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80skeys
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PostWed Apr 29, 2020 11:48 am 
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I always try to avoid hiking in grizzly country because I just don't feel comfortable with it. But this summer looks like I'll be in an area where there are at least one or two (Gospel Hump Wildnerness, Idaho, they had a confirmed sighting two weeks ago.)

I generally don't worry about this type of thing - I hike a lot in areas where there's lots of mountain lions for example and it doesn't bother me. But grizzlies seem to be extra worrisome from everything I've read and heard.

I just wanted to ask people what your experiences are backpacking in grizzly country. Do you see them often, or not at all? Do you take any special precautions? Do you worry about it at all?
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Brian Curtis
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PostWed Apr 29, 2020 2:46 pm 
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I've never seen a grizzly while hiking in Montana. I've seen a fair number in Alaska and a couple in British Columbia. When I've seen them they have never been threatening. We have carried bear spray at times, but never in Montana, Idaho, or Wyoming and we've never taken any special precautions there.

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RichP
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PostWed Apr 29, 2020 2:51 pm 
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There are so few grizzlies in that area that it is unlikely you'll encounter one. I'll be poking around there this summer.
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Randito
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PostWed Apr 29, 2020 3:10 pm 
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Bear spray is good

My sister retired from the USGS as a wildlife researcher in Alaska -- her last project was on polar bears -- a species that will aggressively hunt humans -- much more dangerous to humans than grizzly bears.

The research camps were encircled with an electric fence

https://www.udap.com/mm5/category/bear-electric-fences

Also field personnel would carry a double barreled shotgun loaded with a single lead ball and a magnum powder load.    There was also significant firearm training for field researchers -- this included a rope drawn cart with a bear cutout target that was pulled toward the trainee at 35mph (bear charging speed) -- the majority of trainees required multiple training sessions before being able to hit the target area before it reached them.

Since 2010 there has been a single fatal bear attack in Montana -- that case involved a mountain biker.

Quote:
Brad Treat, 38, male June 29, 2016 Wild Flathead National Forest, Montana Treat and another man were on mountain bikes on U.S. Forest Service land near Halfmoon Lakes. According to the official Board of Review report on the incident, Treat's mountain bike collided at high speed with a large male grizzly bear "after rounding a blind curve in the trail." The bear immediately attacked Treat in response to being struck by the bicycle. The second rider escaped uninjured and summoned help. The bear was identified via DNA from a previous research project, but was not captured or killed because its behavior was a natural response to a surprise encounter involving physical contact.[30]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fatal_bear_attacks_in_North_America
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gb
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PostWed Apr 29, 2020 4:06 pm 
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A good place to start learning about Grizzlies is Banff, Kootenay, Jasper and Glacier National Parks where management successfully navigates the twin goals of protecting wildlife and recreationalists. Take a look and do some reading. It will likely lead you to some Stephen Herrero studies.

https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/mtn/ours-bears/gestion-management/ours-bears/
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80skeys
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PostWed Apr 29, 2020 5:24 pm 
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Thanks for the replies. That makes me feel better. I know Montana should have a quite a bit larger population than central Idaho.

RichP wrote:
There are so few grizzlies in that area that it is unlikely you'll encounter one. I'll be poking around there this summer.

i'm looking forward to Gospel Hump.
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Songs2
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PostWed Apr 29, 2020 5:58 pm 
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80skeys,

As the summer progresses, there will be more food higher up for bears, so you might not see any. I am not familiar with the area you mention but have seen many black and brown bears in Glacier NP.
Bear spray is cheap insurance. Besides deaths, maulings and bluff charges happen.
Bears often use the same corridors and trails humans use; it's easier.
Basically, be bear aware. Let them know you're coming, especially around waterfalls or other places where your footsteps or the sound of your voice might be masked by ambient noise.

I have read that bears sometimes visibly ignored hand clapping, yelling, and such, but at the sound of a twig cracking they scampered off.
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Eric Hansen
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PostThu Apr 30, 2020 6:27 pm 
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I've spent a cumulative 6 months backpacking and mountaineering in Glacier NP, and been within 50 yards of grizzly several times. Fortunately never even bluff charged.

What I'd pass on is this - Smell (food or human oders) and wind direction are huge. Eliminate foods, and food prep, that would attract bears. Be very aware of wind direction, which way your scent is blowing, and whether it is preceding you on the trail/route (good) or not.  Probably most problematic scenario is ascending east side drainages (westward) towards the crest, towards prevailing wind. Especially with creekside brush or alders lining the trail and limiting sound and sight of your approach.

If you can, avoid camping in designated spots or other areas where someone may have spilled food, or similar, a week before.

Bear spray works, just be sure to practice. Stephen Herrero's Bear Attacks book is a good resource if you want to read up.

