Warning: Parents and immediate family members may not want to read this bit!
Don’t worry folks, we are still alive after 4 days in Yellowstone, thanks to Jens research into being prepared for Bear Country!
We stopped off at the first Ranger Station we came to as we entered the park (which also just happened to be the oldest Ranger Station in the country… another amazing fact brought to you by Yours Truly!) and asked the oldest Ranger in the country what we needed to do to prevent being eaten by bears. His first question to us was “Are you ready to meet a Grizzly face to face?”. I laughed at this point and said “You’re ‘avin a laugh guv!”. He just looked at me. Jen gave a more sensible response and the conversation continued. At the end, the Ranger said “You folks are the best prepared people I’ve ever met.” The reason for this is that we’d done a fair bit of reading up. Bears have an amazing sense of smell so even the tiniest scent can attract them. We therefore invested in some ziplok bags and airtight boxes to put all our smelly stuff in… and I mean all. Food, bug sprays, shampoos, jens girly stuff… literally anything that had a smell. Unfortunately they don’t do ziplok bags in “Dan” size, so we just had to risk it!
We also bought some bear spray, essentially pepper spray adapted by a bloke who just about survived a grizzly attack. The idea of this is that if a bear does charge you, you squirt this stuff in its face when it’s about 15-20feet away from you. That means that if it charges, you have approximately 1.5seconds to react, to get the canister in your hand, remove the safety catch and squirt! Kinda scary!
The Ranger also had a nice ‘paw print’ cast from a grizzly (HUGE… each claw is about 4” - 6" long) and some real life stories that left us both quaking, so we followed the rules to the letter! The basic rules in bear country seem to be:
Anything with an odour should be locked in a air tight container or zip lock bag and either left in a vehicle or hung from a tree at least 14foot in the air (although black bears can climb!)
When walking (or in our case cycling) keep talking and making a lot of noise, bears will only (usually) attack when surprised, so let them know you’re there! This is actually really hard to do, talking is easy, but when you have to you immediately run out of things to say!
Never leave anything that you cook with out in your camp.
If you’re going out on the trails don’t wear cosmetics or deodorant or even wash with scented soap.
Don’t take the clothes you’ve cooked in into your tent, change and put them in an air tight bag.
If you see a bear back away slowly talking calmly but assertively to it (!), don’t look it in the eye and don’t turn and run. If the bear is going to charge it will put it’s head down, ears back and snarl, at this point you should still be backing away calmly talking (lol!) when it charges get your bear spray out and aim at it’s face, this should make it back away. A charge may also become a “bluff”, where it vears off at the last second, probably because the smell that you have generated from your pants is too much for its sensitive smell! If it doesn’t and it decides to eat you, apparently you’re not meant to scream as it makes you sound like a wounded animal which makes it want to eat you some more!! As a last resort you should apparently fight back… if you have any limbs left! Ok. I’ll remember that!
Needless to say, we had no problems followed the rules and walked away smiling. We didn’t even see a trace of one (apart from some HUGE claw marks in a tree) so the rule that they’ll hear you coming and go away must be true, but we’ll be sure to keep following the rules as we head up to Alaska… although I’m more worried about the mosies… apparently they’re the worst in the world! Still, good training for Ladoga.