What to Do if a Bear Comes to Your Tent: A Complete Checklist

Table of Contents

  • What to Do if a Bear Comes to Your Tent
  • What to Do When A Bear Approaches the Tent
  • Different Kinds of Bears and Their Behavior
  • How to Prevent a Bear from Investigating Your Tent
  • Methods and Tools for Repelling Bears
  • Is It Dangerous to Camp in Bear Country?
  • Conclusion

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35 miles an hour. At full blast, the average person can only run around 10-15 miles an hour. That means if a bear runs after you, it is going to catch you. Running only excites a bear’s predatory impulses and causes it to see you as food.
  • Know when to fight back. If a bear won’t back away from your tent or continues to advance towards you in your campsite, retaliate against the bear with bear spray or a gun. A face full of bear spray will drive most bears away quickly. If you have a gun, try firing a warning shot first before shooting the animal. This is usually enough to drive off all but the most predatory of bears.
  • When you’re trying to repel a bear from your tent, it’s a good idea to be as conservative with your efforts as possible. Most bears will not attack a person directly even if they’re raiding a campsite for food that was not put away correctly, but they might become aggressive if they try to rip open a tent looking for more food and find sleeping humans instead.

    If a bear does physically attack you in or around your tent or assaults the tent itself, it’s important to fight back as loudly and as fiercely as you can with whatever you have at hand—a gun, a rock, a flashlight, or camping utensils. Aim for sensitive areas such as the nose and eyes. Never forget that a bear who has become bold enough to rip open your tent sees you as food, and nothing else.

    While bear attacks are rare, bear attacks are also disproportionately fatal in comparison to other wild animal attacks when they do occur. So it’s vital if you’re camping in bear country that you know the correct way to camp to deter curious, hungry bears and how to drive one from camp if you do come across one in the backcountry.

    air horn will startle most bears and other aggressive wildlife into leaving. Another benefit of an air horn is that it can also be used by campers in case they become lost, making it an excellent dual-purpose tool for the camp. It can also be used as a warning during boating activities.
  • Bear bells: Bear bells are used by hikers to make noise on the trail. Most bear attacks occur on hikers because the hiker startles a bear on the trail, while a bear bell gives them plenty of warning to clear out before a person can get close to them.
  • Bear repellent spray: Like mace or pepper spray, bear repellent spray is a critical last-ditch effort to drive a bear from your campsite or tent before lethal force is used. Bear spray is one of the few bear deterrent methods that has also proven effective against polar bears.
  • Predator control lights: For those who are camping deep in bear country, a strobing predator control light can help drive wildlife far from camp. The downside is that a strobe light might not be that easy for campers to sleep through, either.
  • A gun: No matter what type of gun is used for bear defense, it’s essential to use ammunition that is rated as being powerful enough to stop a bear. If you shoot a bear and the bear doesn’t run or drop, you’re in trouble. (I would suggest .44 Magnum or larger in a revolver, 10MM in a semi-auto pistol, 12 gauge slugs or 00 buckshot in a shotgun, .308 Win/.30-06/.270 Win/.300 Win Mag in a rifle.)
  • If you use precautions when setting up your camp to avoid attracting bears through scent, chances are you’ll never have to use any of your other bear-repelling gear. But in case a bear shows up, it’s always good to have equipment ready to handle the problem.

    Since 1900, black bears are only recorded as having killed 67 people. In other words, you’re more likely to die in a car wreck on your way to go camping in bear country than you are to be killed by a bear.

    Most of the people who are attacked or killed by bears are killed in remote areas where bears are not often exposed to human contact. Bears that are acclimated to humans (also known as the kind of bears that would stomp into a campground like they own the place) are much less likely to engage in a fatal attack on people. These bears are scavengers that have learned to sponge off human campers.

    Many bear attacks are not predatory and are instead classified as defensive attacks. Defensive attacks occur in some of the following scenarios:

    • A camper comes across a mother bear with her cubs
    • A hiker accidentally runs into a bear using the same game trail
    • A camper, hiker, or hunter interrupts a bear during its meal

    Bears that are more likely to raid human campgrounds are young bears, bears that have been fed by humans, and injured or elderly bears who are finding regular foraging options more difficult. Many times these bears are humanely euthanized by bear managers in wildlife preserves, as once a bear has learned to raid campgrounds for easy food, it becomes increasingly dangerous to allow around humans.

    Overall, predatory bear attacks (or attacks where a human is attacked as a source of food) are very rare among all three dominant bear species in North America. It’s no more dangerous to camp in bear country than it is to camp anywhere else.


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