Bear Safety for Hikers

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Hikers need to reconcile two contradictory ideas before hiking in bear country: The odds of being injured by bears are quite remote. But you also can’t ignore the potential for bear attacks. The stakes are simply too high, so it's essential to follow bear safety tips. The Greater Yellowstone Coalition puts the chances of being injured by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park at one in 1.9 million. But in July 2011, the park experienced its first bear-related fatality since 1986 when a grizzly sow defending her cubs attacked two hikers on the Wapiti Lake Trail. And not long after, Yellowstone wildlife officials had to kill a different grizzly bear when it acted aggressively toward park visitors during several different incidents. The potential for bear encounters is also increasing. More people are out on trails and development along the wildland-urban interface has infringed on bear habitat. And changing patterns in bear behavior are bringing the animals closer to populated areas than ever before. A New York Times article described how climate change has forced grizzlies to forage more widely because of the decline of whitebark pines, which produce pine nuts that the bears depend on in their diet. Add it all up and it’s definitely a good idea to familiarize yourself with bear safety tips before heading out on a hike. There’s no need to be overly fearful. Just prepared. North America is home to three species of bears. But because most of us aren’t likely to head out for a day hike in the Arctic, I’ll skip polar bears and focus instead on grizzlies (also known as brown bears) and black bears. • Grizzly Bears Range: Grizzlies have been eliminated from 98 percent of their native range in the American West and the Great Plains, according to the environmental organization Defenders of Wildlife. They’re now found from Alaska (the population

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