Bear Safety in Stanton, KY

Records of Black Bears in Kentucky

Black bears once ran rampant throughout the United States.  However, their population was greatly reduced when they started losing habitats due to humans moving in. Historically, it is noted the black bear essentially left Kentucky in the early 1900’s.  This was mainly influenced by logging companies, railroads, and unregulated hunting.

Over the last 20 years, the black bear has proven to be a wildlife success story, by becoming the most widespread species in the world. As the oak forests grew and matured after the substantial timber efforts, the bears were able to recolonize their old habitats.

Prior to the forests maturing, the bears who filtered into Kentucky had access to open tracts of high quality habitats. As a result of reforestation, Kentucky is now experiencing a large influx of bear population in numbers and range.


Practicing Bear Safety in Stanton, KY

When you know you are going to be out camping for a couple of days, many folks begin to wonder about the type of containers they should put their food into.  What is going to be the best way to deter bears from entering your camp site? What should you do if you suddenly come up on a bear?

It is easy to forget, bears do not like people. Many do not even realize they have been close to a bear while hiking because bears do such a good job of avoiding them. Most bear encounters end with both the bear and human backing away slowly, with no harm done. The risk of a human having a dangerous encounter with a bear is less likely than getting hit by lightning, and even less than that of getting into a car accident. There is never a guarantee of leaving a meeting unscathed, but there are methods you can practice lessening your chances of a dangerous encounter.

Camping Safely in the Gorge

One of the most important things to remember when camping in bear country is to never allow bears to get your food, garbage or other attractants.  When bears learn they can find food at a camp site, it could lead to them becoming more aggressive to get the food.  They have been known to break into cars or tents an attack people.  Bears are attracted to the following:

  • Human food
  • Pet food
  • Garbage
  • Cooking oils
  • Gas used for stoves and lanterns
  • Unopened canned beverages
  • Birdseed
  • Toiletries (lotions, sunscreen, bug repellants, and toothpaste)

These items should be stored in one of the following:

  • In a bear-resistant backpack or food cache
  • In a bear-resistant storage box
  • In a hard-sided vehicle (coolers, pop-up campers, and tents are not bear-resistant)
  • Suspended 10 feet in the air and 4 feet off the ground, not near a tree or post

Be sure to follow these guidelines:

  • Do not camp near berry patches, carcasses or any fresh signs that a bear has been close.
  • Keep bear spray and a flashlight on hand at all times.
  • Avoid cooking fish or bacon
  • Do not sleep in any of the clothing you wore while cooking.
  • Never put any food inside your tent.
  • Pack out all garbage and food scraps. Do not bury them because a bear will try to dig them up.
  • Do not sleep out in the open. Instead, you should always sleep in a tent.
  • Keep all pets on a leash.
  • If you are camping in backcountry, you should make sure to set up your campsite at least 100 yards away from where you are cooking your food.
  • If a bear aggressively enters your campsite, and is not deterred by loud noises or spray, you should try to get a safe area. This means the bear is human conditioned and could be quite dangerous. You should immediately report any incident like this to the authorities.

Encountering a Bear in Red River Gorge

One of the most important things to remember if you come across a bear while hiking, is DO NOT RUN!! This could trigger the bear’s predatory instincts and make it want to catch you. A bear is capable of sprinting at 35 mph and can cover 100 yards in 7 seconds.  You should take a moment to assess your situation.

  • If the bear does not see you, you should back away quietly. Do not approach for any reason. You should try to remain unnoticed.
  • If the bear notices you, you should try speaking to the bear in a calm voice. Slowly put your arms out at you side and move them up and down. You want to try to make the bear understand that you are not another bear or a type of prey animal. The bear may run away or simply resume whatever it was the bear was doing.
  • If the bear chooses to run away, you should walk away in whatever direction the bear did not go.
  • If the bear does not retreat, you should take this time to back away slowly while continuing to talk to the bear. Yet again, if the bear does not seem concerned you are there, you should not approach the bear in an attempt to get a picture.
  • If the bear does approach you, make sure to stand your ground. Remain calm and take your cues from the bear.
    1. A defensive bear will view you as a threat and try to intimidate you. It may try to show its teeth or slap the ground with its’ front paws. The bear is obviously stressed by you being there and is more than likely attempting to protect cubs. If the bear backs up, but then charges again, playing dead is going to be your best bet. Do not make any noise or sudden movements until the bear is completely out of sight.  If you do not wait until the bear is completely gone, you make have re-engaged the bear.
    2. A curious bear will not make any noise. It will have its attention on you, but its’ ears will be forward. If you have attempted to back up, but the bear is following you, you may have to find a new method. At this point making yourself appear as big as possible may work for you. Start shouting and make direct eye contact.  If the bear continues to come toward you, find a stick and swat it at the bear’s face. Experts now recommend that anyone who is being attacked by a black bear should fight because the bear is probably not acting defensively.

Bear Spray

There have been several debates as to whether a gun or bear spray work best to get rid of a bear. It has finally been proven that bear spray tends to be the safest and most effective way. Statistics show that people defending themselves with a firearm are 50% more likely to get injured.  Whereas people who use bear spray tend to escape uninjured.

Bear spray is made with capsaicin, which is derived from cayenne peppers. It irritates the bears eyes, nose and throat.  The spray does not cause any permanent damage to the bear but will typically have them wander away from you.

Bear spray should only be discharged when you are being attacked by an aggressive bear. Do not spray it on your own backpacks, clothing or tents.  You may accidentally come in contact with the spray and find yourself getting slightly irritated. If you decide to opt for bear spray, you should look for the following:

  • EPA registration number will show you that your spray has been tested and show the effectiveness.
  • Bear spray should have a minimum of 7.9 ounces. However, the bigger the can, the better they work.
  • It should be labeled properly saying it is only for use on bears and should not be used on humans.
  • The spray should leave the can in a cloud and expand outward approximately 30 feet.

If you intend to carry bear spray, you should read all instructions on the label.  It is best to prepare yourself mentally for the possibility you may have to use the spray at some point in your adventure.