Across Continents

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Bear practicalities

Whether we’d got it right or not, it did seem to be working. The bear precautions Mike and I had taken been a great success. Too much so. Never saw a single one in all of Alaska, Canada’s Yukon Province and northern British Columbia. Not one. Other than in captivity.

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Not that we’d gone to extremes to deter bears. Sought to balance risk against simple practicalities. Keeping our food away from the tents. Each securing our stash in waterproof dry bags, the contents packed in special odour proof plastic bags. We’d avoided using deodorant, adhering to the principle it’s best to smell err.. human.

BurwashLandingwildcamp (4)

Some had suggested you should have only the absolute minimum in the tent – sleeping bag, mat – and bear spray of course. Premise being toothbrushes, plastics and a plethora of other manmade items emit odours that could attract unwelcome visitors. We’d both balked at this, fearful that placing most of our kit away from our camp would simply get it stolen. By two legged miscreants. Besides, we were hopeful the food stash would draw the bears away from us.

Sourdoughcamp

There’d been conflicting advice as whether it was best to wild camp or use an established site. The former meant you were on your own, admittedly amongst bears who’d usually no interest in people, whereas the latter appeared to offer safety in numbers. That said, if food had been habitually left out, there was a real risk you might encounter a garbage bear – one conditioned to forage amongst humans.

ThreeGuardsmancamp (3)

Much of the time we’d had to stow our food bags on the ground, or just off it to avoid pilfering by the smaller critters, rather than suspend it from a high tree branch far out from the trunk. Wrong sort of trees. We’d generally cooked away from the tents. But as for showering and changing one’s clothes before retiring for the night. Often impractical.

DeadmansLakecamp (8)

So, what had I settled on? Keep my food a hundred metres or so from the tent. Remainder of my kit stowed in the panniers under the fly sheet. Bear spray always to hand, together with a knife should I have a violent encounter with a black bear, and satellite telephone in case I need to call the cavalry. Preference for wild camping, or clean, organised site amongst, or close, to towns or villages. And always cook away from the tent. Sensible precautions rather than simple paranoia.

[Canada’s Yukon Government produce an excellent pocket sized guide entitled "How you can stay safe in bear country" – by far the best read I’ve found on the subject – visit them at www.environmentyukon.gov.yk.ca]

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