For those of you in more rural areas where wildlife is abundant, you may find that certain animals, such as bears, can be a nuisance and can also present a real danger to your pets.
A dog will be able to smell a bear long before it is within a danger zone. Having your dog off leash in an unfamiliar area and allowing him to roam, can not only create problems but can actually lead the bear back to you. Remember that most bears would like to avoid an encounter with a human as much as a human would like to avoid an encounter with a bear.
A fast dog can run up to 25 to 35 miles per hour and a mature adult bear can run about 30 miles per hour and is far more adept at running, climbing and swimming than you are. If you see a bear before it sees you, quietly get out of the area as quickly as you can. Walk – do NOT run – because the quick movement of running can potentially cause a bear to chase after you. If the bear sees you and comes towards you, make sure you do not move suddenly or erratically.
If you must speak with someone else, do not scream. If the bear is approaching, throw something such food toward the bear without angering him. A larger object such as a backpack or a box of cereal may keep the bear occupied long enough for you can escape safely. If there is a narrow opening along a tight trail, try not to block the way out. Allow some space so the bear a way out if he so chooses. Blocking the only escape route may cause him to feel threatened and exacerbate any potential dangers.
Different types of bears have different types of reactions and reactivity. Most bears would rather avoid an encounter with a human and would much prefer to wander through the woods unhurried and unbothered. Black bears are more likely to back down if you wave your arms and make yourself appear bigger. If you are wearing a jacket or sweater, put your arms straight out to the side (much like a peacock or blowfish) trying to make yourself seem bigger and more formidable. The bear will see you as a solid object, including the coat or sweater, and you will appear more menacing as a potential opponent. Grizzly bears are far more aggressive so consider having a bear repellent spray or canister with you in case you find yourself in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation.
So, where do dogs fit into this? You may think that your 90 pound Pitbull or 80 pound German Shepherd is going to help you, when in actuality he is more a deterrent to wildlife when he is near you. If your dog angers the bear, the bear may potentially follow him back to your camp, thus bringing him into a dangerous area. If you have a small to medium sized dog such as a Yorkie, Boston Terrier, French Bulldog or Sheltie, the bear will likely be concerned because of the he will seem like a potential snack. If you are with your dog, pick him up or draw him near you on the leash, quiet his barking and slowly move away.
Make sure not to feed your dogs or other animals where they may spill food on the ground and potentially attract the bears closer to your campsite. Don’t leave fruits, vegetables or meats in your tent. Place garbage in a sealed plastic bag and place it far away from your campsite. If you are camping with children, and will have dirty diapers and used baby wipes to dispose of, place them in a plastic bag that will not permit the smells to permeate the air. If you are planning to barbeque, make sure to clean the grill well or grill a little farther away from your campsite since the meat and remnants on the grill may attract bears and wildlife. Many camping and outdoor stores sell bags that can be hoisted up a tree to prevent bears from potentially getting into your belongings. Unfortunately, the smells will attract the attention of bears and other wildlife.