Keep Me Wild: Black Bear

Black bear in dumpster
Black bear on grass
Black bear sniffing tree
Black bear in tree

Homeowners, Property Owners, Renters

Use bear-proof containers.

  • Always keep trash, recycling, and compost in secure bins. 
  • Wait to put out trash until the morning of collection.
  • Clean garbage and recycling bins with bleach or ammonia. 
  • Remove unsecured trash, food, and strongly scented items (e.g., sunscreen) from vehicles and yard.

Use simple, effective exclusion methods.

  • Keep doors and windows closed and locked when unoccupied.
  • Bring pets inside at night. Keep livestock in secure pens at night.
  • Eliminate access to potential den sites (e.g., crawl spaces under decks).
  • Store BBQ grills in secure shed or garage - and keep clean - when not in use.

Use simple, effective deterrent methods.

  • Install motion-activated lights, noise or alarms.
  • Install electric fencing around chicken coops and animal enclosures.
  • Install electric mats (‘unwelcome mats’).
  • Deploy sensory deterrent where potential access to attractants may occur (e.g., place ammonia in shallow bowl).

Use “wildlife-smart” landscaping.

  • Remove bird feeders from yard.
  • Plant native flowers to attract birds instead.
  • Do not feed other wildlife – this will attract bears.
  • Pick ripe fruit off trees, and promptly collect fruit that falls off trees.

Campers, Hikers & More

Use bear-proof containers.

  • Securely store human food, pet food, and toiletries inside bear-resistant food canisters or bear lockers.
  • Remove unsecured food from inside your vehicle.
  • Remove unsecured food or strongly scented items in your tent.
  • Remove trash regularly - Check with camp host or park staff about removal or storage options.

Keep campsite clean.

  • Clean fish or field dress animals away from campsite.
  • Clean BBQ grill immediately after each use.
  • Clean dishes, food prep and eating area after each meal.
  • Change out of clothes you cooked or ate in before going to bed.

Be prepared.

  • Use bear-proof containers to safely store food and strongly scented items (e.g., sunscreen, insect repellent).
  • Know the area your hiking and your surroundings on the trail.
  • Leash pets while hiking. Dogs can startle or scare bears and provoke defensive behaviors.
  • Carry bear spray and learn how to use it properly. This does not take the place of preventing conflict.

Be proactive.

  • Make your presence known (e.g., talk loudly, whistle) – A scared or startled bear may react defensively.
  • Watch for bear sign along trails – Scat, tracks, and stripped bark off trees.
  • Avoid areas where animal carcasses or den sites are observed.
  • Keep pets in view and secure at all times. Do not leave pets unattended or sleeping outside.

Prevention is Key

Black bear encounters resulting in human injury are rare in California, but can occur. Bears – like most animals - can be unpredictable. Most black bear attacks are defensive in nature because it has been startled or scared, or protecting cubs. In some cases, a food conditioned, or habituated bear may become too bold and act aggressively towards people. Each situation is different. Prevention is the key.

If you encounter a bear - and it does not see you:

  • Keep a safe distance. Back away slowly.
  • Let the bear know you are there. Make noise by yelling, clapping hands, use noisemakers, or whistle.
  • DO NOT run. Do not make eye contact. Let the bear leave the area on its own.

If you encounter a bear – and it sees you:

  • Keep a safe distance. Back away slowly.
  • Make yourself look bigger by lifting and waving arms.
  • Make noise by yelling, using noisemakers, or whistles.
  • DO NOT run. Do not make eye contact. Let the bear leave the area on its own.

If you encounter a bear – and it approaches you:

  • Keep a safe distance. Back away slowly.
  • Make yourself look bigger by lifting and waving arms.
  • Make noise by yelling, using noisemakers, or whistles. If small children are present, keep them close to you.
  • DO NOT run. Do not make eye contact. Let the bear leave the area on its own.
  • Carry bear spray and know how to use it properly. If a black bear makes contact - fight back. Then call 9-1-1.

If you encounter a bear – inside a home or structure:

  • Keep a safe distance. Back away slowly.
  • Do not approach or confront it. Give it an escape route to leave on its own.
  • If the bear cannot make its way out - go to a safe place. Call 9-1-1!

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