Georgia is home to a healthy population of black bears, and as summer adventures take you exploring in the outdoors, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division has a great reminder: become BearWise!
“Wild black bears are naturally fearful of humans and will go out of their way to avoid people, so please do your part to help keep bears wild,” says Adam Hammond, state bear biologist. The BearWise program offers comprehensive information to help people understand how to live with bears.
Here are six basic tips to help keep encounters safe.
Stay Alert and Stay Together: Pay attention to your surroundings and stay together. Walk, hike, jog, or cycle with others when possible and make noise periodically so bears can avoid you.
Leave No Trash or Food Scraps: Double bag your food when hiking and pack out all food and trash. Don’t burn food scraps or trash in your fire ring or grill. Leaving scraps or wrappers teaches bears to associate trails and campsites with food.
Keep Dogs Leashed: Letting dogs chase or bark at bears can cause trouble, so always keep your dogs leashed or leave them at home.
Camp Safely: Set up camp away from dense cover and natural food sources. Don’t store food, trash, clothes worn when cooking, or toiletries in your tent. Store in approved bear-resistant containers, out of sight in locked vehicles, or suspended at least 10 feet above the ground and 10 feet from any part of the tree.
Know What to Do if You See a Black Bear: If you see a bear, stand quietly or back away slowly. Never run; running may trigger a chase response. If a bear approaches, hold your ground, wave your arms and yell “Hey Bear” until it leaves. Stay with your group.
Carry Bear Spray and Know How to Use It: Bear spray is the most effective way to keep yourself away from threats, and it’s simple to use. Never spray tent or campsite bearings.
BearWise is an educational program developed by Georgia’s state bear biologists, anchored by the website BearWise.org, that provides specific, detailed, and high-quality information to help us live responsibly with bears.
By The Numbers: According to data from the National Park Service and the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, between 2000 and 2015, an average of approximately six people were killed by bears each year in the United States. This includes fatal attacks from both black bears and grizzly bears.
During the same time period, an average of approximately 27 people each year sustained non-fatal injuries caused by bears. While these numbers may seem high, it’s important to keep in mind that millions of people visit bear country every year, and fatal or even non-fatal injuries resulting from bear encounters are relatively rare.