Prime camping season is here: Be bear aware

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May 21st, 2009

The prime camping season is underway and the Arizona Game and Fish Department wants to remind everyone to “Be Bear Aware” while recreating in the cool pines.

“The root cause of most human-bear conflicts is typically food. Please keep a clean camp, don’t intentionally feed wildlife, and be sure to keep your food stuffs well away from your sleeping area,” advises Ron Thompson, a furbearer biologist with the Game and Fish Department.

Biologists recommend all outdoor recreationists take the following precautions to minimize potential conflicts with bears and other wildlife:

  • Never intentionally feed wildlife;
  • Secure all garbage;
  • Keep a clean camp;
  • Do not cook in your tent or sleeping area;
  • Store all foods, toiletries and other scented items well away from sleeping areas and unavailable to bears;
  • Wash-up, change clothing and remove all scented articles before retiring to your sleeping area;
  • Walk or jog in groups. Pay attention to your surroundings when hiking, jogging or bicycling.
  • Supervise your children (especially toddlers) and keep them in sight at all times.
  • Keep your pets on a leash – don’t allow them to be free roaming. Or better yet, leave them at home if you can. Pets can easily get into conflicts with a wide range of wildlife from skunks to coyotes.

“Following these simple tips will greatly minimize your chance of having an undesirable encounter with a wild animal while visiting the outdoors. So please exercise your common sense and be safe out there,” said Thompson.

If you encounter a bear in a developed campground, notify the campground host. If you have a problem with a scavenging bear in the forest, notify the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

If you are confronted by a black bear (the only bear species in Arizona), it is advisable to follow these tips:

  • Don’t run. Running elicits what is called a predator-prey response – if you run, the animal might instinctively want to chase and catch you. Despite their imposing size, bears are quick and can reach speeds of 40 mph.
  • Stay calm.
  • Continue facing it, and slowly back away.
  • Try making yourself look as big and imposing as possible; put young children on your shoulders.
  • Speak loudly or yell and let it know you are human (don’t scream).
  • Make loud noises by clanging pans, using air horns, or whatever is available.
  • If attacked, fight back.
  • Never get between a female bear and her cubs.

Biologists advise that bears and other predators can be unpredictable, so the situation should dictate your actions.

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