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Be ‘Bear Aware’ when you head to the backcountry

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI)—Idahoans are no strangers to bears, as Eastern Idaho is home to both Grizzly and Black bears. Multiple wildlife management agencies are reminding us to take extra steps to be safe when we go into Bear Country.

Idaho Fish and Game shares depending on what activity you are trying to do, depends on what you should do.

"Be aware of your situation. Just know if you're going out in the country that looks like may contain bears. Know what those signs are, scratches on trees, holes in the dirt, real thick. Downfall. Timber. it's always best to go in a group and, make lots of noise when you're going," James Brower the communications manager for the Upper Snake Region for Idaho Fish and Game said.

Brower also says that anybody wanting to explore bear country needs to be armed, not necessarily with anything lethal.

"Most importantly, to carry bear spray when you go out and have it readily accessible so that you can get to it really quickly if you need it," Brower said.

He clarifies saying that to have it be readily accessible means to make sure, that it's not at the bottom of your backpack when going through the woods, but instead make sure it's on your belt.

"Having it somewhere on your on your hip or just externally, or if I'm hiking through thick, heavy timber, I'll just carry it in my hand and, and know how to use that safety tab as well. There's a little safety tab on that canister that, if you've never had to pull it off before, some people have kind of a hard time doing that. But it's it's really easy. But you just need to practice just a little bit," Brower said.

Utah is also bear country. They have bears, but they don't have Grizzlies, they do have black bears. So if we go recreating in Utah they give us some black bear specific tips for us.

"Utah has just has black bears. So that's what we recommend to stay calm. really don't recommend running away or climbing a tree because they are really good climbers and they can run up to 35 miles an hour. So you're not going to outrun or out climb them. So just, you know, stand your ground. And again, generally they'll just leave because they are typically wary of people," said Faith Heaton Jolley from the Utah Division of Wildlife resources said.

She added that the best thing to do is be proactive when planning a trip into the backcountry.

"Typically, bears are going to be at least black bears are going to be wary of people. So if you're bear proofing your camp and then you're also making noise while you're hiking and camping, you're typically not going to encounter a bear. so we just really recommend people take those proactive steps to just completely prevent putting themselves in that situation where they have to figure out what to do if they do encounter a bear," Jolley said.

While in Eastern Idaho and in Utah, there have been no bear encounters they say it doesn't mean they can't happen.

Jolley says in that past twenty years, they have only had 9 encounters where people came back with injuries and only one of them was a fatality. But none have occurred recently.

"It's relatively uncommon for someone to have an encounter that does end in an injury with a black bear, but they are definitely out on the landscape. And so we want to make sure that people know what to do if you encounter a bear, but then also how to reduce some of those conflicts," Jolley said.

In Idaho Brower says, that so far we haven't had any negative encounters and hopes that we won't.

"You always want to be prepared, for potential encounter because all of Idaho is, bear country. And we're lucky enough in the upper snake to be, grizzly bear country as well," Brower said.

They also ask us to keep any "smellable" be it, food, soap, deodorant, trash, and fishing car locked in our car, camp trailer or in a tree.

"Don't keep it in your tent. keep that hung up in a tree or in a bear proof, or bear resistant container. a lot of the Forest Service campgrounds here provide those for you. Or if you don't have that option than hanging them up, really high in a tree, 20ft up or so and 5 to 10ft, out on a limb, can can help keep that from, being munched by a bear," Brower said.

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Braydon Wilson

Braydon is a reporter for Local News 8.


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