Occasionally we’ll read or hear a story of a bear mauling campers while they lie asleep in their campsite. It’s a tragedy to be sure, but one that can be avoided with a little “bear mentality” and some common sense.
The number of black bears in Arkansas is rising and, according to the University of Arkansas – Division of Agriculture, their numbers are spilling into southwest Missouri and Oklahoma.
Black bears are known to be shy and generally avoid interaction with humans. However, if a bear has been “habituated” or has lost its fear of humans, attacks can happen.
The biggest reason cited for bear attacks upon a campsite is the improper storage of food or garbage. Therefore, the easiest way to avoid an unwanted campsite visitor is to follow a few simple safety tips.
Minimizing Human Odors Reduces Risk of Bear Attacks
Whether you are camping in a campground or in the woods, eliminating the scent of food from around your camp is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from a bear attack.
- Keep your campsite clean. Remove temptation by keeping your garbage picked up and discarded in an animal-proof trash receptacle.
- Store all food items and personal toiletries in plastic, sealed containers. Then, store those containers far away from where you are sleeping. If possible, you can put them in a vehicle, or other wildlife-resistant container. Handle pet and livestock food in the same manner. Toiletries? Yes. According to Discovery Channel’s animal expert, Dr. Thomas Smith and host, Chris Douglas, bears are curious about anything that smells human – including toothpaste and perfume.
- Keep a significant distance between your sleeping and cooking areas.If you’re camping in the woods, store your food and toiletries at least 100 yards away from where you’re sleeping. Suspend your food above the ground at least 10 to 15 feet high, and four feet from the top and side supports.
- Remove the scent of food from your body. Always wash your hands after handling food, and place the clothes that you wore while cooking or handling the food away from your sleeping area.
- Cook only what you will eat to avoid leftovers. If you’re camping in the woods, use food that has been packaged in single serving, airtight containers. If you do have leftover food, dispose of it in a nearby lake or stream.
- Don’t eat or keep food or beverages in your tent. While this may seem obvious, you may find it tempting to munch on snacks while in your tent. Remember, bears have an excellent sense of smell, and an open potato chip bag may be just enough to draw him in.
- Leave only footprints. To protect future campers, leave your campsite clean.
Join the Springfield Adventure Travel Examiner on Facebook!
If you would like to continue receiving adventure travel-related articles, including the latest news, tips and advice, please click the Subscribe Icon. It’s free and anonymous. Thank you for reading and thank you for sharing this story with others.
Got a story idea? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.