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fortified

BEARS...WHAT? DON'T PLAY DEAD ON A BEAR ENCOUNTER?

I have read a couple of time lately..."Don't play dead" if you encounter a bear. One said put your hands up high to look like a tall human first....
Well, I figured I should look that up some day. But yesterday I (almost) had my first bear encounter. I was on the Castle canyon trail, about 60 percent of the way from Echo to Inspiration Pt. As I made a turn a sudden movement, noise made it obvious something heavy was moving fast. In my thousands of hikes/trail runs, this was different. I simply stood there and listened. I was amazed at how fast it traveled without regard to terrain. When the noise, and visuals stopped I growled, and then I heard a heavy small rock rock slide. It was making his way up toward Inspiration Pt. The canyon there narrows to the top, and it was between me and inspiration Pt. I never saw the animal. I reminded me of the tv series "lost" where you see and hear the movement of trees, and ground, but never the actual source. It was ten minutes before sunset. .....I made a U-turn.  Damn, just when I thought I had the courage to go through Idle hour in the dark, by myself.....
So, I ask. Play dead? At what point? I am seriously considering getting bear mace.......anyone?
Migolito

No need to play dead with a bear, unless you're being attacked by a grizzly. Black bears will kill AND eat their food, so playing dead is kinda pointless. However, consider yourself lucky to have seen a bear at all while hiking. They are there, but, usually you don't see them. Black bear attacks in Cali are very rare and usually involve an icebox full of food or food in your tent. If your worried simply make a little noise like "hey bear!" and it will surprise you how fast it can run away. As far as bear spray. I carried a can in Alaska when I was touring on my motorcycle. I was actually charged by a 350ish grizzly while riding down the road at about 40 mph. Trust me when I say bear spray would not have helped one little bit.
Teejate

The 'playing dead' strategy is with a brown bear and only when the attack is on. Black bears want no part of people and as long as you stand your ground, especially if they bluff charge, you won't have a problem.

While I've only encountered four bears in the SG's I've seen many in the Sierras...obviously. Personally, I don't backpack or even hike without spray even though I know I won't need it. More for protection against lions, or people, than anything. Stick it in my pants or shorts and forget about it.

Read a great article in Backpacker not long ago by an expert who discounted some of the long held theories such as trying to make yourself look bigger by putting your hands over your head. A bear sees antlers.

He also shared some research they had done analyzing hundreds of black and brown bear attacks. There were, if I remember correctly, something like 17 human deaths when guns were involved. That was compared to 0 deaths when spray was used.

For black bears in the SG's just consider yourself lucky to have run across one. My understanding is that there has been one "attack" in the past 35 years and that was just a bear knocking a guy down to get to his pack.

I literally almost stepped on one while backpacking in the Sierra's once. Came around a corner and he was just laying there. I think we both pissed ourselves. He jumped up and EXPLODED in the other direction. Awesome to see that kind of power and speed.
mattmaxon

I have seen and encountered more bear in the San Gabriels than anywhere else.

Obviously I would see more since I spend the majority of my time here. But there are many many bears here.

I would not say I have seen hundreds but dozens for sure. I have seen far fewer in the Sierras maybe a dozen at best.

San Gabriel bears have always ran with a shout, not so much with sierra bears.

I think most injuries happen when people try to get stuff the bear has. Very bad idea.

The only weapon I ever needed was a few golf ball sized rocks and this was only once in the sierras in Kings Cyn Nation Park in an area notorious for aggressive "park" bears
fortified

Migolito:   , Thanks for the info.
mattmaxon:   I read once in a while how people have seen bears. In 15,000 miles of trail running, I have never actually seen a Bear, Or Mountain lion. A major reason might be that almost all of my runs are three or four miles up Mt Wilson toll road, or Sam Merrill trail to echo. These are basically highways as far as trails are concerned. Does anyone have areas where the odds seem high to have encounters? Ironically, the only Bobcat I have seen was in Griffith Park. If you sneak in at night after closing, you will see tons of Deer, and Coyote everywhere from the golf courses to the hills, and they all look very healthy. Oh, and there is one Mountain lion named "P-22"
mattmaxon

Hiking over 30 years in the San Gabriels I have encountered most of the Bears near Grizzly Flat. (here again I've hike the most in the Mt Lukens area)

I have also encountered them in the West Fork, Castle Canyon, Strawberry Peak, Pacifico Mtn, Little Jimmy. These are some notable encounters

The only Mt Lion was while riding my Mtn Bike on the Whitaker Peak Rd. North of Castaic

I'd have to say you're not likely to see a bear along the road unless you see it crossing.

