The Bear Facts: Tips for Safe Black Bear Encounters While Visiting Lookout Mountain

The Bear Facts: Tips for Safe Black Bear Encounters While Visiting Lookout Mountain
By Kerry Scott

 DeKalb County’s black bear population is on the rise, and it’s no wonder they’re drawn to our area, with its abundance of natural areas, including rivers, lakes, parks, and forests. As these majestic creatures become more prevalent, especially during their active spring and summer months, it’s crucial to become educated on how to protect ourselves and the bears in case of close encounters.

In spring, bears emerge from hibernation, and mother bears begin the important task of training their young. If you come across a bear cub, it’s highly likely that its mother is nearby. As she forages for food, she often leaves the cub in close proximity. Additionally, older cubs take this opportunity to venture out on their own in search of mates.

Preventing Bear Attraction

Bears have a habit of returning to areas where they have previously found food. This could include garbage cans, pet food bowls, or even bird feeders. To minimize bear encounters, follow these recommendations from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources:

  • Use bear-proof trash cans and store them in secure locations such as garages or storage buildings until garbage collection day.
  • Only put out as much food as your pet will consume in a short time, and avoid leaving food bowls outside. Bring them indoors when it’s not feeding time.
  • If you spot a bear near a bird or deer feeder, remove the feeder for two weeks to signal to the bear that the food source is no longer available.

Safety Tips for Outdoor Activities

When exploring trails, don’t go alone. Hiking with friends not only enhances the experience but also serves as a deterrent to bears. Communicating with each other alerts bears of your presence, usually keeping them at a distance.

Encountering a Bear

In the event that you do come across a bear, it’s essential to know how to react. Here are some expert suggestions:

  1. Stand still. Never attempt to run or climb a tree to escape. Such actions often provoke the bear to give chase, and bears can reach speeds of up to 30 mph, even uphill. American black bears are skilled climbers, capable of ascending 100 feet in about 30 seconds.
  2. Stay calm and walk backward slowly. Avoid screaming, as it may startle the bear and trigger an attack. Speak calmly and in a monotone voice to demonstrate that you are not prey. Slowly back away from the bear’s path, providing it with an escape route without confrontation.
  3. Make yourself appear larger. Extend your arms above your head or use a jacket to make yourself seem larger than you are. Often, this alone is enough to deter a bear from approaching. Maintain a safe distance from the bear.
  4. Obtain a makeshift weapon. If a bear does attack, grab a rock, stick, or any object that can be used as a weapon. In the face of aggression, fight back vigorously, focusing your blows on the bear’s snout and face. Experts advise against playing dead; instead, initiating an aggressive response is the safest course of action when a bear charges.

We want you to fully enjoy your stay in DeKalb County while still prioritizing your safety. By following these guidelines, you can minimize the risk of bear encounters and coexist harmoniously with these remarkable animals.