As temperatures rise and people start to spend more time outdoors, many wildlife species are also moving around the forest. This includes bears, which become more active in the springtime as they awaken from winter hibernation. It is important that all visitors to the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests “Be Bear Aware” any time they visit the National Forest or other outdoor spaces.
The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests provides important wildlife habitat for many species, including bears. Black bears are the most likely bear species you may encounter on the forest, although grizzly bears are seen on occasion as they travel over from areas with established populations. Black bears can be identified by their tall, pointed ears and straight facial profile, while grizzly bears have short round ears, a dished facial profile, and a prominent shoulder hump. Remember, color and size can be misleading when identifying bears; it is best to look for a combination of characteristics. Learn more about identifying black bears and grizzly bears by visiting www.bearsmart.com/about-bears/know-the-difference. There are hunting seasons for black bear in the state of Idaho; however, grizzly bears are federally protected and cannot be hunted. Hunters need to be able to confidently identify their target when participating in black bear hunts.
There are several ways to stay safe when sharing the forest with bears. Always stay alert to your surroundings and learn to recognize bear sign, such as tracks or scat, so you can notice if there has recently been a bear in the area. When hiking, make regular noises to alert nearby wildlife of your presence, and avoid thick brush or other areas where you cannot see your surroundings. Hunters should properly dress their game and ensure that gut piles are far from campsites or trails. Carcasses should be hung so that bears cannot get to them; that means 10–15 feet off the ground, four feet from the supporting structure, and 100 yards from any recreation area or sleeping area. When camping, food should be stored in hard–sided, bear–resistant containers or within vehicles or trailers. As always, maintain a clean camp and “Pack it In, Pack it Out.” Reducing odors can help prevent you from attracting bears to your camp, and packing your trash out after your stay will prevent bears from being drawn to the area after you leave. Learn more bear safety tips at www.fs.usda.gov/visit/know-before-you-go/bears.