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Be ‘Bear Aware’: Idaho Fish and Game gives tips to keep safe while recreating

Idaho Fish and Game

As the weather is getting warmer, both hunters and bears are becoming more active across Idaho. Hunters and recreationists are asked by Idaho Fish and Game to take extra precautions when out in bear country.

Wildlife biologist Jeremy Nicholson wrote in a 2020 news release that spring is a good time to brush up on your “Bear Aware” skills and remember to carry bear spray and have it readily accessible when venturing out into the woods.

Idaho Fish and Game officials confirmed a grizzly bear sighting in the North Fork Salmon River area near the Montana border. The bear was photographed by a game camera on May 23, 2024 and identified as a grizzly. It is not known if the bear is still in the area.

The last confirmed sighting of a grizzly bear in that area was in 2022, photographed by a trail camera.

How to be Bear Aware

Being out in nature means interaction with different species and many people never encounter a bear. But, the U.S. Forest Service does have some advice on being Bear Aware.

If you do encounter a bear:

  • Do not run. 
  • Group together and pick up small children.
  • Continue to face the bear and back away slowly, talking calmly to identify yourself as a human.
  • If the bear continues to approach, try to scare it away by making yourself as large and imposing as possible by stretching your arms overhead and making loud noises.
  • Carry and know how to use bear spray, which is available at many outdoor retailers and can be used to deter a charging bear.

For Campers:

  • Keep a clean camp. Pick up garbage and store it along with all food in a closed vehicle or in plastic bags tied high between two trees, at least 100 yards from the sleeping area and at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 four feet out from either tree. Food can also be stored in an approved bear-proof food container. Never keep food in your tent.
  • Do not bury food scraps, pour out cooking grease, or leave anything that might be tasty on the ground or in a fire pit.
  • Store barbecue grills or other smelly cooking gear inside your vehicle or within a sealed container.
  • If you see a bear, watch it from a distance and leave it alone.
  • If you’re concerned about encountering a bear and want to protect yourself, bear spray is an effective deterrent.

Hiking in bear country:

  • Do not feed bears or other wildlife.
  • Visit or call the local Forest Service office to learn about special requirements or guidelines for the area.
  • Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
  • Read all signs at trailheads.
  • Stay alert, do not wear headphones and cautiously approach any blind corners on the trail.
  • Carry bear spray such that it is easily accessible. Know how to use it.
  • Hike as a group, keep children with you and dogs leashed.
  • Make plenty of noise.
  • For extended trips, keep food and other attractants in personal use size bear resistant containers.
  • If you see a bear, maintain a safe distance and alter your route to avoid the bear. Never block a bear’s travel route.
  • If you see a cub alone, don't approach. Momma bear could be nearby.

Idaho Fish and Game says bear hunters in Units 21, 21A, 30 and adjacent units need to carefully identify targets and not assume any bear they see is a black bear. Grizzly bears are federally protected in Idaho and there is no hunting season for them.

Idaho Fish and Game

Most of Idaho’s grizzly bear populations are in the northern Panhandle area and in and around Yellowstone National Park. However, grizzlies may wander long distances and into areas where they are not expected.

Idaho Fish and Games asks anyone who sees a grizzly bear outside their normal range, to report it online on the Wildlife Observation webpage.

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