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Captain’s Log: Bear Avoidance Facts for Late Spring and Summer

A black bear shows it can be a proficient tree-climber.
A black bear shows it can be a proficient tree-climber. (Debra Maki)

I’ve often amused passengers on my charterboat, WaveWalker, by saying: “I’d rather be at sea any day because things happen ashore, and I worry more about the sharks ashore than the ones at sea.”

Some of those shore-bound sharks are bad people and some are big, powerful, moody predators like black bears.

Some bear facts: Black bears are the only bear species found naturally in California, since the California grizzlies were all killed off (we think) long ago.

California Department of Fish & Wildlife estimates a population of 35,000 bears are in living in California. That is a lot of big burly predators.

Males can weigh up to 500 pounds, but the average bear weighs 300 pounds. For their size, they can move amazingly fast, with sprint speeds of up to 35 mph. They are omnivorous and will eat darn near anything.

They usually mate in June and July and, trust me, you don’t want to be near an amorous black bear. They take great offense to interference in their mating desires.

Come to think of it, a bear takes offense to a great many things, and close physical proximity is top of the list.

People tend to stand upright, which is a threatening posture to a bear. That adds to the likelihood of encounters going badly.

On the other hand, bears will give and take some respect when offered in a way they understand.

Avoidance facts: Most encounters are away from towns when we enter the bear’s country. There are some things to do to help avoid contact.

When hiking, think about what the wind is doing. If it is blowing your scent out in front of you, a wary bear will usually know you are coming and you won't ever see it.

Still, it is wise to make considerable noise (talking, whistling, singing) as you walk. And it helps if you are not alone.

When camping, recognize many things that come natural to us might attract a bear. That sensitive nose can smell bacon frying for miles — and it sure smells good. Many of our foodstuffs, and even our trash, smells attractive to a bear.

Keep your trash well away from your camp and, when available, in bear-proof cans.

Keep your camp clean, and that includes cleaning your grill after using it. If your clothes smell like dinner, change before going to bed.

Never, never, never keep food or toiletries in the tent.

Late spring and summer is a busy time in the life of a bear and they can get downright grumpy. Avoidance measures can help keep you safe out there.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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