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Thread: Bear Country

  1. #1
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    Default Bear Country

    I had a couple general questions concerning overlanding through bear country (Wrangell St. Elias). What's the most efficient and practical way to store a month's worth of food? I've been told that I would need a sufficient amount of bear-proof containers to store all of the food away from the veichle (which I will be sleeping in) every night. Would I be okay rigging a line to suspend the food (not in bear-proof containers) from a tree? If I've left my veichle in the bushfor 4-7 days and gone backpacking, where should I put the food? Still suspended in the tree?
    Also, anyone have experience with the bear-repellant sprays? Are they effective in deterring a charging bear?
    Any general tips on travelling in bear country would be greatly appreciated.
    James Norton

  2. #2
    Graduate Member GoodTimes's Avatar
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    Whenever I am backpacking in bear country (every year or three), I keep the food I am packing in a bear can, away from camp. I also leave all of the pockets and compartments of my pack open, and away from camp (easy access for any animals that are going to go through it....so they are less likely to destroy the pack to get in). In fact, I don't even cook in camp. I usually cook and clean up, 100yards or more, away from camp, change clothes (since they are covered in 'cooking smell'), and leave it all away from camp. That way there is minimal 'smell' in camp to bring the bears in.

    A couple years ago I was packing along the continental divide trail in So. Colorado. *something* came through camp at some ungodly hour of the morning. I woke up to hear 'whatever it was' take a couple steps right outside my tent, take a long deep breath, take a couple more steps, another long deep breath....repeat several times until it was out of camp, and I couldn't hear it anymore. There were no clear tracks in the morning (camped on hard packed dirt....), so I can't tell you it definately was a bear....but bears are generally sleeping at night, not wandering around looking for some camper to snack on, but it is not unheard of for them to be active late at night....

    I have seen video's of bears literally tearing doors apart to get into a vehicle with food inside (they grab the top of the door above the window, and pull out...folding the door in half). So definately don't leave anything inside (this includes deoderant, sun tan lotion, etc). If you hang it, be sure it is 15' or more off the ground, the tree is sturdy enough to support a bear (can't knock it over), and you hang is far enough away from the main trunk that the bears can't climb the tree, then reach out to the bag. Some more popular areas provide 'bear boxes' at trailheads. I have used these to put my cooler, etc., inside of before a few days in the bush. They are not secure from the 2 legged animals, but will prevent the 4 legged variety from getting to them, and keeps everything that 'smells' out of your vehicle (thus giving bears little reason to break into your vehicle).


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    Enjoy Life Ursidae69's Avatar
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    Wow, great question. All I have to deal with in the southwest are black bears. Black bears are pretty easy to deal relatively speaking. They killed off the last grizzley in the southwest in 1979 in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Sad... But, my answer is that I don't really have one. I visited Denali NP a few years ago and they were pretty strict about using the bear proof containers. But a months worth of food?? Wow, that will be a challenge. Good luck, can't wait to hear how this trip goes.


    I should know more about bears considering my username is Ursidae.





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    Post Edited (Ursidae69) : 5/16/2005 12:10:49 PM (GMT-8)

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    watchfuleyedesigns.com sells these odor proof bags called opsak that are odor proof and water proof to many feet. i use the regular non odor proof version while diving for wallet and such. get the biggest they have and pack them up. you won't have any problems if you take care of them, they are fragile, but much cheaper than bear canisters or any other method for that matter.

    Post Edited By Moderator (JackSilb) : 9/18/2005 8:41:48 PM (GMT-8)

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    on another note, i've had friends have to use the pepper spray for bears, 1 said it worked, and i have several friends that work for nfs that say they have heard otherwise. when i travel in bear country i carry a 12 gauge with hp slugs. its the only thing i would trust to stop a bear. i have only seen a bear twice, and neither time i was even seen by the bear, so i wouldn't even worry about it if you get the odor proof bags for your food. they will keep all animals away including the rodents if you use them properly. or you can always just bring a friend who can't run as fast as yourself. :)