I'd also say at least for me time of day may be a factor. I usually get going quite early. I have in the past done after work hikes, early evening after sunset. But have seen bears most any time of day

Bobcats - Henderson Cyn / whiting woods area of the Verdugos is crawling with them

Mtn lion (P22) in Griffith Park: I think Mtn Lions are like cockroaches... If you see one there are probably 2-3 more you don't see
Migolito

As a side note about when bears travel. I set up a trail camera on a water guzzler during the summer. The area is closed to vehicle traffic and is not traveled by foot...only a few bicycles daily. Although I am certain, based on prints, that multiple deer, coyotes, bob cats, mountain lions(3) etc live within .5 miles of the guzzler, I only photographed two bears at the guzzler. One was huge-maybe 350 lbs and would come to drink every day at about 8am. The other was a smaller bear about 150 lbs that came in every day about 4pm. You could darn near set a watch based on the times. More interesting, not a single other large animal used that guzzler the entire summer.
About the first week of Sept, the larger bear walked all the way down the road to the valley floor and hasn't returned. I was able to follow his tracks about 5 miles down from the ridge area...he didnt stray off the road at all.
Leads me to believe this big guy owns the area and has a very set routine. BTW, I never saw either bear, any lions or cats in person although all were their every single day I was.
VermillionPearlGirl

As noted, the play dead thing is for Grizzlies, not regular bears. I remember reading once "they may take a bite out of you, but then they'll lose interest".

One of my other favorite pieces of bear wisdom I've read is "if you're charged by a bear, hold your ground. In the end most bears are cowards". I found that strangely amusing.

But as you noticed, they move fast, you're not going to out run them.

Nonetheless, I've never been the least scared of your regular every day bear. They are easily scared off and very rarely attack humans.

I always found a set of flyers that used to hang in Henniger Flats to be very instructive: There was on one rattlesnakes, that described the dangers and what to do in case of a bite. There was one on Mountain Lions, that among other things compared their paw print to that of a dog so you could see the difference, and talked about how dangerous they were and what time of day they moved. Then there was one on bears that basically was entirely about how much of a danger you are to the bear and not the other way around. That they are friendly and if they get used to humans and human food they might have to be killed and the entire flyer was about you, the human, not going near and potentially endangering the bear.

Really of all the things out there, I don't think the bears are much worth worrying about. Except when you're camping and they find your bear canister and in their vain attempt to open it they throw it down the side of a mountain. Thanks guys. Those things cost like $80.

And also, bear canisters weigh like 3lbs. That's more than my tent weighs. You'd think by now someone could have invented a lighted bear canister? No?
fortified

Yeah, speaking of Rattlesnakes. I think the odds are much higher than everything else except one.....doing ANYTHING on your iphone while hiking in the dark, even on the Mt. Wilson toll road. There is a 100% percent change of well....Not that I have done it.....twice.
I also decided that it is much LESS dangerous to night hike than run the streets at 1:00 A.M. Too many various incidents to even begin.....
Hikin_Jim

VermillionPearlGirl wrote:
bear canisters weigh like 3lbs. That's more than my tent weighs. You'd think by now someone could have invented a lighted bear canister? No?
The lightest true canisters are the Bearikade ones from Wild Ideas.  The "Weekender" for example weighs 1.9 lbs and has a 650 cubic inch volume.  By contrast, a Garcia (the most common brand) weighs 2.75 lbs and has 614 cubic inches of volume.  The volume in a Bearikade is a lot more accessible/useable whereas the Garcia ones can be a bit of a problem with their small diameter opening.

Bearikade also has a smaller model, The Scout, which weighs 1.75 lbs and is 500 cubic inches in volume.  I've rented a Bearikade before, and they're really nice.  

The problem is the price.  For example, Bearikade Weekender runs $250 whereas a Garcia runs $75.  They're available for rental at some National Parks and National Forests for pretty reasonable prices.

A much lighter option, but one that is NOT as secure, is an UrSack which is basically a really heavy duty stuff sack made out of Spectra fibers -- similar to what a bullet proof vest is made out of.

I feel pretty comfortable with an UrSack in lower risk areas like the San Gabriel Mountains, but I generally use a bear canister in places like Sequoia National Park.

HJ
tracker

I think the "play dead" thing is from the era that brought us Elmer Fudd and other such entertainment. Seeing how all bears are scavengers it would make more sense to me to not appear like a "MRE".  Laughing I guess if we were talking about grizzlies and the attack in question was meant to reduce a threat as opposed to feeding behavior, then playing dead might serve a purpose. I don't think I would just lay there while the grizzly's intentions were unclear though.
Attacks in the SGM? I think there have been 7 in 22 years that I can account for. Most (but not all) were easy to figure an explanation for after a good investigation. Fatalities? None. The guy up by Redbox a couple years ago didn't count. A bear was gnawing on a dead guy's leg when his body was discovered, but it was hard to blame the bear for the rope around the guy's neck. Shocked
They are wild animals; and as such, unpredictable. Don't assume anything. I have done a lot of public speaking on this subject as well as representing the State if a sound bite needs to be given. My best line that always seems to be true:
You never want to be in between where a bear is, and where a bear wants to be.
VermillionPearlGirl

Great info as always HJ! I think I know what I'm asking Santa for this year....

