National Park Service makes recommendations for hikers in bear country

The Board of Review with the National Park Service reissued safety recommendations for hiking in bear country after a Montana man was mauled to death in Yellowstone National Park last summer. The report states most hikers are not following the precautions, despite warning and education.

Of the six fatalities caused by grizzly bears in Yellowstone since 2010, five involved hikers who were not carrying bear spray. Four of those hikers were hiking alone. Hiking alone and hiking without bear spray are the common denominators in these deaths.

The complete list of recommendations states hikers should do the following:

  • Be vigilant: Hikers should watch for bear signs (tracks, scat, feeding sites), especially when hiking off trail. Being vigilant for bears and bear signs can reduce the chances of stumbling into a bear at a close distance.
  • Carry bear spray: Bear spray is proven to be effective at stopping aggressive bears and other large animals like mountain lions. Hikers should carry it year round, not just in the summer time. Hikers should know how to rapidly deploy the spray.
  • Make noise: Making noise tells bears you are near so they are less likely to be surprised by your presence.
  • Don’t run: Running can trigger a chase response in bears. Jogging in bear country also increases the odds of surprise bear encounters according to the National Park Service.
  • Don’t hike alone: Hiking in a group of three or more lessens the likelihood of a bear attack. This is because large groups are intimidating to bears and more likely to have at least one member making noise or being vigilant, which reduces the risk of an attack.

The National Park Service warns there is no guarantee of safety when hiking in bear country, even when all of these recommendations are followed.

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