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    Moving Target kcowyo's Avatar
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    Shame you can't take this guy and his bow with you - possible world record Grizzly taken with a bow from 8 feet away



    "Sometimes road trips are an adventure.And sometimes, they're just two people trapped in a small metal room without coffee."
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    Capsacin-based sprays have proven effective in dozens--probably hundreds--of documented bear encounters. That does NOT mean they're infallible--but then, neither is a 12-gauge. When my wife and I were paddling in the Arctic, where both grizzlies and polar bears were possible, we carried both pepper spray and a bolt-action .458 Magnum. Never had to use either, but it was nice to know they were there! Each of us carried a can of spray, which we never went ANYWHERE without, in homage to the first rule of gunfighting (have a gun!).

    Remember that aggressive bear encounters are extremely rare if you follow protocol. Sounds like you have a good plan for food handling. Definitely do not leave anything in your vehicle.

    Sounds like an awesome trip!

    1973 FJ40: 290,000 miles and still exploring.

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    quasi-modo crawler#976's Avatar
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    Looks like the good points have been covered- but I'll pass on the ones we got while stationed in Kodiak.

    Bear spray was not common back in the late 70's/early 80's when I was there. The standard firearm for bear protection was a pump or auto 12G w/ 3" slugs. Unfortunately, it's not an optionif you're travelling thruCanada.

    We camped at least a 1/2 mile from streams with Salmonduring the runs.


    Since most of Kodiak is barren of large trees, using a tree stash is not possible. We carried emergency dried foods when backpacking. Eachpouch was wiped w/ alcohol prior to packing it.

    Don't cook in camp. We fished for sustinance - so anything we cleaned andpreparedwas done at least a 1/2 mile from where we tried to sleep. Wash pots and pans squeeky clean, and store away from sleeping area.

    We had more camp trouble with pine martens than anything else. Very inquisitive little buggers...

    While I wasfishing on the Buskin River close to the USCG base on Kodiak, I had a neat encounter with a Pine Martin.I was sitting on a cut bank with astringer of Dolly Vardenin the water at my feet. The little bugger came down the bank, crawled across my leg and down my waders, and took a fish right off the stringer with a couple quick bites. It looked up at me and took off!

    I carried a 3wt2 piece 7' fly rodand anultra-light spin cast rod. Both were very handy depending on conditions.

    Enjoy your trip- Alaska is an awesome experiance.

    "Ordinarily he was insane, but he had lucid moments when he was merely stupid." Heinrich Heine


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    Enjoy Life Ursidae69's Avatar
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    Crawler#976 said...

    We had more camp trouble with pine martens than anything else. Very inquisitive little buggers...

    While I wasfishing on the Buskin River close to the USCG base on Kodiak, I had a neat encounter with a Pine Martin.I was sitting on a cut bank with astringer of Dolly Vardenin the water at my feet. The little bugger came down the bank, crawled across my leg and down my waders, and took a fish right off the stringer with a couple quick bites. It looked up at me and took off!

    I carried a 3wt2 piece 7' fly rodand anultra-light spin cast rod. Both were very handy depending on conditions.

    Enjoy your trip- Alaska is an awesome experiance.

    I had to jump in when I read about the pine martin, I saw my first one last summerwhile on a hike in Sangre de Cristo mountains near my house. They really are inquisitive and cool critters. Attached a couple pics I took of him.


    As far as bears go, I think it's all been covered really well, great knowledge base at this site. Wish I've been to half the cool places some of you have been too. I attached another picture I got of a couple bear cubs I saw on a hike a few years ago. Mamma was close by huffing at me and I left soon after the picture. Closest I've been to a bad bear story. Sorry for the size of this pic.


    2004 Tacoma Extracab TRD
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    I love that first photo of the marten. I had no idea they got that far south, but looking at my Peterson I see the little finger of range down into New Mexico. I'll have to ask my friend who lives near the Magdalenas if he's ever seen any there. He and I have a plan to find a new farthest north specimen of a rock rattlesnake somewhere near his place.

    1973 FJ40: 290,000 miles and still exploring.

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