Keep Me Wild: Black Bear

Description and Identification


Habitat and Home Range




Behavior and Family Structure


Ecological Role


Preventing Problems with Bears


Legal Status



If you have questions or need help, link opens in new windowcontact your local Fish and Wildlife office (PDF)

Never Feed Wildlife


Remove all potential food sources


Secure pets and livestock


Bear-proofing your Campsite

Maintaining a clean campsite is the responsible and safe thing to do when visiting bear country. Here are a few tips for bear proofing your campsite:

  • Haul garbage out of camp regularly – check with camp host or other camp personnel about safe garbage storage. Use bear lockers if available.
  • Store food (including pet food) and toiletries in bear-proof containers or in an airtight container in the trunk of your vehicle if bear lockers are not available. In some areas, food storage in the trunk is not advisable. Check with camp or park personnel.
  • Clean dishes and store food and garbage immediately after meals.
  • Clean your grill after each use.
  • Never keep food or toiletries in your tent.
  • Change out of clothes you cooked in before going to bed.
  • Do not clean fish in camp.
  • Do not leave pets unattended in camp or sleeping outside.
  • If in the back-country, store food in a bear-resistant food canister.

Hiking in Bear Country

  • Bears may react defensively if your presence is not known - make noise while hiking. Talk loudly or whistle.
  • Avoid wearing scented cosmetics and deodorants.
  • Avoid thick brush and walk with the wind at your back so your scent is ahead of you.
  • Watch for bear sign along trails – scat, tracks and stripped bark off trees.
  • Avoid sites where dead animal carcasses are observed.
  • If you see a bear, avoid it and give it the opportunity to avoid you. If the bear does not see you, back out and when at a safe distance make noise so the bear will move off the trail.
  • If you surprise a bear, back away not making eye contact. Do not run.
  • Carry bear spray and learn how to use it. Bear spray does not take the place of preventative knowledge.
  • Leash dogs while hiking in bear country – dogs can surprise and scare bears – even provoking them to defensive behavior.

Black Bear Safety Reminders

Injurious black bear encounters and attacks are extremely rare in California, but they have occurred. There is no single safety strategy applicable to every encounter, and bear behavior is not always predictable. However, basic understanding of bear behavior will help keep people safe and bears out of trouble.  

Given the great numbers of people visiting and living in bear country, bears exhibit a high degree of tolerance to humans - other environmental hazards are more prevalent.

  • Individual bears can display varying levels of tolerance and different temperament.
  • Prevention is better than confrontation.
  • Share this information with your children. Make sure they know to tell you if they see a bear in the area. Be Bear Aware.

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1416 9th Street, 12th Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 322-8911