Memorable bear spray story? I was below Lone Walker Mt, south of Dawson Pass. Pack off, and ahem, both bear spray and toilet paper on a boulder. I hear twigs snapping and grizzly is strolling up the slope about 40 yards out. Bear pauses to glance my way, then just kept on going.
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longhair27
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PostThu Apr 30, 2020 9:36 pm 
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I saw REI still carries least two different options of Canister Bear Spray including holsters for each.  The larger can puts out spray about 10 yards and longer bursts.  One reviewer said he carries two one IF he has to use it and second canister for the Hike out.

The other guy talking about Bear safety protocols is also good to research and read up on latest basic info, don't cook nor eat anything where you sleep.

Make noise in brushy areas, talking loudly, and common sense.

Lower 48 rare to see a Grizz.  Black Bears are actually very predatory on humans more than grizzlies in the lower 48.

I've seen Bears backpacking in WA, Klammath NF, and Trinity Alps always at a long distance.  Montana and Idaho different scene there.  Documented attacks on humans over spread of many, many years.

You could always buy a 10mm Glock.  :>)  Just kidding.
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Chief Joseph
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PostThu Apr 30, 2020 10:17 pm 
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Eric Hansen wrote:
What I'd pass on is this - Smell (food or human oders) and wind direction are huge. Eliminate foods, and food prep, that would attract bears. Be very aware of wind direction, which way your scent is blowing, and whether it is preceding you on the trail/route (good) or not. Probably most problematic scenario is ascending east side drainages (westward) towards the crest, towards prevailing wind. Especially with creekside brush or alders lining the trail and limiting sound and sight of your approach.

Excellent advice. Several years ago my family and I were having an outdoor fire and had some left over pork ribs warming by the fire, when after dark we heard movement in the adjoining meadow. After a bit we spotted a very large black bear circling around. We made haste to the house, (bringing the ribs with us)...it's also a good idea to hike with someone who you can outrun. I used to run a 11.5 100 yard dash, although I have lost a step or two, I should still be good. clown.gif

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puzzlr
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PostThu Apr 30, 2020 10:50 pm 
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I hiked in central Alaska for a few years when we lived there. On most outings we'd see at least one Grizzly. We never had a problem, but were always nervous. I think now that I'm older I would be less nervous, knowing a lot more about bear behavior.

But a statistically better indicator is Denali Park. There are a LOT of grizzlies there and they share the park with LOTs of human visitors. It's a big park and the areas have a maximum # of people per area so "crowded" is relative. But while there are some incidents with grizzlies, most have been in the campgrounds caused by poor food storage. At least one fatal interaction in the wild that I recall was provoked by the human (Darwin award?).

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timberghost
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PostFri May 01, 2020 6:08 am 
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Very rare you going to see one but best to be prepared. Ran into a couple in Montana and in Ak but not anywhere else in the US. Just have to practice caution. If bear spray, firearm, or air canister horn makes you feel better than by all means use them.
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gb
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PostFri May 01, 2020 6:34 am 
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Bear spray has about a 97% efficacy in preventing injury according to at least one Herrero study.

But the time to deploy may be very short. Where visibility is limited and especially if alone, call out. My one encounter with a Grizzly and cubs was very close - like 15'. She was not aggressive but appeared behind me. I left immediately. Your bear spray has to be immediately accessible; hence in places I consider high risk with both bears and poor visibility I actually hike with the spray in my hand.

Again, the Canadian Rocky Parks - Parks Canada - are very well managed with a population of somewhere around 300 Grizzlies. In high use areas campsites are designated, food lockers are found and cooking areas are 100 yards from sleeping areas. Parks Canada also keeps a log of sightings online and will close or otherwise regulate certain areas at times.

In Glacier NP I encountered a group of four twentyish hikers that had just done the off trail route I wanted to do the following day. The lead of the group was bluff charged to within 30'. Needless to say all were very shaken. I did not do that hike the next day.
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cdestroyer
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PostFri May 01, 2020 6:54 am 
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I hiked montana and washington a number of times, never idaho. I had close encounter in washington that was quite unnerving, being on foot and alone and a far distance in the back country.  I have had encounters in montana at much greater distances mostly due I think to the more openness of the forested areas.

bear spray, whistles, an attentive attitude toward surrounding area and much of the other ideas mentioned about food to be your best information.

After reading many encounter reports the one thing that stands out the most is that most attacks come because of surprising the bear.
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forest gnome
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PostFri May 01, 2020 7:46 am 
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Were cooking away from camp..carrying a small air horn and spray that's very accesable..

Yes in certain areas it's important to follow the old school rules...like the Mission mountains...

That mauling last year in the Bear tooth was interesting cause it was very close and so fast he couldn't get the safety off the bear can ..he was actually carrying ..Do not hike ahead of partners to get a video of them coming up th e trail...Rule Of Separation!

A whistle may b a good idea to toot on in aforementioned areas also.
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