Tempted by the smell of food and leftovers, bears are common visitors at campsites not only in Yosemite, but also in Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Smoky Mountains, and many other national parks. Sparsely populated, wooded areas are their favorite habitats, and approximately half a million live across the U.S. On top of that, there are some fifty thousand grizzlies (most of them in Alaska), and despite having a natural tendency to avoid humans, both species just love dumpster diving.
Footage of bears stealing from campsites and even back gardens regularly makes the rounds online, and now there is a new explanation as to why the furry giants have such an insatiable appetite for human food. Research has revealed that bears not only get addicted to our diet, but also pass this addiction on to their offspring. This means that the only way to prevent bears from coming for our food is to bear-proof it in the first place – but doing so can be quite the challenge.
Many official campsites in bear country provide complimentary lockers for storing food. It is important to safeguard everything that a bear can mistakenly consider their dinner: mosquito repellent, lip balm, toothpaste, and even unopened canned goods.
With dispersed camping, you could be forgiven for thinking that the best option is to keep your provisions in a locked vehicle, but this might not be enough! Even inside a car or a van, food needs to be enclosed in airtight bags, a cooler, or a similar container, and well out of sight. When it comes to outsmarting humans trying to hide their food, bears can display surprising ingenuity, so an abundance of caution is always the better option.
If spending the night under the stars with no car and no food lockers in sight, a bear-safe food canister is an absolute must. Always place your food at least 100 feet or 30 meters away from your base and downwind. Across many of the US national parks and wilderness areas, bear sightings are so common that the use of bear-safe containers is enforced by law.
Of course, there are those for whom meeting a black bear or a grizzly is exactly what they have in mind for their backcountry adventure. Luckily, there are ways to do so in a manner that is safe both for them and for the animals but, whether you want to encounter a bear or not, sharing your food with them is always a bad idea.