Whenever someone mentions camping or hiking, there are always three responses, one of which we’ll get to later. As far as the other two go, depending on the individual, they’ll say either ‘watch out for bears,’ or ‘oh, so you’ll be sleeping with the bears.’ In Colorado you might spot a black bear from March through November. Despite their name black bears can look blonde or brown. Bears deceive people into believing they’re massive due to their bulky fur coats, but they’re not. Males weigh about 300 pounds and females weigh about 200 pounds. These mammals have one rather cool super power: the power to smell something five miles away. For this reason never feed a bear or leave food lying around. Don’t keep anything that smells strongly in your tent. This means no toiletries, no bug spray, no sunscreen, no food, and don’t sleep in the clothes you cooked in. Stash this stuff away from your tent in air tight containers if you have them, if not, double bag the stuff. Bears are geniuses and they remember the places where they found food. They’re kind of like a grade school student and the lunch room in that respect.
Before hibernation bears must consume 20,000 calories per day to last the winter, so bears have to forage about 20 hours per day. If you see shredded logs, tracks, or scat then there’s a possibility you may run across a bear. Don’t wear headphones and listen intently when you’re around water, keep dogs on leashes for their protection and yours, make noises occasionally to alert bears of your presence and hopefully they’ll be gone before you come across them. Bears aren’t brave, they tend to run from danger or climb the nearest tree. The only meat they eat is carcasses they stumble upon or insects. Mainly, bears stick to berries, plants, and grasses.
If you see a black bear and it sees you, don’t play dead. That didn’t work out well for Seth Green in Without a Paddle and it won’t work out well for you either. Keep still (don’t run or climb a tree) and use your inside voice. Be sure that the bear has an escape that isn’t near you. If the bear stands don’t panic, it’s just trying to get a better look at you. Wave your arms and keep talking normally. If the bear stomps, cracks its jaw, or huffs then back away, downhill if available, until the bear is out of sight. If the bear approaches, throw rocks near, but not at, the bear. Yell and wave your arms to make yourself look as big as possible. Bang pots and pans. Blow whistles. (Interesting fact, bear spray works better than a firearm at scaring bears. Spray when the bear is about 40 feet away.) Whatever you do, just make sure that you fight back, use your walking stick, trekking pole, pocket knife, or anything else within reach.
Now, the third response you may receive: “I hope you don’t run across a mountain lion.”
Your response: “What!” (Notice that’s not a question, but more of a ‘holy crap I’m staying home.’)
Mountain lions stick to remote places with lots of cover and deer, so don’t feed deer because you don’t want them sticking around if you live in mountain lion territory. In the last 100 years there have been less than twelve deaths resulting from mountain lion attacks. Due to this fact researchers haven’t studied the best ways to deal with a mountain lion (even though the number of mountain lion encounters has increased over the years) and all that outdoorsmen have to go on is advice from survivors. Whereas bears are not night creatures, mountain lions are.
Dealing with mountain lions is similar to dealing with black bears. Remain calm and talk to the lion. If you can back away slowly, then do so, but don’t run because that will trigger the chase instinct in the mountain lion. If you can’t back away, then raise your arms, puff out your chest, flap your jacket, and do whatever else you can to look like the biggest human being on earth. If the mountain lion approaches or growls, throw anything you can grab without crouching. Talk firmly and try to convince the mountain lion with your posture and booming voice that you are dangerous and not prey. It’s kind of like walking the streets of New York City. You don’t want to stare at the sidewalk and behave like a victim, so you look past people with an ‘I hate the world’ glare. If the lion attacks, fight back with whatever you have and don’t let it knock you to the ground. If it does, get back up.