Bear Mongering

posted Apr 12, 2013, 10:06 PM by Paul Wagner
And just at evening--an ursine visitor, backlit in the sun.©
Fear, fear, fear...

What's the deal with bears?
Why is it that so many people see to be concerned about bears? Not only are they a regular topic on many chat boards, but Backpacker Magazine devotes a column every single issue to bear questions.  Every single issue!  And now they have a complete website article discussing every possible thing that might or might not affect a bear.  Among the issues discussed are bear bells, cans, bags, sex, toothpaste, wasp spray, pepper spray, menstruation, marijuana, and electric fences.

Really?  Come on...

What a waste of time and energy.  As we've said before, we rarely see bears in the back country.  In fact, we wish we would see them more often.  But we also avoid heavy concentrations of people--especially stupid people who ignore the rules--and it seems that those people attract most of the bears.  If you want to meet a bear, go to a big public campground and watch the dumb people leave their food out.  Other than that, bears are pretty low profile. 

But that doesn't seem to matter to people who don't backpack so much--or to fear-mongering editors.  They would prefer to talk all bears all the time, as if they were Boogey Men waiting around each corner to catch and eat unwary hikers.

Get a grip. Please.

In the Sierra there have been 12 bear attacks since 1980--and none of those were in the backcountry.  (Way more people have been struck by lightning.)   In fact, if you really want to freak out, 130 Americans are killed by deer every year. 65 are struck by lightning. 100 are killed by bees. 20 are killed by cows.
Got that?  Cows are more dangerous than bears--about fifty times more dangerous.
We've seen exactly one bear in the backcountry in the last five years.  That's him/her above right, investigating grubs on a dead tree near Rancheria Falls in Yosemite.  It was a spectacular sight.  The sun backlit the bear's fur, and it positively glowed.  And yes, we did have to tell the college kids at a nearby camp that we had seen a bear, and that they should clean up their camp.  They did.  The bear never reappeared. 

So give it a rest.  Keep a clean camp, use a bear can, and enjoy your time in the High Sierra without worrying about bears.

Instead, worry about important things, like whether you are going to catch fish tonight...or see a shooting star.