Camping Season Is Here: Be Bear Aware

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PHOENIX – Prime camping season is arriving in the high country, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department reminds people heading to the great outdoors to be “bear aware” and keep a clean campsite.

Bear activity is up this time of year, as yearling bears leave their mothers and begin roaming more in search of food sources and to establish their own territories. Bears have a keen sense of smell and can be drawn to food in campgrounds.

“The root cause of most conflicts between bears and people, especially in camping areas, is food,” says Bruce Sitko, information and education program manager in Game and Fish’s Pinetop region. “Bears can’t change their behavior, but people can. Protect yourself and protect a bear—take a few minutes to secure your food items.”

Wildlife officials say it is prudent for all outdoor recreationists to take the following precautions to minimize potential conflicts with bears and other wildlife:

  • Never intentionally feed wildlife.
  • Secure all garbage.
  • Keep a clean camp.
  • Do not cook in your tent or sleeping area.
  • Store all food, toiletries and other scented items well away from sleeping areas and unavailable to bears.
  • Wash up, change clothing, and remove all scented articles before retiring to your sleeping area.
  • Walk or jog in groups. Pay attention to your surroundings when hiking, jogging or bicycling.
  • Supervise your children and keep them in sight.
  • Keep your pets on a leash—don’t allow them to roam free. Or better yet, leave them at home if you can. Pets can easily get into conflicts with a wide range of wildlife.

If you are confronted by a black bear (the only bear species in Arizona), don’t run. Stay calm, continue facing it, and slowly back away. Try to make yourself look as big and imposing as possible. Speak or yell and let it know you are human. Make loud noises by clanging pans, using air horns, or whatever is available.

If you encounter a bear in a developed campground, notify the campground host. If you have a problem with a scavenging bear in the forest, notify the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

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