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Black bear camping fun

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Black bear camping fun
June 19, 2020

Our Bear Tracks event had to be cancelled this year due to Covid-19 restrictions – but that didn’t stop our keepers from giving black bears Benton and Fern a fun camping experience!

Even without guests watching, the bears really enjoyed exploring this “camp picnic” keepers set up for them, complete with their own unique way of using a cooler.

black bear tries to open cooler
Black bear plays with cooler

Why do we do this?

Well, for starters, it’s great enrichment for our bears. Offering things or experiences that encourage their natural behaviors (think sniffing, foraging, digging) is excellent for their physical and mental well-being. For this experience, our keepers carefully chose picnic materials that would be safe for our bears to explore, then made them tasty with bear treats.

But another really good reason is to show humans how to live in harmony with wildlife – in this case, bears.

Black bears are a top native Washington predator, and are excellent foragers. In season they’ll eat plants, fruit, nuts, insects, honey, salmon, small mammals and carrion.

So they really shouldn’t be foraging through human camping gear. It’s bad for them, and leads to unwanted human-bear interaction.

When you’re enjoying nature in bear country, make sure you protect yourself and the bears with these tips:

–       Set up well before dark at a site with plenty of trees to hang your food bags

black bear smells picnic basket
Black bear sniffs picnic basket

–       Look for signs of recent bear activity like scattered trash, fresh tracks or scat, or clawed trees. If you see these, maybe find another site.

–       Choose a site well away from obvious wildlife trails, stream banks or lake shores, and food sources like berry bushes.

–       If possible, set up your own cooking area at least 100 yards from your sleeping area

–       Never keep food or other scented things in your tent (drinks, snacks, chocolate, toothpaste, soap, etc).

–       When you sleep or leave the site for the day, store all food in a bear-proof container or hung from a tree at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet from the trunk. Don’t leave food in your car and keep doors and windows closed.

–       Pack out all your garbage. Don’t bury or burn it – bears will be attracted to the smell.

–       Don’t burn citronella items in camp – bears love the smell.

Happy camping!