Be Bear Aware (black and grizzly bear safety tips)

July 15, 2017

A recent bear encounter story reminded us of an article we contributed to PREPARE Magazine years ago with black and grizzly bear safety tips using data from the U.S. Forest Service and a great organization called Be Bear Aware.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, black bears can be found across most of North America, whereas grizzly / brown bears are found in the northwestern states, Alaska and western Canada.

Both black and grizzly/brown bears may visit areas of human use because they find or smell food. Food can include unsecured garbage, birdseed, pet food, fruit trees and some gardens.

Drought, wildfire and urban development can cause bears to roam farther in search of new food sources. Young bears sometimes travel long distances in search of an area not already occupied by another bear.

Black bear versus The Grizzly

Black bears are the smallest of the North American bears and live in almost every part of the continent. But don’t let their name fool you since their fur can be black, various shades of brown, or blond. There is even one race that is smoky-blue and another race is pure white. But most black bears have long, black hair over most of its body with a splash of white on their chests.

BeBearAware.org explains Alaskan brown bear and the grizzly bear are recognized as separate species although mammologists generally agree they are one and the same animal. Bear experts admit they are unable to tell the animals apart, but one distinct difference is Alaskan brown bears are huge, formidable animals that may weigh as much as 1,500 pounds while large grizzlies can tip the scales at a top weight of about 800 pounds.

 

Black bear:

  • Colors include black, brown, blond, cinnamon, and rust. The most common snout color is light brown and some rare face colors are blue and white.
  • Average weight in the West is 100 – 300 pounds, with males usually larger than females. Males may weigh up to 400 or more pounds, with some as large as 800 pounds!
  • Height is 2.5 – 3 feet at the shoulder when standing on all fours and 5 feet standing upright.
  • Rump is higher than front shoulders; it does not have a shoulder hump/muscle.
  • Face profile is straight; muzzle is long.
  • Ears may be long and prominent.
  • Front claws are less than 2 inches long, dark colored, sharp, curved, and good for climbing. Claw marks do not always show in tracks.

 

Grizzly Bear:

  • Color varies from blond to black. Often medium- to dark-brown legs, hump, and underparts with light-tipped (grizzled) fur on head and upper body.
  • Average weight is 500 pounds for males and 350 for females. Males may weigh up to 800 pounds. (Note: Alaskan brown bears may weigh as much as 1,500 pounds.)
  • Average height is 3.5 – 4 feet at shoulder when on all fours, and 6 –7 feet when standing upright.
  • Distinctive shoulder hump is actually muscle mass that enables powerful digging.
  • Rump is lower than shoulder hump.
  • A dished-in profile between eyes and end of snout helps distinguish grizzlies from black bears.
  • Ears are round and proportionately small.
  • Front claws are 2 – 4 inches long, usually light colored.

 

Possible Conflicts with Humans and Pets

Most conflicts with black bears are the result of people unintentionally feeding bears, most often by allowing them access to household garbage or bird feeders. They raid dumpsters, garbage cans and grills looking for an easy meal. They might enter a building by walking on automatic doormats or breaking screen doors and windows to look for food they smell.

Although uncommon, black bear attacks on humans occasionally occur, especially in areas where they come into frequent contact with hunters or people and their game or food. Grizzly attacks (although rare) happen but usually it is because humans wander into their territories while hiking, bear watching, camping or hunting.

If you are camping, hiking, fishing or hunting in bear country it is critical to store your food, toiletries, bait, fish or game, and garbage properly at all times. And make sure you learn the local regulations for the area you visiting.

 

What Should I Do If I See a Bear?

