How To: Camp in Bear Country

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From Xplor: May/June 2017

Black bears are one of Missouri’s most magnificent mammals. And it’s exciting to see one — from a distance. But waking up to a bear rummaging around in your camp can be scary. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to make it less likely that a bear will lumber in for an unexpected visit.

  • DON’T bring food, soap, toothpaste, sunscreen, stove fuel, bug spray, or any other smelly stuff inside your tent. Bears have a keen sense of smell and will investigate anything with an odor to see if it might be good to eat.
  • DON’T leave food out. If you aren’t cooking or eating it, put it away.
  • DON’T pour grease or leftover food on a campfire. Instead, let it cool then store it in a bear-proof container.
  • DON’T leave coolers outside when you aren’t using them. Most aren’t bear-proof, and bears often know that there’s food inside.
  • DON’T burn or bury trash. Bears will dig it up.

A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear

Never, ever feed a bear. Bears that learn to get food from people often become bold and aggressive. They may damage coolers, tents, and vehicles or harm humans. When they behave this way, the bear often must be killed.

If a bear comes calling...

If you hear a bear outside your tent, make sure it knows there’s a human inside. Flip on a flashlight and yell, “Go away bear!” Most bears are scared of people and will skedaddle into the woods the moment they hear, see, or smell a human.

  • DO place your tent upwind and at least 100 yards away from cooking and food storage areas.
  • DO change into clean clothes before bed. Store the clothes that you wore while cooking in a bear-proof container along with other smelly items.
  • DO choose a place to camp away from animal trails, berry patches, and fresh bear sign (tracks, poop, clawed-up trees).
  • DO keep a clean camp. Wash and put away pots and utensils after you’re done using them. Wipe off picnic tables. Pick up any scraps of food that you drop.
  • DO keep coolers inside a vehicle when you aren’t using them.
  • DO store smelly items away from your tent and cooking area. Place them inside a vehicle with the windows rolled up or in a bear-proof canister. Smelly items can also be hung in a bag from a branch at least 10 feet high and 5 feet away from the trunk.

Show-Me black bears

Biologists think that between 300 and 350 black bears live in Missouri. Most live in the Ozarks, but a few have been spotted in the northern part of the state. Wherever you camp, be bear aware.

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This Issue's Staff

Bonnie Chasteen
Les Fortenberry
Karen Hudson
Angie Daly Morfeld
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White