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Bear Safety Begins With Being Aware, making noise

Little Rock, Arkansas - Many times just a single shouted word can be a shock to some Arkansans. "Fire." "Snake." "Alligator." "Bear."

Black Bear in Campsite - AGFC Photo

Let's look at that last one, since encounters with bears have become fairly common in many parts of Arkansas. We have bears, an estimated 3,500 and on extremely rare occasions they can be threatening or at least unnerving.

Arkansas Game and Fish staff members offer some simple suggestions that can reduce chances of a too-close meeting with a bear in the outdoors.

First, know something about bears and how they behave. Black bears, the only kind we have in the wild in Arkansas, are shy and tend to avoid humans in spite of the size of the bears. But this shyness can take a back seat to instincts for food, if the bear is hungry, and maternal protection, if the female bear has cubs with her. Another factor is young male bears, equivalents of teenagers, that are ejected from home territories and tend to roam around looking for new places to live.

Second, the basic tactic for avoiding a close encounter with a bear is to make noise. Talking is good. If you are alone, singing or whistling will help. Some hikers carry or wear small bells. The idea is to let a bear know you are near, and the chances are great that this bear will quietly move away without you ever seeing it.

Third, look around before you set up camp. This should not usually apply in a recreational vehicle campground, but instead is a factor for backpackers or other wilderness and deep woods campers. If you see fresh bear droppings, move elsewhere. Under a persimmon tree in the fall might not be a wise choice to pitch a tent. A berry patch in warm weather is not a good spot, and this includes pokeweeds. If you are considering a spot with signs of previous human use, like a fire pit, check to ensure there is no leftover garbage nearby.

Fourth, get food away from you at night. A bear follows its extremely efficient nose, and it's food the animal wants, not a human. Lock food in a vehicle or hang it on a tree limb.

Fifth, if you see one or more cute little bear cubs, get away immediately. The mother bear will be close, and she can be the most intimidating of black bears in Arkansas with her protective actions.

Sixth, don't run. Don't turn your back on a bear. If you meet up with a bear at close range, keep facing it and slowly back away. Repeat - don't run, don't turn your back.



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