Bears are a very real part of our lives in Big Sky, Montana. We live, work, and play in bear country. We share our home and our backyard with both black bears and grizzly bears. It is always important to be bear aware in Big Sky country.
Bears are not cute and cuddly creatures. They are large, wild animals that can seriously injury you. Bear encounters are rare, but they can be seriously dangerous or even deadly – especially if bear cubs are around. There are no guarantees of your safety in bear country.
Now this is not meant to intimidate you or encourage you to stay indoors. People recreate in Big Sky country all of the time and never have any issues with bears, but it’s because they are bear aware.
Bears generally try to avoid humans and most people will never even see a bear. But because bears can be a threat, you need to learn about bear safety. A few excellent bear safety resources are the Yellowstone National Park website, the Parks Canada website, and BearSmart.com.
Here are a few tips to help you be bear aware in Big Sky country:
- Travel in groups of 3 or more.
- Stay on trails.
- Make lots of noise at all times.
- Carry bear spray and know how to use it. Keep it easily accessible at all times.
- Watch for signs of bears – prints, scat, animal carcasses.
- Do not approach any wildlife.
- Keep children and dogs close by.
- Avoid smelly foods.
- Always hang food, trash, and odorous items away from camp and use a bear proof container.
- Know the difference between a black bear and a grizzly bear.
- Do not feed bears.
- Be aware of bear management areas in Yellowstone National Park.
- Ask a local about any recent bear activity.
- Don’t hike at dawn, dusk, or at night.
- Don’t hike alone.
- Stay with your things.
- Properly dispose of trash in bear proof bins.
- Keep pets on a leash.
- Keep a clean camp.
According to the National Park Service, if you do encounter a bear, stay calm, stay still, and do not run away. Bears are much faster than you are. If the bear is far away, walk upwind and detour away from the bear.
If the bear spots you, back away slowly with bear spray in hands. Speak to the bear in a calm and firm manner to let it know that you are a human. Make yourself appear big and watch for any signs of aggression – clacking of teeth, puffing lips, huffs, woofs, slaps – and back away slowly. Do not drop your backpack or any of your things.
If a bear charges you, stand still then back away. If necessary, use your bear spray. If a bear makes contact with you, cover your head and neck and lie as still as possible. Play dead. Do not move until the bear is far away.
One excellent place to learn about grizzly bears in a safe environment is to visit the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone.
Be safe out there. And have fun.