Camping in Bear Country
Most campsites west of 1-25 are in bear country. When bears learn that people have food, they routinely visit campsites, picnic areas and resorts in hopes of finding an easy meal.
If you want to avoid problems for yourself and the bears, make sure there’s nothing to attract bears to your camp.
- Stash Your Trash. Use bear-proof containers when available. If they’re full, double bag trash and lock it in your trunk or RV. Never leave trash outside.
- Store Attractants Safely. Store food, beverages and toiletries in air-tight containers and lock in your trunk. Many bears have discovered that coolers, bags and boxes are full of food; never leave them in your tent or anywhere a bear could see, smell or reach.
- Keep a Clean Camp. Bears are attracted to odors of all kinds and will investigate anything interesting in hopes of finding food.
- Keep a Clean Tent. Don’t bring anything with an odor into your tent—that includes all foods, beverages, scented toiletries, gum, toothpaste, sunscreen, candles, and insect repellant. Don’t sleep in the clothes you cooked in; store them with your food.
- Lock RVs and Vehicles. Close windows and lock your vehicle and RV when you leave your campsite and at night before you go to sleep.
If a bear comes into the camp, try to chase it away. Yell, toss small stones in the direction of (not directly at) the bear, bang pots and pans, or blow your car horn, air horn, or whistle. Make sure the bear has an escape route.
Black bears are highly intelligent, with individual responses to people and situations. Wild black bears seldom attack unless they feel threatened, cornered or are provoked.
If You Surprise a Bear on a Trail
- Stand still, stay calm and let the bear identify you, and leave. Talk in a normal tone of voice. Be sure the bear has an escape route.
- Never run or climb a tree.
- If you see cubs, their mother is usually close by. Leave the area immediately. If the Bear Doesn’t Leave
- A bear standing up is just trying to identify what you are by getting a better look and smell.
- Wave your arms slowly overhead and talk calmly. If the bear huffs, pops its jaws or stomps a paw, it wants you to give it space.
- Step off the trail to the downhill side, keep looking at the bear, and slowly back away until the bear is out of sight.
If the Bear Approaches
- A bear knowingly approaching a person could be a food-conditioned bear looking for a handout or, very rarely, an aggressive bear. Stand your ground. Yell or throw small rocks in the direction of the bear.
- Get out your bear spray and use it when the bear is about 40 feet away.
- If you’re attacked, don’t play dead. Fight back with anything available. People have successfully defended themselves with penknives, trekking poles, and even bare hands.
Video by Jason Clay. Jason is a public information officer for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife northeast region.