“There is no such thing as a ‘bear-proof’ food barrel or pack. They are very persistent, and will make dozens of attempts to get into something they think is food.” During my outfitting days this was my common refrain to a Boundary Waters adventurer who asked for the “bear-proof” pack. Minnesota has a good-sized population of bears, and it is our responsibility to learn to be good neighbors to Yogi and Boo Boo.
Black bear attacks seem to be making news lately, and while there is nothing you can do to prevent all problems there are certainly precautions you can take to lessen the possibility. Both cabin owners and backcountry adventurers should consider the following points of precaution.
• No food out of doors accessible to bears or any other animals that may come calling. This means no birdfeeders within a bears’ reach, or pet food left outside. When you’re on trail don’t leave any food sitting unattended outside to cool or thaw.
• No food in tents, screen houses, or gazebos. Our friends have large claws that make quick work of puny little nylon tents and screens.
• Garbage outside must be secured tightly and when possible locked inside the garage or shed to reduce the attraction. Please forgive the following blatant statement, but this also means dirty diapers must not be left outside under any circumstances.
• Keep pets and especially dogs under close supervision after dusk and at any time after a bear has been spotted in the area. Under normal circumstances a dog will quickly scare off a bear, but under some conditions a bear may turn on a dog, but it is rare.
• Scare the bear before you attempt to use pepper spray. Many black bears will turn tail and head back to the trees with just some loud noise. To use pepper spray you have to be within 20 to 25 feet of the bear, and if you miss all you have done is anger a bear.
For more information on bears in Minnesota and North America feel free to visit the website for the North American Bear Center.
Please reduce the food and other enticements for the black bears around your cabin or the campsite. The bears were in these woods long before we were, so it is on our shoulders to learn to live with them. Nobody wants to create a nuisance bear, and nobody wants anyone to get hurt but what are generally pretty gentle creatures.