Bear-Proofing your Food

Sharing the wilderness areas we travel through with wild animals is part of the  special appeal of canoeing. Losing a week's worth of groceries to these local critters is definitely not part of this appeal.

Bears (and other animals) that have easy access to human food quickly change from wild animal to scavenger.

Bears are intelligent creatures that quickly learn that hauling away a good pack is less work than rooting for the plants, insects carrion and berries which they usually eat. If we we reinforce this behaviour by providing easy access to our food, we encourage that behaviour pattern. Soon the local bears make a routine of stopping at the regularly used sites to search out an easy meal.

This type of event is damaging to all - a wild animal is conditioned to lose its natural fear of humans; and we lose our food pack, probably meaning a premature end to our canoe trip.

What can we do to prevent this from happening? The simplest method is to bear-proof our food pack by suspending it out of reach of bears, raccoons, porcupines and other local wildlife.

Bears are extremely good climbers - hoisting a food pack with a rope so that it hangs next to the trunk of a tree is no more effective than leaving it on the ground. The food pack has to be at least 10 ft. from the trunk or any large overhanging branch that might support a bear; and a minimum of 12 ft. from the ground.

The procedure below shows the steps in hanging a food pack properly.

Most people know that black bears are excellent tree-climbers, and grizzly bears are not.

It was once suggested to me that this might be a good way to differentiate between the two species if I were to run into a bear. 

The approach suggested upon encountering a bear was to immediately climb a tree.

If the bear climbed the tree and ate me, it was a black bear.

If the bear knocked over the tree and then ate me, it was a grizzly.