  • Remain calm and avoid sudden movements.
  • If you see a bear but the bear doesn’t see you, detour quickly and quietly.
  • Give the bear plenty of room, allowing it to continue its activities undisturbed. If you are far enough and a safe distance away, enjoy the view but stay aware. If a bear changes its behavior, it is warning you so back away immediately.
  • If a bear spots you, you want it to know you’re human so talk in a normal voice, group together and back away. Try not to show fear. Bears use all their senses to try to identify what you are.
  • Remember that a standing bear is not always a sign of aggression. Many times, bears will stand to get a better view of what it smells and hears.
  • Do not turn around and try to run from it. This will excite the bear. It can easily outrun you since they can run faster than 30 mph.
  • If a bear starts to approach, and you have bear spray, prepare to use it, if necessary, preferably before the bear is within twenty-five feet. Direct spray downwards (using one or both hands) since the cloud will billow up.

 

If a Black Bear Charges…

  • Throw something onto the ground (like a camera or a hat, bandanna or handkerchief) if the bear pursues you, as it may be distracted by this and allow you to escape.
  • Be loud, group together, stand your ground and, if necessary, use your bear spray creating a barrier between you and the bear.
  • If it makes or is about to make contact, fight back vigorously using any object you have like rocks, sticks, hiking poles, binoculars or bare hands or use your bear spray.

 

If a Grizzly Bear Charges and Makes Contact…

  • Play dead, lying on your stomach, clasp your hands behind your neck, and use your elbows and toes to avoid being rolled over. If the bear does roll you over, try to keep rolling until you land back on your stomach.
  • Remain still and try not to struggle or scream.
  • Once the bear backs off, stay quiet and still for as long as you can. Do not move until you are absolutely sure the bear has left the area.

 

To prevent further problems: 

If you live in bear country, take responsibility for not attracting them. Always work with your neighbors to achieve a consistent solution to the problem situation, and keep in mind that doing a combination of things is better than doing just one.

  • Be aware that human behaviors, such as feeding other animals, can attract bears.
  • Feed your pets inside or remove uneaten pet food between feedings.
  • Remove garbage regularly or keep in secure buildings.
  • Remove other enticing food sources, such as birdseed, hummingbird feed (sweet liquid), fruit from trees or shrubs located near buildings.
  • Remove brush and cover around homes and corrals, creating a 50-yard barrier.
  • Fences, lighting and dogs have not been found to be effective, long-term deterrents. Bears are good climbers, so to reduce a bear’s ability to get over a fence, it should be at least 6 feet tall and constructed of non-climbable material.

To learn more visit www.bebearaware.org

 

Our above article originally appeared in PREPARE Magazine’s Oct 2013 digital issue. Learn how to subscribe to PREPARE Magazine’s digital and print magazine at www.preparemag.com.

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If sarin (or a chemical agent) is released… what are YOU gonna do about it?

December 9, 2012

chemical agent safety tipsAs mentioned in our Sarin gas … what is THAT? post the other day, since chemical agents are once again in the news, we wanted to share some safety information from our IT’S A DISASTER! book about what to do in the event of a chemical threat or attack.

Remember, many chemical weapons – or chemical warfare – have been around since World War I … it’s unfortunate we have to even discuss it … but try not to let this topic frighten you. And many of these safety tips apply to a biological agent incident as well, but for now we’re just focusing on chemical agents. Also realize some chemicals used in industry (e.g. chlorine, ammonia, etc) are transported on our highway and rail systems which could also create a hazardous incident in the event of an accident.

Educate yourselves about the types and where to find more information so you are prepared to react in the event of a chemical threat, incident or attack.

BEFORE A CHEMICAL INCIDENT / ATTACK:

Watch & listen for signs – Many chemical agents can cause watery eyes, choking, trouble breathing, coughing or twitching. If you see or hear a lot of people doing this or see a bunch of birds, fish or critters sick or dead, it should raise a red flag. Learn about some common potentially hazardous chemical agents and stay current by listening to radio and TV to hear what local authorities tell people to do — and DO it!

Report strange things – Be aware of your surroundings — watch for strange or suspicious packages, luggage or backpacks … or spray trucks or crop dusters in weird places at strange times … and report suspicious activities to local authorities.

