Staying safe in bear country: 6 crucial tips

A black bear on a dirt road.
A black bear (Ursus americanus) outside Placid Lake State Park in Montana. Unfortunately, this bear had to be killed, because it had become habituated to people and was coming into campgrounds for food. Follow the tips below to avoid situations like this!

Here’s another guest post about a crucial topic: how to stay safe in bear country. While I was in Montana, someone got killed by a grizzly bear down the road from me because she ignored all of the safety advice. If you’re going to be spending time in bear country, please read this post thoroughly!


If you’re planning an outdoor adventure, you’ll want to make sure that your trip remains unaffected by one of nature’s most powerful and majestic creatures: the bear.

While it may be a thrill to spot these furry giants in the wild, they can also turn into unwelcome guests if you don’t know how to keep yourself safe. Whether you plan to go camping or are just visiting a nature reserve for some breathtaking views, there are certain steps you should take to avoid attracting and enraging bears.

In this blog, we’ll offer six crucial tips on staying safe while hiking (or otherwise adventuring) in bear country. Here’s everything you need to know about avoiding a potentially dangerous run-in with these wild animals.

Bear Safety Tips

Bear spray, shown here, should always be worn on your belt and easily accessible while in bear country.

Travel in Groups

Bears are typically more intimidated by groups of humans than a lone individual, so it is always best to travel in a group when you’re exploring bear country.

Be Bear Aware

Be on the lookout for bear signs like scat, tracks, or dig marks on trees. If you know that an area is famous for its bears, be extra vigilant about checking your surroundings.

Carry Bear Spray

You should carry an EPA-approved bear repellent with you in case of a close encounter. You can use this spray like you would pepper spray or mace, with some differences (see note below), to distract and repel aggressive bears.

Note: The main difference between bear spray and standard mace is that bears run much faster than humans. As such, if a bear is charging you, don’t try to aim for its eyes, because you won’t have time. The best thing to do is to spray a cloud of bear spray in a downward motion in front of you, so that the bear runs into it.

There might be more information about bear spray in a subsequent post.

Respect the Bears

It is important to remember that bears are wild animals and that you should respect them as such. Always stay a safe distance away from them, and never feed or approach them.

Store Food Appropriately

If you’re bringing food on your travels, take care to store and dispose of it properly. Not only is this the respectful and sustainable thing to do, but it’s also one of the most efficient ways to protect yourself and your campsite from pests!

Store food in your backpack in a closed container to conceal strong, attractive odors and dispose of any scraps appropriately in a designated garbage bin.

Some campgrounds – like Salmon Lake State Park in Seeley Lake, Montana – have metal “bear lockers” that you can store your food in.

Most importantly, do not – I repeat, do not – sleep with food in your tent in bear country!

Don’t Ignore Signs of Aggression

If you encounter a bear, back away slowly and don’t scream or run. Bears will usually let you know if they’re agitated by growling, huffing, and bluff-charging. Stay calm, try not to make direct eye contact, and don’t make any sudden movements.

Concluding Thoughts

The great outdoors can be an amazing place for all, but taking the necessary precautions to stay safe should always be at the top of your list. Following these crucial tips for staying safe in bear country will give you a better chance of avoiding unpleasant encounters and making your time outdoors even more special.

About the Author

Dan Coconate is a local Chicagoland freelance writer who has been in the industry since graduating from college in 2019. He currently lives in the Chicagoland area where he is pursuing his multiple interests in journalism.

Note: The above post includes some personal observations from Josh’s time in bear country.

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