When camping in Angeles, like in Little Jimmy or something, I find most people bear bag it (and everyone has always been really considerate about telling you where there's is, so you don't sleep underneath it). It seems to be fine to do that here versus the Sierras (where I believe in some places bear cans are actually mandated), but I find it easier just to always take my bear canister always so I can train with it in the backpack, because as noted it's literally the heaviest single item I carry.

But 1lb is probably worth $250 to me... Until, a bear kicks that one down the hill... Helpful hint, I cover my bear cans in reflector tape, so I can find them if 'someone' decides to move them Smile
Hikin_Jim

VermillionPearlGirl wrote:
Helpful hint, I cover my bear cans in reflector tape, so I can find them if 'someone' decides to move them Smile
What?  Who would do that?  Wink



You can rent the Bearikade brand canisters at some locations.  It's worth checking with the NPS or whomsoever before you plunk down huge amounts of change.  Often the rental prices are really reasonable.

One thing to note with the carbon fiber (or so I'm told) Bearikades:  They apparently do not work with Grizzly bears.

HJ
Breabonnie

Teejate,

Your last comment regarding how you and the bear reacted to your discovering the bear was hilarious!  

I'm so grateful for this discussion forum.  I learn a lot of neat things and enjoy sharing here too.  I agree with everyone about the San Gabriel Bears as I too have had an encounter.  I began stepping on leaves on a trail after reaching a quiet flat area in an area above Monrovia in Autumn and the noise spooked a bear and it took off in a gallop.  It was running down hill fast.  It knew I was there before I knew it was there.  It was not that close - down the trail a few yards away  I'm sure it must have been more afraid of me than I was of it.  I never saw that bear again, although it sent my heart racing and adrenaline rush into my body initially.

Spooked me, and I stood still checking out nearby trees for a while seeing which one was easiest to climb if the bear came back or another showed up...but after about 5 minutes of seeing and hearing nothing, I opted to keep going just more alert to my surroundings this time.  

I was alone and so I gave it a lot of thought but I kept hiking as its really tough to get me to leave once I make the effort to get up there and it was day time.  I'm glad I didn't let it ruin my fun.  It was a great day with no other sitings.
Hikin_Jim

Trying to climb a tree to get away from a black bear?   Shocked   Um, good luck with that.

HJ
Breabonnie

Embarassed ok, I guess climbing a tree wasn't the brightest thing to do...but I thought I might have a better chance in the tree I guess.  Just was being honest about what went through my head.  Wink  I didn't know what else to do at the time having never encountered one before or expected to see one that day while alone.  I was freaked out.  I actually had a coffee in my hands that I had been sipping (flavored coffee) and fearing that the bear might have smelled it or be attracted to the sugar smell in  it I went off the trail and left it up the side of the mountain on the ground propped up, until I was done with my hike where I took it up again and brought it down to not leave as trash.   hee hee.  .
Hikin_Jim

Yeah, bear encounters can be pretty attention getting -- particularly if you're hiking at night.   Shocked

HJ
Teejate

Hikin_Jim wrote:
VermillionPearlGirl wrote:
bear canisters weigh like 3lbs. That's more than my tent weighs. You'd think by now someone could have invented a lighted bear canister? No?
The lightest true canisters are the Bearikade ones from Wild Ideas.  The "Weekender" for example weighs 1.9 lbs and has a 650 cubic inch volume.  By contrast, a Garcia (the most common brand) weighs 2.75 lbs and has 614 cubic inches of volume.  The volume in a Bearikade is a lot more accessible/useable whereas the Garcia ones can be a bit of a problem with their small diameter opening.

Bearikade also has a smaller model, The Scout, which weighs 1.75 lbs and is 500 cubic inches in volume.  I've rented a Bearikade before, and they're really nice.  

The problem is the price.  For example, Bearikade Weekender runs $250 whereas a Garcia runs $75.  They're available for rental at some National Parks and National Forests for pretty reasonable prices.

A much lighter option, but one that is NOT as secure, is an UrSack which is basically a really heavy duty stuff sack made out of Spectra fibers -- similar to what a bullet proof vest is made out of.

I feel pretty comfortable with an UrSack in lower risk areas like the San Gabriel Mountains, but I generally use a bear canister in places like Sequoia National Park.

HJ


I just had a chance to use the Wild Ideas canister on a backpacking trip in Sequoia and it was the BEST. The price is off the hook and would only make sense if you're spending a ton of time in really active bear country. Sure wish the other makers would follow suit with the design and costs would start coming down.

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