Here’s how to keep bears away from your campsite — and how to react if you see one

How to handle bear encounters

Idaho Fish and Game provides tips for identifying black and grizzly bears and what to do when you encounter each.
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Idaho Fish and Game provides tips for identifying black and grizzly bears and what to do when you encounter each.

Idaho is home to black bears and grizzly bears, with black bears more common. Bears can become campground nuisances if people don’t take precautions. Here are some camping and backcountry recommendations from Idaho Fish and Game.


▪  Always keep a clean camp.

▪  Keep your sleeping area (tent, sleeping bag, pad) free of food and odors. Don’t sleep in clothes you wore while cooking or handling fish or game.

▪  Clean grills and store them where bears can’t get to them.

▪  Use bear-resistant trash receptacles and food-storage lockers.

▪  Keep pets under control at all times.

▪  Set up tents in a line, with space between them, rather than in a circle. You don’t want to restrict a bear’s line of travel.

▪  Maintain access to a flashlight and bear spray.


▪  Camp away from animal trails, thick brush and bear food such as berry patches and streams where fish spawn.

▪  Strain food particles from dishwater and store with other garbage that is unavailable to bears.

▪  Pack out everything. Never bury or burn garbage.

▪  Sleep at least 100 yards from food storage and cooking/eating areas.

Food storage

▪  Store food, harvested game animals, pet food, livestock feed, personal hygiene items, garbage and other bear attractants in bear-resistant containers, hard-sided vehicles or hard-sided buildings. Or, suspend them 10-15 feet above the ground and at least 4 feet from vertical supports.

▪  Game meat left unattended on the ground should be at least a half-mile away from any sleeping area or recreation site and at least 200 yards from a trail.

Efforts to delist grizzly bears in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem raises questions about how the bruins will be restored to their ample habitat in Idaho's wild heart.(Rocky Barker)

If you encounter a bear ...

▪  If a bear is visible but not close, alter your route to stay away.

▪  If a bear approaches you, don’t run. Stay calm, group together and pick up small children. Face the bear and back away slowly. If the bear continues to approach, try to scare it away with shouts and aggressive acts.

▪  If a black bear attacks, use bear spray and fight back with anything you have available — fists, sticks, rocks, etc. Black bears also can be brown, blond, rust or cinnamon in color. They have tall, pointed ears, no shoulder hump and a straight face.

▪  If a grizzly bear attacks, use bear spray or play dead by dropping to the ground, lying flat on your stomach and clasping your hands behind your neck. Brace yourself with your elbows and toes. Leave your backpack on for added protection. Continue to play dead until you’re sure the bear has left the area. Grizzlies are blond, brown or black with a pronounced shoulder hump, short, rounded ears and a dish-like face.

Biking in bear country

▪  Slow down and make noise. You’re more likely to surprise a bear on a bike, and bears don’t like surprises.

▪  Don’t ride alone and never ride at night, dusk or dawn.

▪  Carry bear spray.