Last week-end I was camping in Kings Canyon National Park. The campsite had “bear-safe” containers to store food in. I had a bag that had some shrink-wrapped food items like “Cliff Bars” and crackers in ziploc containers. I was going to put those in my tent, but some horrified onlookers stopped me because they said the bears would get me. To keep the peace, I put that bag in the trunk of my car.
I’ve read that bears are smart enough to visually identify a standard food cooler, and will attempt to break into cars to get at the cooler. But if I have a canvas bag inside my tent that has airtight containers in it containing food, how would the bear ever be able to tell? In my mind, that’s tantamount to saying that the bear might break into a tent just on the off-chance that there is food in there, so any tent is at risk.
What say the Teeming Millions?
I’ve heard from several park rangers, esp. in Yosemite, that bears have an acute sense of smell and will do most anything for human food. In fact, a bear in Yosemite figured out how to break into minivans by breaking the back window out- they had pictures of the minivan sans window on the bulletin board. The bears typically don’t like to be near humans but will enter a campground when food is scarce. Supposedly they’ll even go for toothpaste.
I’ve never had a problem, but I’ve always used the bear boxes. I strongly advise you use em in the future- its not like the park service is making a profit off of them.
Advice from Parks Canada:
Note that the advice includes a warning for women re: backcountry hiking during menstruation, and that playing dead is not recommended for black bear attacks.
I was in Jasper NP three weeks ago, and saw many black bears foraging for food following hibernation. Didn’t give them any of my air-dried buffalo, though!
I never fails to amaze me how people ignore all our warnings about wild animals. Not just the obvious ones like bears and cougars, but the elk (which hang out in the townsites this time of year) often charge at tourists.
There was a woman killed about 4 years ago in (I think) Elk Island NP, she had got out of the car and walked up to a buffalo bull (about 14’ tall at the shoulder) to get a better picture. The bull took a dislike to her and she was thrown about 25’ and then trampled to death.
When I was at Yosemite a few years back, the rangers were telling everyone not to leave food in their cars, and after seeing a pickup truck with the camper cap on the back peeled off by one of the local bears I could see why. At the time they were averaging one vehicle per night being opened up by bears.
Apparently bears do have a keen sense of smell, and to a bear tearing the cap off a pickup truck isn’t much different than tearing a log apart to get to a bee’s nest with honey in it.
So don’t keep food in your tent if there are bears around. I personally don’t, for fear that they might mistake Dave-in-a-sleeping-bag for pig-in-a-blanket.
My sister has worked as a firewatcher during the summers for the last 20 years (she spends all summer living in a fire tower in one national forest or another in the Rockies), and her take on your question is, basically, “Don’t ever underestimate Yogi’s need for Twinkies, or his ability to find them and get at them.”
She is personally acquainted with park rangers who have had to handle the body bags and notify relatives, (and she also knows rangers who have had to go shoot nuisance bears, who became nuisances in the first place because tourists left food where they could get at it, so they learned that “people” meant “food”), so she says, yeah, use the bearproof containers and listen to Mr. Park Ranger, he knows what he’s talking about.
Yes, bears have quite a good sense of smell and will come after your food if they’re hungry enough. I once suffered a torn backpack (not while it was on my back) at Yosemite. All food had been packed up in the storage bin, but there were a few crumbs (literally) of a granola bar still in there. And I’ve seen several cars torn up by bears.
There was a discussion a month or so ago on bears here,
Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!
To back up Rodd Hill: The website for Yellowstone National Park has a thing or two to say about the dangers of the wildlife, including an animated GIF of a guy getting thrown into a tree by a bison.
As to bearproof boxes, they may work for bears, but there ain’t no such thing as a 'coon-proof box. I swear, those critters could pick locks!
Bears will stop at nothing to get food. I live in Northern BC (Canada) so I am smack in the middle of bear country. To be safe you are supposed to keep all food 30 yards from your camp and suspended from a tree. Garbage is even worse and should be kept 200 yards away. And I would recommend to anyone who spends any time camping to take a shotgun with slugs or at least bear spray. Bear spray isnt fool proof though. A fellow up here sprayed it on the floats of his float plane to keep the bears from chewing them. In the morning he found his plane almost totally submerged as the bears were actually attracted by the spray and chewed many holes in the floats.
BTW Black bears are the worst to run across, except for a momma grizzly with cubs. The way to tell the difference is simple. If you run up a tree and it follows, it’s a black bear. If it pushes the tree down, it’s a grizzly. Either way your’e hooped, but hey at least you know.