Camping in Bear Country

Camping in Bear Country

Camping in Bear Country – from the Forest Service

 Dillon, Mont., June 13, 2017—The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest has finally thawed after a long winter, and we’re all ready to revel in the summer months ahead. However, grizzly and black bears are also taking advantage of the warm weather and will be catching up on feeding through late fall. While you’re out recreating in the forest this year, always be bear aware!

The Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF has a food storage ordinance requiring proper storage of all attractants. As more and more people are living and recreating in bear habitat and allowing bears to gain access to human food, there will be a higher rate of unwanted bear encounters. Once bears are food conditioned they are often removed from the ecosystem due to negative human-bear interactions (human safety). The only way to prevent this is to keep all attractive items with a smell away from the reach of bears.

To store attractants away from bears: 1) put in a hard-sided vehicles with windows and doors shut and locked; 2) store in a certified bear-resistant container; 3) hang in a tree 10 feet above the ground and four feet from supporting structures. Remember, regular coolers are not bear-resistant! Attractants include food, refuse, sealed cans and bottles, alcoholic beverages, hygiene products, pet food, fish parts, and chainsaw bar oil. Where possible, camp 100 yards from attractant storage and cooking areas.

When hiking in the woods, your best defense is bear spray. Give a charging bear a two second burst when it is 40 feet away to create a cloud of spray between you and the bear.  If the bear penetrates the cloud and continues coming towards you, spray the bear again. Be prepared to play dead if attacked by a grizzly bear or to fight back in a predatory encounter (when a bear is following you or approaching unsurprised and unprovoked) with either bear species. Your bear spray should always be easily reached, either in a hip or shoulder holster. When you buy a can of bear spray, make sure is clearly marked for use against bears, not humans, and replace it when it has exceeded its expiration date.

Bear spray has proven extremely effective at preventing injury in 98% of encounters. Statistics show that people who use firearms against bears show the same rates of injury or death as if they had not used their gun at all. Remember that you can expect to see black bears and grizzly bears anywhere on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.

For information about local regulations or about bears, go to the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest website at, or stop by a local Forest Service office.

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