Friday, October 7, 2022


More rookie campers plus more bears is a dangerous combination

You may think that the primary victims of the gigantic growth in camping activity in 2021 are national parks, camping etiquette and longtime RVers like you. But what about the poor bears?

For more than four decades I lived in Montana within sight of the Beartooth Mountain Range. It was – and still is – a beautiful place filled with tumbling rivers, mountain vistas … and a growing population of big bears. As an avid hiker, I wouldn’t leave the house without at least one can of bear deterrent spray strapped to my waist.

Keep in mind that bears in that part of the country can be of the smaller black variety (aren’t they so cute?). But the ones to watch out for are the grizzlies, an apex predator that fears nothing and can run at you at 35 mph.

The rapid growth of the grizzly population in the West has forced younger bears to leave their usual bear territory and branch out. For instance, the small mountain town of Red Lodge, Montana, is now home base for several roaming bruins. They’ve also been spotted on the urban trails near Bozeman, Missoula, and Helena.

A lot of inexperienced RVers in national parks this year

Couple what I’ve said above with the fact that there are an awful lot of inexperienced RVers out there this year, trudging through our national parks and forests. They don’t have Clue One about bear behavior, and it’s leading to more and more “confrontations.”

When big bears cross paths with newbie campers, everyone seems to lose. At best, a “nuisance” bear who gets a bit too comfortable around humans is tranquilized and relocated. At worst, a camper is seriously wounded or killed, and the bear is hunted down and destroyed.

In recent weeks, a tourist on a bicycle tour near Glacier National Park was killed while camping near the post office in nearby Ovando. The bear had made it a habit to cruise the town at night looking for food. The tourists hadn’t done a good job of keeping food away from their tents, and the bear followed his nose. An Idaho woman also was recently ordered by a judge to pay $5,800 in fines for trash on her campsite in Grand Teton National Park. The trash ended up attracting a grizzly. In that case, the bear was tranquilized and moved.

Let’s be bear aware this year in our travels. And let’s keep an eye out for those less-experienced RVers. They may be not only putting themselves in danger, but also causing a serious hazard for the entire campground neighborhood.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind, courtesy of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee:

Before you go: Check with the local forest, park, or game and fish department office to get the most recent report on bear activity in the area. Be sure you know about any special food storage regulations.

Pack smart: Avoid bringing odorous foods, like bacon or tuna, or scented toiletries. Dry, sealed foods are lighter and less aromatic. Bring 100 feet of rope, storage bags, and carabiners for hanging food.

Use bear-resistant containers: A good method for storing food and other odorous items that attract bears, these containers can be purchased or rented from outdoor shops. Coolers, backpacks, wooden boxes, and tents are NOT bear resistant.

Be alert: Learn to recognize and watch for signs of bears in the area, like tracks, scat, and diggings. Use binoculars to scan the areas ahead. Bears often use the same trails hikers do and are attracted to sources of food like berry patches or carcasses.

Other Resources:

If you’re in bear country, always carry bear spray with you. Here’s a good one.


Bear and wasp spray: Good or bad idea for self-defense?



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Wildlife Spotter
1 year ago

Must be Olympic class grizzly bears that can run 50 MPH. Someone confused 50 KPH with MPH. Grizzlies can run at 35 MPH, not 50 MPH.

Mike Gast
1 year ago

You’re right. Good catch. 35 mph it is.

1 year ago

In either case….that is MUCH FASTER than I can run!

Lisa Adcox
1 year ago

We were in the Smokies up at Cades Cove and were doing the scenic route through the Cove and suddenly came to a complete stop. Realized there were bears ahead. People getting out of their vehicles with baby cubs on one side of road and mama bear on other. A couple behind us with 3 children gets out and starts walking up closer. We rolled window down and told them it’s not safe to be out of vehicle because mama bear is upset. She was up on her back legs making a racket. They told us they camp up here all the time and they know what they are doing. Well suddenly mama is charging across the road where people are all standing. There was 3 cubs on side of hill crying it seems. People were scattering and jumping into back of others trucks and mama was upset. It could of went bad. Luckily only a few scraped knees from people falling or climbing into back of trucks. If they had stayed in cars and drove slowly, they could see the bears safely, took pictures and all good. Scary to watch.

BILLY Bob Thronton
1 year ago
Reply to  Lisa Adcox

Darwin awards coming to a NP near you. I hope they (NPS) havnt changed their stance. It’s their park, we are the short term visitors.

RV Staff(@rvstaff)
1 year ago

Hi, BILLY Bob. I have 18+ acres of remote and totally unimproved, and gorgeous, mountain property on Index Creek on the west side of the Cascades, 45 miles from my home. I’m borrowing it from Mother Nature, and the wild animals (black bears, cougars, deer, bobcats, etc.) are generously sharing it with me and my sons. Have a good afternoon. 🙂 –Diane aka Mountain Mama

1 year ago

I don’t think hanging food on a rope is good advice! I remember doing this as a young kid and the bears still got the food! It was a canned chicken and other goods, that the bear repelled down the rope to get to it!

BILLY Bob Thronton
1 year ago
Reply to  Ran

Was his name “Yogi”?

Stephen Comstock
1 year ago

Good subject, but I’m not sure that drawing a parallel between “inexperienced RVers” and bear confrontations is appropriate. You’ve just cast a pejorative net over all “inexperienced RV-ers.” I’d be willing to bet that there are plenty of experienced RVers who make the same mistakes regarding bear confrontations. One only has to visit YouTube for evidence.

BILLY Bob Thronton
1 year ago

Unless the YouTube video is a trail cam set up. I guess the videoagrapher might be included with the “inexperienced” attempting to film it. Charles, please come back, we are in need of thinning the herd!