Be Bear Aware when visiting the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests

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Springerville, AZ; April 20, 2015 — During spring and summer, bear activity intensifies making them more likely to come into contact with people. There are some basic safety precautions to take to avoid conflict with bears while visiting any National Forest. One of those special occasions while enjoying any National Forest is when you spot wildlife, especially large mammals such as black bears! But, while you are enjoying one of those rare moments of seeing a bear in the wild, precautions need to be taken to provide for your safety and avoid conflicts with bears. Most conflicts between people and black bears are the result of people approaching and feeding bears, or allowing a bear to get into garbage, and pet or livestock feeds.

Don’t feed the bears – A fed bear is a dead bear:
• Wild bears have a natural fear of humans and will attempt to avoid people and developed areas – fed bears do not.
• Fed bears will abandon vital natural food sources for human foods and garbage.
• Wild bears quickly become conditioned to being fed and will teach their cubs to approach people to do the same.

When camping in bear country:
•Always keep a clean camp; black bears have an excellent sense of smell that can span miles. For bears, garbage = food!
•Don’t leave food out. Store it in bear resistant storage units or a hard-shelled vehicle, or hang 10 ft. from the ground and 4 ft. from top and side supports.
•Always store food away from your sleeping area. Where possible, food storage and preparation areas should be at least 100 yards from your sleeping area.
•Use bear-resistant trash receptacles provided at developed campgrounds.
•Keep pets on a leash and inside at night as they may attract bears.
•Carry E.P.A. registered bear pepper spray.
•Keep your sleeping area, tent, and sleeping bag free of food, toiletries (shampoo, antiperspirant, etc.) and odors.
•Keep a flashlight and bear spray readily available at all times.
•Set up tents in a line with space between.

When hiking in bear country:
•Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
•Read all signs at the trailhead and carry bear spray.
•Scan ahead for signs of bear activity.
•Watch for bear signs such as scat, claw marks, diggings, logs or stumps torn apart.
•Hike in a group, keep children close at hand. Make your presence known, call out ‘hey bear, ho bear’.
•If you take your pet, keep them on a leash.

If you encounter a bear:
As exciting as they are to view, especially when seen with their cubs, bears should always be considered unpredictable and potentially dangerous. Remember, distance = safety. Black bears will usually detect your presence and flee from the area.
•If a bear is visible, but not close, alter your route to move away from the area.
•If the bear approaches, remain calm. Do not run. Continue facing the bear, and slowly back away. If the bear continues to approach, group together and pick up small children. Try to scare the bear away by shouting and acting aggressively.
•If the bear attacks, it is suggested to fight back using everything in your power e.g., sticks, fists, rocks and/or an E.P.A. registered bear pepper spray.

Helpful web sites:
Be Bear Aware: www.bebearaware.org

Keeping Bears Alive & You Safe: http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/publications/documents/BearsAlive.pdf

Arizona Bears: http://www.azgfd.gov/w_c/urban_bear.shtml
Follow the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests on Twitter (@A_SNFs) for instant updates on forest information, recreational opportunities, and fire restrictions.