area long before you'll
ever see it. However, if you do meet a bear before it's had time to leave, here
are some suggestions. But remember, every situation is different with respect
to the bear, the terrain, the people, and their activity.
STAY CALM -- If you see a bear and it hasn't seen you,
leave the area calmly. While moving away, talk to help the bear discover your
GET BACK -- If you have a close encounter, back away
slowly while facing a bear. Avoid direct eye contact, which a bear may perceive
as a threat. Give the bear plenty of room to escape. Wild bears rarely attack
people unless they feel threatened or provoked. If you're on a trail, step off
on the downhill side and slowly leave the area.
DON'T CLIMB OR RUN -- If a cub is nearby, try to move
away from it. But be alert, there could be other cubs. Never climb a tree to escape
because sows chase their cubs up trees when they detect danger. If you climb a
tree, a sow may interpret that as an attempt to get her cubs. Stay on the ground
and don't run or make any sudden movements. Running may prompt the bear to give
chase, and you can't outrun a bear.
PAY ATTENTION -- Bears will use all of their senses
to figure out what you are. If they recognize you as a person, some may stand
upright or move closer in their efforts to detect odors in the air currents. Don't
consider this a sign of aggression. Once a bear identifies you, it will usually
leave the area. However, if the bear stays, it may pop its jaws as a warning sign
that it's uncomfortable. That's a sign for you to leave. Back away and slowly
leave the area. If you ignore the jaw popping warning, some bears have been known
to bluff charge to within a few feet. If this occurs, wave your arms wildly and
shout at the bear.
FIGHT BACK -- Black bear attacks in the eastern United
States are rare. However, they have occurred. If a bear attacks, fight back. Bears
have been driven away when people have fought back with rocks, sticks, binoculars
and even their bare hands.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission is responsible for managing,
conserving and protecting wildlife. If you have a nuisance bear problem, or have
been threatened by a bear, please contact the Pennsylvania Game Commission at
the following telephone numbers:
|Northwest Region Office
|Southwest Region Office
|Northcentral Region Office
|Southcentral Region Office
|Northeast Region Office
|Southeast Region Office