Make a plan – Develop a Family Emergency Plan and Disaster Supplies Kit. Some key items include a battery-powered radio (with extra batteries), food and drinking water, duct tape, plastic and scissors, first aid kit, and sanitation items (soap, extra water and bleach). A sample Plan and tips for Kits are included in our free PDF ebook.

Pick a room – It could take authorities time to determine what (if any) agent was used so pick a room in advance your family could use if told to “shelter-in-place” for several hours. It’s best to pick an internal room where you could block out air IF told to do so. To save time consider measuring and cutting plastic sheets in advance for openings (vents, windows, and doors). Remember, toilets / drains may be vented meaning outside air comes in constantly or when flushed / open (depends on design) – in case you’re using a bathroom as a safe room.

Calculate air for room – Keep in mind people can stay in a sealed off room for only so long (or you’ll run out of air.) FEMA suggests 10 square feet of floor space per person (like 5ft x 2ft / 1.5m x 0.6m ) will provide enough air to prevent carbon dioxide buildup for up to 5 hours.

Be ready to evacuate – Listen to local authorities and leave if you are told to evacuate.

DURING A CHEMICAL ATTACK:

During any type of chemical attack, local authorities will instruct the public on where to go and exactly what to do if exposed to an agent (which may require immediate attention with professional medical staff).

Watch for signs – If you see or hear a lot of people choking, coughing or twitching or see a bunch of sick or dead critters – leave area quickly!

Don’t panic — Listen – Stay calm and listen to radio, TV and officials to …

  • Determine if your area is or was in danger.
  • Learn signs and symptoms of some agents
  • Find out if and where antidotes are being distributed.

IF INDOORS – Stay inside and prepare to “shelter-in-place”…

  • Close your windows, vents and fireplace damper and turn off A/C and fans to reduce air drawn in from outside.
  • Seal gaps under doorways and windows with wet towels, plastic (if available) and duct tape.
  • If you picked a safe room in advance, grab your Disaster Supplies Kit and seal off that room – remember, you can only stay there for so many hours or you’ll run out of air.
  • Some vapors and gases may sink so avoid basements (unless instructed otherwise).

IF OUTDOORS – Stay upwind from the disaster area since many agents can be carried by wind. Try to find a shelter as quickly as possible.

IF IN A VEHICLE – Close your windows and shut off vents to reduce risk and drive away and upwind from the attack site, if possible.

Cover up – Cover mouth and nose to filter air but still let you breathe (like a T-shirt or towel or several layers of paper towel, napkins or tissues).

Feel sick…? – Some agents can cause immediate symptoms and some take a while to show up so watch family members for signs of illness.

Evacuate…? – If you are told to evacuate… DO it! If officials say you have time, close windows, shut vents and turn off attic fans.

Things to avoid:

  • chemicals – any spilled liquid materials, vapors or gas
  • contaminated food or water – don’t eat or drink any food or water that may have been exposed to materials

Stay away – Get away from the attack site to avoid contamination.

AFTER A CHEMICAL ATTACK:

Feel sick…? – In some cases, people won’t be aware they have been exposed to an agent — most cause immediate symptoms and some take a while to show up so continue watching for signs of illness.

Don’t panic — Listen – Stay calm and listen to radio, TV and officials to …

  • Determine if your area is or was in danger.
  • Learn signs and symptoms of specific chemical agent(s).
  • Find out if antidotes are being distributed by authorities and, if so, where you can get them.

Don’t go there – Don’t return home until local authorities say it is safe.

Air out – Open windows, vents and turn on fans to air things out.

