Be beary aware

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Be beary aware

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According to the Division of Wildlife Resources, black bear populations in Utah have tripled since the year 2000, standing at about 3,000 to 3,500 with recent data. Along with growing populations come increased amounts of hunting permits for black bears that are being administered, which significantly increase national and state parks budgets, allowing them to function properly.

Because black bears are in canyons and mountains close to us and populations are increasing, it is important for nature enthusiasts to know how to be safe around bears.

Yellowstone rangers advise that the best thing to do if a bear is seen in the wild, is to slowly put more distance away from yourself and the bear, until it is out of sight completely. Bears can run twice as fast as humans, and get agitated easily when people get close.

Anyone who goes into the mountains to hike, bike, camp, or anything else, should carry bear spray. Bear spray is one of the most effective ways to escape contentious situations between people and bears, and it doesn’t harm the bear.

The effective ingredient in bear spray is Capsicum, which deters the bear by temporarily hindering its ability to breathe,  and its senses of sight and smell, which gives the person or people a short opportunity to escape. When fleeing the scene, walk back slowly. Running can trigger a predatory reaction in the bear.

According to the Yellowstone web page, there are two main types of bear attacks. Predatory/curious, and charging attacks. During predatory/curious attacks, the bear will move slowly at the beginning. If possible, grab all supplies and food, and slowly exit the scene. If the bear begins attacking, it will most likely not stop until it is injured, overpowered, scared away, or killed. Because of this, fight with every weapon that is present. If bear spray is accessible, use it when the bear is about 20 to 30 feet away.

The other form of bear attack is a charging attack. This usually happens when the bear feels threatened, which causes it to act defensively. In the event of a charging attack, use bear spray when it is about 60 feet away or less. It has actually been proven that when people firmly stand their ground during a defensive attack, bears are likely to cease their aggressive behavior and stop charging.

If the bear continues to charge, it is important to not drop and “play dead” until the bear is extremely close to reaching you, or on the very first contact. Yellowstone employees advise,”Lie on your stomach and clasp your hands over the back of your neck with your elbows protecting the sides of your face. Remain still and stay silent to convince the bear that you are not a threat.” After this, remain still for a few minutes to give the bear enough time to calm down, then walk slowly away from the area.

There is no way to ensure that you will not come across a bear in the wild, but with the right knowledge and equipment, you can make sure that you exit the situation in one piece.

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