37

I have two large dogs - a German Shepherd and a Presa Canario. I hike alone with my dogs in black (not grizzly) bear country.

Do I still need to hang my food? Or will the three of us be able to convince a bear that um... maybe next camp has better food?

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    It would be helpful for you to state exactly where you're planning to go. Because, there are juriscictions where properly storing food isn't optional, it's a matter of regulation and law, no matter how big and how many your other bear deterrents are. – Beanluc Mar 5 '18 at 18:57
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    ...if I went hiking with dogs, I'd probably hang the food because of the dogs, not necessarily any wildlife. – Clockwork-Muse Mar 5 '18 at 18:58
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    I ran into a black bear on the AT that was not sufficiently deterred by eight humans, until we started fighting it and I whacked it over the head. All because some people couldn't be bothered to secure their food properly - while camping away from the shelter! The bear got into their food, and then they moved into the shelter and the bear followed. Do everyone a favor who is out there with you, and secure your food from bears properly. – Michael Hampton Mar 7 '18 at 0:04
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    Today could be a good day to ask yourself "what other simple, commonsense precautions am I thinking might not apply to me, and thereby possibly endangering myself and others?" There might not be just this one. – Eric Lippert Mar 7 '18 at 15:05
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    @JonathanReez: do the bear a favor and use bear spray. If you have to rumble with a bear, it's because you screwed up. The bear shouldn't pay for your screwup with its life. Plus bear spray is more effective. – whatsisname Mar 7 '18 at 15:41
136

Yes, you absolutely need to properly protect your food.

Proper food storage in the wilderness isn't just for you, it's also for the bears. Even if your dogs or you are able to fend off a bear, you may in the process clue the bear in to the fact that where there are humans, there is food. And if you've inadvertently trained a bear to think that human campers have food, and the only thing between getting that food is to rumble, you've dealt that bear a death sentence, as well as signed up some other unsuspecting person for a heap of trouble.

Even if you make the bear think "maybe next camp has better food?", then it clearly is aware that camps are places for food, and so you and everyone else who hasn't properly managed your food has failed to properly protect the wildlife and has failed that bear.

Always store your food well away from camp in a proper bear proof manner. There is no excuse for laziness.

  • Isn't it possible that the bear could yet linger at the site because it smells the food? If it thinks it needs to fight the dogs for food which it cannot reach anyway, then wouldn't it? – can-ned_food Mar 5 '18 at 22:33
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    Do bears think things like "maybe next camp has better food?" Would they be more likely to think "camps have dogs"? – Malvolio Mar 6 '18 at 16:39
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    Or i can eat food and dogs – Nate W Mar 6 '18 at 16:39
  • Hanging your food doesn't stop the scent from travelling. If anything, it will travel further. bears will still connect food with humans. The goal of hanging is to make it very, very hard for them to actually get the food, which would reinforce their association between humans and food. Bears can be most persistent getting food - a beekeeping cousin of mine had a bear tear down a high chain-link fence to get to a beehive. They're not going to give up easily, so it's important to make sure the food is hung in such a way so as to make it hard for them to get to. – Don Branson Mar 6 '18 at 17:17
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    @DonBranson if Winnie the Pooh has taught me anything it is that bears have a rapacious appetite for honey but are otherwise really lazy so I think you have an edge case on your hands. – Dean MacGregor Mar 7 '18 at 15:35
48

You know, most black bears are probably going to be deterred by the presence of your dogs, but bears come in all sorts of personalities and degrees of desperation for food. Your dogs might be able to take a bear in a fight, but that doesn't mean they won't get seriously hurt in the process. Think about the possible consequences if deterrence fails:

  1. A needlessly dead or injured bear
  2. An injured dog, far from medical care
  3. A dead dog

I can't assign odds to any of these, but hanging your food seems like such a minimal effort, I can't imagine not doing it.

  • I have no intention to get into a fight with a bear. If the bear is not reliably deterred by one person and two dogs then eff it I am going to hang my food. – Censored to protect the guilty Mar 3 '18 at 17:45
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    My observation from the local dog park is that you can't even rely on a 80 lb German Shepard deterring an attack by a 5 lb Chihuahua, let alone a 200 lb starving black bear. A hungry bear (particularly one not familiar with dogs) may like their odds. – Charles E. Grant Mar 3 '18 at 18:22
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    "Your dogs might be able to take a bear in a fight". Nope, they're not. If you're lucky they're more willing to get injured than the bear is. Bears are pretty scary. – Monster Mar 3 '18 at 20:23
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    @Monster in the region I grew up in, folks would regularly hunt American black bears with dogs. The usual result was that the bear would climb a tree, and then be shot. However, sometimes the bear would stand and fight. A pack of dogs can definitely kill a bear, though typically not without serious injuries to the dogs. A pair of large dogs, particularly one like a Presa Canario, definitely have a shot against an American black bear. The OP specified they weren't in grizzly country. – Charles E. Grant Mar 3 '18 at 20:34
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    I'll just leave this link here. But I do agree that any bear, or any other large wild animal for that matter, can be dangerous. Especially if it happens to be hungry and desperate. If there's a simple precaution you can take to reduce the risk of getting into a conflict with one, you should. – Ilmari Karonen Mar 3 '18 at 22:25
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There are a couple of really good answers here. But I feel like something is being overlooked. You and the dogs are going to be asleep, when the bear comes walking through your camp.

