"...And then we sang at it until it went away"
So finishes the story of one proud--and lucky--paddler who found his group's campsite being raided by a bear. Looking to intimidate the animal, he and fellow paddlers stayed in a pack and sang "The Age of Aquarius" at the top of their voices until it moved on. No word on whether it was the volume or caliber of their singing that encouraged the bear to leave.
When you venture into the wilderness, you have to be prepared to find it a bit... well, wild. Encountering an animal or two when hiking or camping is usually no great issue for most wanderers, and can be the stuff of great photos and stories. However, certain types of animals can spell trouble, and outdoors enthusiasts should always proceed with caution and safety measures in place when away from civilization.
Most of us have heard the basics of bear safety before - pack out all garbage, clean up any food or other aromatic products, and keep food stored safely away from tents and off the ground. These are all important safety measures that should not be overlooked. In addition, as our savvy--if musically questionable--paddlers found, often noise is enough to keep bears at bay.
There are two main ways to use noise to deter an unwanted furry visitor: first, continuous noise can help remove bears from your path when you're out walking in the wilderness. Something as simple as a bell worn on your body can warn animals you are coming far before you see them. Most animals prefer not to come into contact with human beings, and will attempt to stay out of the way if they hear you coming. If this level of noise is insufficient or ineffective you can use a loud noise item (like a bear banger) to produce a higher decibel of sound and alert the animal to your presence.
Smokey the Bear underwent a superhero-worthy reboot recently, with the new (tongue in cheek?) tag-line "Get Your Smokey On," so it feels like the perfect time to brush up with a refresher on how to stay safe around Smokey's wild, less anthropomorphic kin. Remember: bear attacks are rare, but the majority of attacks that do occur are defensive, and are a result of the animal being startled. Always make sure you announce your presence in the backcountry with lots of noise, and clean and pack away all food safely to minimize your site's interest. Seeing wildlife in its natural habitat is one of the most fulfilling aspects of getting away, but safety should always come first. You don't want to have to rely on a half-recalled version of "Sweet Caroline" to get you out of a jam.
Photo via ground.zero on Flickr