If you plan to search around the Yellowstone area, keep one thing in mind. You’re invading bear country and these bears aren’t Yogi and Boo-Boo. You’ll see warning signs all over the area – many advising you to carry bear spray.
Bear spray is pepper spray that shoots out about 30 feet. You can pick it up in a lot of local stores for $40-50. Try to get one with a holster that you can attach to your clothing or backpack.
This isn’t an exhaustive plan for surviving bear country, but it’s a compilation of the info I have gathered.
The best way to avoid a bear attack is to avoid bears. Simple enough if you’re not searching for hidden treasure. Apparently a big key is to avoid surprising the bears. You can do this, I’m told, by making a lot of noise so the bears hear you coming. Maybe they will hear you and flee. At the very least, you won’t surprise them and catch them off guard. People claim to talk, yell, sing or whistle. I have no idea if there are some noises that will attract bears or cause them to fly into a rage.
I’m sure we all know that the worst case scenario is to come across a mother bear with her cubs. The momma bear will aggressively attack to defend the cubs. Another case of bad luck is to find a bear with a freshly killed dinner. They will think you want to steal their food and again may attack. Keep your fingers crossed.
So once you’ve encountered a bear, you have the classic choice of fight or flight. The best advice is supposed to be to back away slowly and calmly, hoping the bear will just leave you alone. A bear can run roughly three times faster than you can, so out-running them isn’t an option. They can also out-climb you and they can reach up over 10 feet while standing on the ground, so keep that in mind if you decide to scale a tree.
So what’s left? Fight a bear? Well, this is what your bear spray is for. When the bear gets within the 30 foot range, spray for its face. Maybe you can blind it temporarily, or at least get it to stay away. It can get really windy in the higher altitudes, so try not to have the spray blow back in your own face.
If a mauling ensues, there seems to be a difference of opinion. Some say to curl up, cover your face, and play dead. Others say continue to fight – using anything you have available to go after the bear’s nose and eyes.
I guess it’s up to you.
Remember – bear spray doesn’t work like bug spray. Don’t spray it on yourself or your gear, hoping to repel bears. Some people claim that the scent can actually attract bears.
By the way, I’m told that bison kill more people on average than bears do each year. I don’t have any advice for dealing with bison.
OK have fun!