If the food is hanging out of reach, the bear is just going to keep walking, in all likelihood you and the dogs might never know you had a visitor in the night. The same is going to be true for, other forms of wildlife, like raccoons, opossums, etc.

You should always keep food and food prep supplies out of reach of all wildlife; everyone will live longer, happier lives.

  • Dogs wake at the slightest event. Or even without provocation. When the bear comes in, the dogs will wake.Nevertheless, hanging food doesn't change whether a bear will come in. If anything, the scent from hung food would travel farther. When the bear does come in, it will work very hard to figure out how to get at it. It definitely won't "just keep walking." Nevertheless, hang your food. – Don Branson Mar 6 '18 at 17:09
  • If dogs are asleep while bear robs them from food, they deserve to go without the food. :-) Hang your food to prevent the standoff: not good for bear, not for dogs. – Peter M. Mar 6 '18 at 17:10
  • @DonBranson Dogs, People and Rabbits are all individuals, there are no absolutes. It takes a surprisingly long time to wake this rabbit with an air horn it is easy to imagine a dog that will sleep through a bear wandering through your camp. – James Jenkins Mar 6 '18 at 17:27
  • They are individuals. It's hard to imagine that any dog would sleep through something like a bear, that's noisy and shakes the ground they're sleeping on. A chihuahua maybe, but not a dog. ;) – Don Branson Mar 6 '18 at 17:42
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    @DonBranson: not tired dogs. My dogs, after a day of running around and adventure, will sleep through an atomic bomb blast. – whatsisname Mar 7 '18 at 15:45
8

Do hang the food (or use a bear can, etc.) In my experience, wild animals are not deterred by dogs very much. A bear that lives close to humans might even be attracted to dogs: dogs frequently have dog food with them.

Not exactly on topic, but I have woken up to deer approaching my camp, while my large dog was barking her head off. They only stopped advancing when the human stood up.

  • Certainly if your dog was one who would perhaps give chase rather than simply sit and bark, then the deer would flee. You mean to say that those deer had not yet learned to think of being chased by dogs when they heard the sound of a dog baying or barking or whatever. – can-ned_food Mar 5 '18 at 22:36
2

It doesn't sound like you're thinking of carrying a bear canister either. A bear will just wait until it's quiet then come into your camp - you may or may not be there. If you are there, then you will have real problems. I wouldn't even prep my meals near my campsite. On the other hand, bears aren't the only animals that want your food. Consider whether the dogs will notice the mice getting into your backpack and food. I've seen a camper hang his food up without even noticing that a mouse had already hidden in it. He lost a lot of his food before he got it down to have a late snack. I'd still recommend always hanging your food when you aren't actually eating it.
And, don't forget the long cord to hang it with!

0

Under the right circumstances, a black bear can kill a man (or a dog) with a single swat of its paw. While most back bears are timid and afraid of humans, due to 10,000 years of being hunted by Native Americans with bows, a few, a very few, have been know to kill and eat humans.

There is a reason why the writers guide for The Outer Limits said that each episode needed to have a dangerous creature or other frightening danger and described that as "the bear" instead of the wolf, the mountain lion, the wolverine, the fox, etc. etc.

You should want to do everything you can to avoid becoming the victim of one of those very rare aggressive black bears, and a good person should want to do everything he possibly could to keep black bears from associating humans with food, possibly leading to some black bears preying on humans.

If I cared for my dogs, I would take all possible bear precautions. One bear vs one dog is likely to be ten to one odds in favor of the bear, to use an arbitrary number. Two dogs vs one bear would then be five to one odds in favor of the bear.

That is not good odds. Avoid bear fights and avoid events that could result in bear fights.

You yourself, without any dogs, might be able to scare way a bear without a fight. So you and the two dogs might be able to scare way a bear without a fight.

But if it comes to a fight, you and/or one or both of your dogs could be killed or badly wounded.

So if you love yourself, you will take all reasonable precautions to avoid interacting with potentially extremely dangerous wild bears. And if you also love your dogs, you won't count on them to be your bodyguards against bears, but will take all reasonable precautions to avoid interacting with potentially extremely dangerous wild bears.

Avoid bear confrontations.

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