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Keep Me Wild: Black Bear

In settled areas close to bear habitat, bears may venture in searching for food. The best defense against bear break-ins and bears in your yard is to eliminate attractants to your property by following these tips:

Tips for Bear-proofing your Home, Rental or Timeshare

  • Do not toss food scraps out into the yard.
  • Invest in a bear-proof garbage can and store garbage indoors until trash day.
  • Clean garbage cans regularly.
  • Highly odorous food scraps, such as fish can be kept in the freezer until trash day.
  • Keep barbecue grills clean and free from dried grease.  Store grill away if possible.
  • Do not put fish or meat in compost piles.
  • Consider electric fencing around gardens and compost piles.
  • Consider composting bins as opposed to open composting.
  • Keep doors and windows closed and locked.
  • Consider installing motion-detector alarms and/or electric fencing.
  • Harvest fruit off trees as soon as it is ripe, and promptly collect fruit that falls.
  • Bring pets in at night. Provide safe and secure quarters for livestock at night.
  • Securely block access to potential hibernation sites such as crawl spaces under decks and buildings.
  • Do not spray bear spray around property – when it dries, it can serve as an attractant.
  • Do not feed deer or other wildlife – not only can it be unlawful, it will attract bears to your property.
  • If a bear breaks into your home, do not attempt to confront the bear.  Give the bear an escape route.  If the bear cannot make its way out, go to a safe place and call 911.

Tips for Bear-proofing your Campsite

Maintaining a clean campsite is the responsible and safe thing to do when visiting bear country. Here are a few tips for bear proofing your campsite: 

  • Haul garbage out of camp regularly – check with camp host or other camp personnel about safe garbage storage. Use bear lockers if available.
  • Store food (including pet food) and toiletries in bear-proof containers or in an airtight container in the trunk of your vehicle if bear lockers are not available. In some areas, food storage in the trunk is not advisable. Check with camp or park personnel.
  • Clean dishes and store food and garbage immediately after meals.
  • Clean your grill after each use.
  • Never keep food or toiletries in your tent. 
  • Change out of clothes you cooked in before going to bed.
  • Do not clean fish in camp.
  • Do not leave pets unattended in camp or sleeping outside.

Tips for Hiking in Bear Country

  • Bears may react defensively if your presence is not known - make noise while hiking. Talk loudly or whistle.
  • If possible, travel in groups.
  • Avoid wearing scented cosmetics and deodorants.
  • Avoid thick brush and walk with the wind at your back so your scent is ahead of you.
  • Watch for bear sign along trails – scat, tracks and stripped bark off trees.
  • Avoid sites where dead animal carcasses are observed.
  • If you see a bear, avoid it and give it the opportunity to avoid you.  If the bear does not see you, back out and when at a safe distance make noise so the bear will move off the trail.
  • If you surprise a bear, back away not making eye contact.  Do not run.
  • Carry bear spray and learn how to use it.  Bear spray does not take the place of preventative knowledge.
  • Leash dogs while hiking in bear country – dogs can surprise and aggravate bears – bringing the bear back to you when the dog flees from bear.

Black Bear Facts

  • Black bears are the only bear species found in California. They range in color from blonde to black, with cinnamon brown being the most common.
  • There are an estimated 35,000 bears in California.
  • Males are much larger than females and can weigh up to 500 pounds, although average weight is about 300 pounds.
  • Black bears can sprint up to 35 mph and they are strong swimmers and great tree climbers.
  • Bears are omnivorous eating foods ranging from berries, plants, nuts and roots to honey, honeycomb, insects, larvae, carrion and small mammals.
  • Bears typically mate in June and July.
  • As winter approaches, bears will forage for food up to 20 hours a day, storing enough fat to sustain them through hibernation. Bears often hibernate in large hollow trees 40 to 60 feet off the ground.
  • Bear cubs are born in winter dens in January and February and are hairless, deaf and blind.
  • Black bear attacks are rare in California and typically are defensive in nature because the bear is surprised or defending cubs; however, bears accustomed to people may become too bold and act aggressively.
  • Female black bears will often send cubs up a tree and leave the area in response to a perceived threat. Do not remain in the area – when you leave, she will come back for her cubs.

Visit black bear biology for additional information.

Additional information for bear-proof containers and where to buy.

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Office of Communications, Education and Outreach
1416 9th Street, 12th Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 322-8911

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