You want to see a bear; beautiful, smart, powerful, but also very dangerous, especially when you live in an R.V. and camp in state or national parks, or boondock on public lands. You may have seen videos of bears breaking into cabins, or just walking into someone’s home, and raiding the fridge. Bears can tear into a cabin, tip over huge dumpsters, and even tear holes into vehicles with their strong claws and teeth. The bottom line is, bears are constantly on the prowl for food, and they have the physical strength and smarts to get it.
If you are camping in bear country in any kind of soft sided camper or a tent, you have to go by far stricter bear country rules. If you have a soft sided camper, and are planning a trip to grizzly bear country, you might think twice, and in places like Yellowstone National Park, they won’t allow soft sided campers in their campgrounds.
It is nearly impossible to 100% avoid a bear in bear country; it is their country, and they are free to roam, even into your campsite. But there are a few things you can do, to minimize their attraction to your campsite, and also, to scare them away if they do come around.
Keep Your Campsite Clean!
Bears have a sense of smell nearly seven times more sensitive than a dog, and 300 times more sensitive than a human. The #1 rule to keep bears away is, never leave food or trash outside your motorhome or trailer, never leave your dog’s food bowl outside (and don’t leave the dog outside either!) and never leave your BBQ grill unattended and outside, even if it has been cleaned. Even leaving your camp, or going inside for 10-minutes, can be long enough to invite a bear into your camp. Leaving anything outside that smells like food or garbage, including your dog, not only invites bear trouble into your camp, you will also invite other destructive animals, like raccoons, mice, and coyotes, to cause trouble to you and your rig.
Keep your ice chest and other food storage out of sight.
Many bears have learned to recognize ice chests and grocery bags, or anything they might associate with food, and will break into your vehicle to get at it. So always keep any kind of food, or food storage, out of sight, away from the windows, or covered up inside your vehicle.
Keep delicious smells inside and around your RV to a minimum.
Keep smelly trash inside your RV, or better yet, if your campsite has a bear proof storage locker (many forest service and state/national park campgrounds have these) put your trash in there. This is better than leaving it loose outside, because it’s harder for the bear to get at, but the bear can still smell it, so they may still come around. If you have left trash or food items in your car, and it is left unattended, you may return to a mess, especially if you left the doors unlocked, or a window down, even a little bit. The best thing to do is to dispose of your trash daily if you can, and before parking your unattended car or truck anywhere.
Cook Inside, or Eat Out
BBQing is a favorite camping activity, and so is roasting marshmallows around a campfire, but if you are in an area with a prominent bear population, you might think twice about it. If you are cooking something very delicious to a bear, like burgers, salmon, or bacon, try to get rid of that delicious smelling trash in a bear proof trash container, as soon as possible. If you are near a town, and can afford it, you might try dining out on local cuisine, rather than cooking yummy, delicious smelling bear bait at your campsite.
Bear spray and air horns
Keep bear spray in your vehicle; it can also be good protection from bad humans. An air horn can also scare a bear away quickly. It is essential that you scare a bear away, and make the experience with humans as unpleasant as possible, without actually hurting the bear. If you have an air horn use it, you set off your car alarm. Clap your hands, yell, throw rocks in the bears direction (but not at it). Do what you can to teach the bear that humans and human stuff are bad for bears. If you are with a group of people, do this together, there is strength in numbers. We need to teach the bears that humans are not safe to be around, and they should avoid us at all costs.
Solar powered security lights and alarms
Install solar powered motion sensor lights and/or alarms around your rig, at bear head height. Placed them near the windows and doors. If a bear approaches your rig, it will trigger it, and hopefully, scare the bear off. If it doesn’t scare away the bear, it may wake you up, allowing you to see what is going on out there, and scare the bear off with a shout.
If you’re new to camping in bear country, strive to find the perfect balance between seeing a bear, but not having a problem with one!