Clean up – A person, critter or item that has been exposed could spread it…

  • decontamination – follow instructions from authorities since it depends on chemical. May need to shower with or without soap or may be told to avoid water – check first
  • strange symptoms – if unusual symptoms show up, get to a hospital or medical expert right away
  • store clothes & shoes – put exposed clothing and shoes in tightly sealed containers or bags and ask local authorities how to get rid of them
  • tell people you’ve been exposed – tell everyone who comes in contact with you that you may have been exposed to a chemical agent
  • land and property – ask local authorities how to clean up

Strange vapors or danger – Report these to local authorities immediately.

For more information about chemical (or biological) agents, visit the CDC Emergency Preparedness & Response site .. or .. call CDC Hotline at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or 1-888-232-6348 (TTY).

Above extracted from IT’S A DISASTER! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? – Learn more about the book or ebook


Safety tips and resources for Americans traveling out of the country

September 13, 2012

Photo: AP via HuffPoThe recent attacks at our nation’s Embassies in Egypt, Libya and Yemen and the continuing (and planned) demonstrations across the Middle East may make many Americans reconsider traveling abroad during these violent times.

But if you do plan to travel out of the country for business or pleasure, consider visiting the US State Department’s Travel site for information about travel alerts, international travel resources and tips, passport and visa information and more.

For example, the State Department issued a travel warning as of September 13, 2012 to Algeria due to “a high threat of terrorism and kidnappings.”

And obviously as of September 12, 2012, the Department of State warns U.S. Citizens against all travel to Libya.  Also on 9/12 the Department of State ordered the departure of all non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Libya, following the attack on the U.S. Diplomatic mission in Benghazi. The political violence has increased in both Benghazi and Tripoli. The airports in Benghazi and Tripoli are open and U.S. citizens are encouraged to depart by commercial air.

U.S. citizens traveling to, or remaining in, Libya should use extreme caution and limit nonessential travel within the country, make their own contingency emergency plans, enroll their presence in Libya through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), and provide their current contact information and next-of-kin or emergency contact information.

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)The Bureau of Consular Affairs’ STEP (formerly known as “Travel Registration” or “Registration with Embassies”) allows you to receive the latest travel updates and information, plus authorities will be able to assist you better in the case of an emergency. Over the years, consular officers in embassies and consulates around the world have assisted thousands of U.S. citizens overseas who have lost passports, had their passports stolen, experienced health problems, been detained, dealt with natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes, and other emergencies.

Consider using the following tips from the State Department to make your travel easier and safer:

  • If you register your travel plans through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program  it will help the Department contact you if there is a family emergency in the U.S., or if there is a crisis where you are traveling. In accordance with the Privacy Act, information on your welfare and whereabouts will not be released to others without your express authorization.
  • Make sure you have a signed, valid passport, and a visa, if required, and fill in the emergency information page of your passport.
  • Leave copies of your itinerary, passport data page and visas with family or friends, so you can be contacted in case of an emergency.
  • Ask your medical insurance company if your policy applies overseas, and if it covers emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. If it does not, consider supplemental insurance.
  • While in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws. The State Department web has useful safety and other information about the countries you will visit. Learn more
  • To avoid being a target of crime, do not wear conspicuous clothing or jewelry and do not carry excessive amounts of money. Also, do not leave unattended luggage in public areas and do not accept packages from strangers.
  • Contact the State Department in an emergency. Consular personnel at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad and in the U.S. are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to provide emergency assistance to U.S. citizens. Contact information for U.S. Embassies and Consulates appears on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website at http://travel.state.gov. Also note that the Office of Overseas Citizen Services in the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs may be reached for assistance with emergencies at 1-888-407-4747, if calling from the U.S. or Canada, or 202-501-4444, if calling from overseas.

Learn more at http://travel.state.gov or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/travelgov or Twitter at https://twitter.com/TravelGov .

Another good site to review prior to traveling abroad is the Center for Disease Control travel site at www.cdc.gov/travel to obtain health information and alerts, resources and travel notices.

Also download some free tips and information about earthquakes, hurricanes and other topics from our IT’S A DISASTER! book here and stay safe!


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