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Department of Fish and Game offers tips on staying safe in bear country

May 18, 2011 |  1:00 pm

A young black bear foraging in the Falls Picnic Area caused the closure of parts of San Bernardino National Forest in 2009. Campers, anglers and hikers enjoying the outdoors may have encounters with wild animals -- including black bears, which are estimated to number 40,000 in California. Certain precautions can and should be taken when it comes to interaction with these omnivores, especially by limiting food odors that attract bears.

"Bears are constantly in search of easily obtainable food sources," said Marc Kenyon, California Department of Fish and Game statewide bear program coordinator. "A bear’s fate is almost always sealed once it associates human activity with potential food. It’s always unfortunate when a bear has to be killed because people either haven’t learned how to appropriately store food and trash, or simply don’t care."

The California Department of Fish and Game shares the following precautionary tips that should be taken when in bear country:

-- Keep a clean camp by cleaning up and storing food and garbage immediately after meals.

-- Never keep food in your tent. Instead, store food and toiletries in bear-proof containers or in an airtight container in the trunk of your vehicle.

-- Use bear-proof garbage cans whenever possible or store your garbage in a secure location with your food.

-- Don’t bury or burn excess food; bears will still be attracted to the residual smell.

-- Garbage should be packed out of camp if no trash receptacles are available.

-- While hiking, make noise to avoid a surprise encounter with a bear.

-- Keep a close watch on children and teach them what to do if they encounter a bear.

-- Never approach a bear, pick up a bear cub or attempt to attract a bear to your location; observe the animal and take pictures from afar.

-- If you encounter a bear, do not run; instead, face the animal, make noise and try to appear as large as possible.

-- If attacked, fight back; if a bear harms a person in any way, immediately call 911.

The Department of Fish and Game’s Keep Me Wild campaign was developed in part to address the increasing number of conflicts between black bears and people, and provides further tips for living and visiting safely in bear habitat.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A young black bear foraging in the Falls Picnic Area caused the closure of parts of San Bernardino National Forest in 2009. Credit: California Department of Fish and Game