Hiking In Bear Country
Bear Safety Practices
Black bear bears are present throughout much of Idaho. Grizzly bears are generally found in the Idaho Panhandle and Southeast Idaho near Yellowstone National Park. Prudent hikers will practice bear safety techniques throughout the entire state.
- When hiking in bear country, consider wearing bells or making load noises while on the trail. Alerting bears to your presence can reduce the chance of a negative encounter with a bear.
- Ideally, all food, beverages, pet food, garbage, and personal hygiene products should be stored inside an approved bear-resistant storage container. If you do not have an approved bear-resistant storage container, you can hang these products from a tree or snag. They should be suspended at least 10 feet high and 4 feet from any vertical support. Storage locations should be sited at least 100 yards from campsites, recreation sites, and trails.
- Store personal items (such as deodorants, toothpaste, soap and lotions) with food and garbage when not in use. Any odorous product may attract bears.
- Never burn, bury, or discard food, beverages, pet food, or garbage. These items should be disposed of in bear-resistant garbage containers (if available) or stored in bear-resistant storage containers until such time as they can be packed out or disposed of in bear-resistant garbage containers.
- If you need to cook or prepare your food, select a location at least 100 yards away from campsites, recreation sites, and trails.
- Never sleep in the clothes that you cook in. Keep sleeping bags, tents and sleeping areas free of food, beverage, and personal hygiene product odors.
- Carry and know how to use bear spray.
Check For Local Requirements
You should always check with local land and wildlife managers, such as the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management to determine whether or not there are specific rules for recreating in bear country.
In 2011, the Idaho Panhandle National Forests enacted rules for hiking, camping, and recreating on the Priest Lake, Sandpoint, and Bonners Ferry Ranger Districts. The Caribou-Targhee National Forest has had similar rules in place since 2008.
Again, always be sure to check with local land and wildlife managers before heading out on the trail. New rules or requirements may be enacted at any time to protect the public.
How to Properly Use Bear Spray
The following video was produced by the Alberta Provincial Government. It gives a good overview of how to properly purchase and use bear spray.