Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rawr! Bear!

This image was forwarded to me today in an e-mail. I sat there, read the whole thing, laughed and then got to thinking. From my experience of practically growing up in Yosemite, people for the most part do not know how to act around bears. So lets take the time to learn a little bit about the bear we will most likely come across in California.

If you are familiar with our state flag you will notice we have a bear on it. Now that isn't just any bear. The bear residing on our state flag is the Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis). Sadly the grizzly bear is now extinct in California. Back in in the early 1900's grizzly bears were hunted and killed as people moved their families and business out west. Grizzly bears being violent in nature posed a major threat to many people back in a time with limited science, technology and absolutely no regulations. Thus the bear was driven completely out of California. California does how ever have flourishing population of Black Bears (Ursus Americanus.) The black bear is a crafty little bear that seems to be making headlines across the state. Whether he is breaking into a Volkswagon Vanagon looking for Costco muffins, or being part of a huge controversial expansion plan headed by the California Department of Fish and Game (SLO County know what I'm talking about). 

Okay, so what do we need to know about this bear? Well first off if you plan on doing any camping or hiking in California's forested areas chances are you will be hearing about these guys. Black bears pose problems to people because people are generally not bear aware. Black bears are opportunistic scavengers. This means if they see an opportunity to snag some food, well by golly they will. As mentioned above they will break into cars just to find some sweet smelling grub. So please, if you go into bear country remember to keep anything that has a scent stored properly in bear proof containers and lockers. This is not only for your protection, but the bears health and safety rely on this as well. Lastly, what do you do if you are encountered by a black bear? Well who knows what your first instinct is. Maybe it's to snap a picture, maybe it's to scream like a school child and run. Regardless of what you may feel inclined to do, the proper reaction to any black bear encounter is the following:
  1. Stand your ground
  2. Make your self appear as large and as intimidating as possible
  3. Make loud noises. For example: Bang your trekking poles together or yell
  4. Throw sticks and stones at the bear if it will not move away from you
You should only attack the bear if it is a last resort and the bear attacks you. In this case you should aim for its nose and eyes. Like I mentioned, this is a last resort as it will most likely not happen. Black bears by nature will usually retreat if it feels threatened and will only attack if it feel like it has no escape or it is protecting cubs. Always leave a bear with an escape route.

The California black bear is a beautiful creature and should be treated with respect. Do your best to reduce the impact that we have on bears by properly storing your food and anything with a scent properly. If you know anything about Yosemite's bear regulations then you will know this is for the bears health and well being.

I now leave you with a video I grabbed from about how to survive a 1 on 1 encounter with a bear. Be safe!

**Video was set to a permanent auto play, heres the link for you to click on instead:

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