Warren Wilson College News

Bear safety

For the safety of bears and people, follow these precautions:

1. Never feed a bear. Do not leave cat food outside. Most black bears will avoid people, except bears that have learned to associate food with people. Ninety percent of all human/bear conflicts have been associated with habituated, food-conditioned bears. A fed bear is a dead bear. Fed individuals become pests that will either be hit by a car or shot to protect the people.

2. Never leave garbage or compost uncovered. Secure all garbage in sturdy containers with tight fitting lids. Take in bird feeders (especially suet) until the cold months. Do not clean fish outside of houses. Do not put garbage out until the morning of pick up.

3. Never approach a bear, especially bear cubs. When surprised or when protecting cubs, a black bear will threaten the intruder by laying back its ears, uttering a series of huffs, chopping its jaws, and stamping its feet. This may be followed by a charge, but in most instances it is only a bluff. Keep a distance of at least 100 yards between you and bears. When encountering a bear, leave the area and give the bear the right-of-way. Always leave the animal an escape route.

4. Be alert when hiking in bear territory. To avoid bear encounters, hike in groups, carry noisemakers such as rocks in an empty can, or shuffle your feet in dry leaves to make noise. Noisemakers may not be effective in dense brush or near rushing water. Be especially alert when traveling into the wind because bears may not pick up your scent. Avoid food sources such as berry patches and carcass remains. Watch for bear sign – fresh tracks, digging, and scat (droppings). If you encounter these signs or see a bear at a distance, make a wide detour. Pepper spray only works within 30 feet or closer and may antagonize a bear as much as deter it.

5. At close range keep calm and assess the situation. A bear rearing on its hind legs is not always aggressive. If it moves its head from side to side, it may only be trying to pick up scent and focus its small eyes. Speak in low tones and back away slowly. Do not run. Most bears can run as fast as a racehorse. Quick jerky movements by humans can trigger an attack. Climbing a tree is no assurance of safety because black bears climb well.

6. If you are charged, attempt to stand your ground. Black bears may be frightened off by acting aggressively toward the animal. Do not play dead if a black bear is stalking you or considers you as prey. Use sticks, rocks, frying pans, or whatever is available to frighten the animal away, but do not hassle a bear unnecessarily with noise because this may trigger an attack.

7. As a last resort in the event of bear attack, resistance is usually useless, but a few victims have survived by striking an attacking bear directly in the nose. Bears are an important part of the ecosystem and are worthy of continued protection. For many people, seeing a bear is very exciting and they would not want to eradicate them from our campus. Our campus community is dedicated to the protection of all wildlife, with full regard given to public safety. With your co-operation, bears and people can co-exist, but only if bears are respected as potentially dangerous wild animals, and people act responsibly for their own safety and the safety of others. Problem bears are not born, they are created.

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