9 Bear Safety Tips From a Bear Biologist

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8. Store your food properly.

Canisters, though bulky and limited in volume, are nearly 100-percent bearproof. Hanging works but is a pain and ‘smart’ bears like those in Yosemite can get food bags down unless you follow all of the height/distance-from-tree-trunk rules [see diagram, right]. Lightweight, very portable electric fence systems are underutilized. In my field camps, we use a system that weighs just a pound or two, and we keep the food inside the fence with us. For instance, Sureguard makes a palm-size model that runs on two AA batteries and delivers a very hot 8kV to the fence line.

9. Never, ever, ever play dead unless you’re knocked down by a grizzly. 

This is some of the most misunderstood advice out there. [And it shouldn’t be needed if you alert bears to your presence, carry spray, and use it.] But if you’re being mauled by a griz? Stay face down, legs spread, and cover your neck with clasped hands. Let the bear unleash its fury on your backpack. Stay still, and don’t move until it’s done. Black bears only attack to kill, so playing dead with one of those will be facilitated by the fact that you will, in fact, be dead soon enough.

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