Staying Safe In Black Bear Territory

With between 850 and 950,000 black bears residing within the United States and Canada, we share our space with amazing […]

Holli & Lolli Black Bears

With between 850 and 950,000 black bears residing within the United States and Canada, we share our space with amazing wildlife. Bears are wild animals, and should be respected and left alone in their native habitat. There are many misconceptions about what to do when encountering a black bear or when exploring black bear territory. 

Although black bears seem intimidating because of their size, they are extremely illusive and would rather choose to be far away from humans. Due to habitat destruction, bears have been forced to find homes as well as food resources closer to humans. To help protect black bears and their home, it is important to follow safety procedures in order to ensure they are able to live a natural life. 

Bears are omnivores and spend most of their active time foraging for food. They can smell up to 30 miles away, and will take advantage of easy food sources. While living or visiting bear country, please follow important procedures in concealing food and trash to keep yourself and bears safe. 

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has provided some tips on bear safety essentials when in black bear territory: 

Essential Safety Practices:

  • Always be bear aware!
    •  Look out for signs of black bears in the area such as paw prints, claw/bite marks on trees, scat, and evidence of digging
    • Be prepared when visiting bear country, use bear safe containers, and carry bear spray
  • Make yourself known by making loud noises
    • Talk with friends, clap, or play music. It is never a good idea to startle a wild animal
  • Respect wildlife, we are in their home 
    • NEVER feed a wild animal regardless of their size or species
    • A fed bear = a dead bear
  • While hiking in bear country, keep dogs on a leash, and small children near you
    • Explore in open areas where is it easier for bears to avoid you 
    • Stay together in groups and do not wander off the trail
  • While camping, leave food locked in your vehicle, use bear safe containers or hang in a tree
    • Do not leave food in your tent, or leave trash around the campsite 
    • Secure food and scented items in a bear bag, and hang it 100 yards in a tree away from your campsite 
  • Anticipate and avoid bear encounters
    • Know when you are entering black bear country
  • There is no minimum safe distance from a black bear
    • The further the better
    • Use a long-range zoom to take pictures, keep your distance
  • Each bear encounter is unique
    •  There are no exact rules to be applied in a complex situation with wildlife. You are ultimately responsible for yours and others safety 

Encountering a Bear: 

  • If in a vehicle, remain inside, do not get out to take a picture or get closer. Keep windows rolled up, and do not stop in the middle of the road to view the bear
    • Do not impede the bear from crossing the road 
  • Encountering cubs: the sow (mother) is nearby and most likely ran to safety. Leave them alone, the mother will be back for them 
  • Running into a bear: STAY CALM, do not run away
    • Slowly back away from the bear
    • Face the bear, waving your arms and making loud noises
    • Try to not look the bear in the eye, and give it enough space to run away
    • Animals have a fight or flight instinct, they would rather run away than fight, and giving them space allows them to run away 
  • Do not climb a tree
    • Bears are excellent climbers and will chase after you if threatened 
  • If the bear stands on its hind legs, talk in a normal voice and wave your arms slowly
    • Make yourself look bigger 
    • Shout loudly and calmly while slowly backing away from the bear 
  • Report any bear activity, whether aggressive or approaching humans, to a wildlife officer 
  • Always protect yourself and be prepared There have been very few reported bear attacks, and the bears that do approach humans are those who are habituated by people and human food
    • Use bear spray when necessary, although you should never be close enough to a bear, surprise encounters can happen, and it is important to react accordingly 

The Most Dangerous Bears: 

  • Bears habituated to human food (DO NOT FEED BEARS!)
    • Once they find a food source, they will keep returning. A nuisance bear is often euthanized because it becomes a danger to humans
  • Females with cubs 
    • Do not approach baby bears or interact with them, their mother is nearby to protect them! 
  • A bear defending a fresh kill or food source
    • Keep your distance from a feeding bear (or any bears!) 

While this list might seem extensive, all bear encounters are different from one another and are dependent on many things. To ensure your safety and the safety of wildlife around you, it is important to always be prepared and do your research before going on an outdoor excursion. For any questions or concerns relating to bear safety or native wildlife safety, contact your local Fish and Wildlife Service or us at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge at






Recent Posts