Guidelines for living with black bears


Enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty brings with it some responsibilities. Co-existing with the state’s bear population is one of them. By following the guidelines in this brochure, you can help keep Oregon’s bears safe and where they belong – in the wilderness.

Oregon is home to about 25,000 to 30,000 black bears. Generally black in color, they also can be brown, cinnamon or blond. Fast and agile, they are good swimmers and climbers who prefer forests, trails and stream beds. At home throughout Oregon, black bears are voracious consumers of berries, fruit, grasses, plants and, sometimes, animals. An integral part of Oregon’s ecosystem, the continued viability of the black bear depends on the knowledge and support of all our citizens.

Most importantly, black bears should never be allowed access to human food or garbage; it habituates them to people and increases the chance of conflict. Once habituated to finding food near homes or campgrounds, bears can become a threat to human safety and often must be destroyed.

If you encounter a bear

  • Black bear attacks are uncommon. In most cases, a bear will avoid human contact. It is never safe to approach a bear.
  • Give any bear you encounter a way to escape. Step off the trail and slowly walk away.
  • If you see bear cubs, steer clear and leave the area.
  • If you encounter a bear, stay calm. Do not run or make sudden movements. Back away slowly as you face the bear.
  • Avoid direct eye contact with the bear.
  • If a bear stands on his hind legs, he is trying to detect scents; he is not necessarily behaving aggressively.
  • In the unlikely event you are attacked, fight back. Shout, be aggressive, use rocks, sticks, and hands to fend off an attack.

For more information about living with black bears, visit the ODFW Web site. If you are involved in a face-to-face encounter with a bear, call the nearest office of ODFW or Oregon State Police.

Homeowners ChecklistBlkBearBroch2

Bear-proofing your yard and neighborhood can help avoid potentially dangerous encounters.

  • Keep pet food indoors. Feed pets in the house, garage or enclosed kennel.
  • Hang bird feeders from a wire at least 10 feet off the ground and 6 to 10 feet from the trunk of a tree.
  • Keep the area under bird feeders clean.
  • Remove fruit that has fallen from trees.
  • Add lime to compost piles to reduce odors. Do not compost meat, bones, fruit, dairy products or grease.
  • Secure garbage cans in a garage, shed or behind a chain link or electric fence.
  • Put garbage cans out just before pick-up time, not the night before.
  • Purchase bear-proof garbage cans if necessary.
  • Take garbage with you when leaving your vacation home.
  • Clean garbage containers regularly with bleach or moth balls to reduce odors.
  • Use electric fencing to keep bears from orchards, gardens, compost, beehives and berries.
  • Store livestock food in a secure place.
  • Don’t leave scented candles, soap or suntan lotions outdoors or near open windows.
  • Talk to neighbors to encourage everyone in the neighborhood to remove attractants.
  • Stay indoors and allow a visiting bear to move on.
  • Keep barbeques clean. Store them in a shed or garage.
  • Never, ever feed a bear.
  • Teach children about bear safety.

Campers and Hikers Checklist

Before enjoying the natural beauty Oregon has to offer, learn about its resident bears and how to avoid conflicts.

Contain food and garbage

  • Store food in airtight containers in the trunk of your car, in bear boxes or on platforms.
  • Hang bagged food at least 10 feet high and 6 to 10 feet from a tree trunk or side support.
  • Do not leave food items or pet food outdoors or in tents.
  • Clean all food preparation and eating utensils immediately after using them, and place them in vehicles or sealed, bear-proof containers.
  • Dispose of garbage in bear-proof cans or pack it out.
  • Do not bury garbage – bears will dig it up.

Camp safely

  • Keep campsites and campfire areas clean.
  • Sleep at least 100 yards from cooking and eating areas.
  • Keep dogs on leashes or in cars.
  • Never pick up a bear cub – its mother has left it there and will return.
  • Stay clear of berry patches.
  • Don’t leave soap, suntan lotion, candles or scented items outdoors or in a tent.
  • Pitch your tent away from dense brush or trees – avoid what might be an animal trail to a river or stream.
  • Use a flashlight at night.
  • Don’t camp or hike alone.
  • Teach children about bear safety.

Hike safely

  • Avoid trails with bear tracks or bear sign.
  • Make noise when hiking so as not to surprise a bear.
  • If you see a bear, leave the area.
  • Stay far away from cubs – the mother is nearby.
  • Leash dogs. A loose dog may lead a bear back to you.
  • Don’t hike after dark.
  • Consider carrying bear pepper spray in areas known to have bears.

Anglers and Hunters Checklist

Fishing or hunting in bear country brings some additional challenges, so take extra caution.

Manage food and refuse

  • Keep food in bear-proof containers.
  • Keep campsites and campfire areas clean.
  • Place all garbage and fish refuse in sealed, bear-proof containers.
  • Do not bury garbage or fish refuse; bears will dig it up.

Be safe while fishing

  • Fish with at least one other person.
  • Make noise. Talk loudly around a stream – carry a whistle to use to alert bears of your presence.
  • Avoid berry patches.
  • If you see a bear or fresh bear sign, leave the area.
  • Give way to any bear you encounter.
  • Clean fish at designated cleaning stations.
  • Avoid salmon spawning areas where bears are likely to be seeking food.

Guidelines for hunters

  • Be aware of your surroundings; be cautious.
  • Watch for fresh bear sign.
  • If you see a bear, leave the area.
  • Don’t hunt alone.
  • Be aware that by calling in an animal, you may attract a bear.
  • Follow all safe camping rules.


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