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Deranged Touring Cyclist
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
While bear attacks are surpassingly rare, they do happen. In this most recent case, a woman on a long distance cycling trip in Montana was dragged from her tent and killed by a grizzly bear.

Make no mistake: this is a terrible tragedy and my heart goes out to the woman and her family. No one deserves to die like this.

As someone who camps in bear country whenever I can, I tend to look for details in bear attacks which might help keep me safe in similar circumstances. In starting this discussion, my interest is in promoting safety, not victim blaming. A cyclist is dead, soon to be followed by the bear which attacked her. Both these outcomes are tragic and to be avoided if at all possible. It is my hope that the details of this attack might be used by others to avoid the same fate.

First and foremost, the group in question reportedly brought food into their tents. In bear country this is a huge, glaring no-no. Bears have a better sense of smell than dogs, and are always on the hunt for calories. When it comes to bears, 'food' includes things like sunscreen, tooth paste, and deodorant in addition to actual human-consumable food items. All such materials should be kept out of one's tent.

For those who have spent time in bear country, this virtually goes without saying. Of course not everyone knows this, and some who do may not understand how important it is. Bears almost never view humans as food items. Attracting them with 'regular' food can change this. Nothing good comes for anyone when it happens.

It's easy to imagine making such a mistake at the end of a long day in the saddle. Indeed, I've made it myself relative to tooth paste and deodorant, and without the excuse of a long day in the saddle. I got away with it. In the case below, the mistake may have contributed to a cyclist's death.

Second and less well known, bears sometimes return after being driven off. In this case, the bear initially showed up around 3am, only to be driven off by bear spray. The cyclist's group then reportedly removed food from their tents. Sadly too late. The bear returned later, dragged a party member from her tent, and killed her.

Though it's not included in the news article linked below, bear experts recommend not going back to sleep after a close nighttime encounter with a bear. Instead, either leave the area immediately or, if that is not an option, stay awake and on guard through the remainder of the night.

Would being awake have helped three humans facing a 400lb grizzly? Maybe so, maybe not. Having been once driven off by bear spray, the bear might have been so deterred again. Assuming any spray was left. Then again, it may not have. Bear spray usually works, but there are documented cases of bears ignoring it. The few times this is known to have happened, the bear was initially driven off by the spray before returning.

My purpose here is to use a tragic situation to maybe enable others to keep themselves safe. The group of cyclists referenced here are far from the first, or likely the last, to make mistakes in bear country. Most who do so come through without being harmed by their mistakes. Not all are so lucky, however.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that statistically, the cyclist who was killed had a far greater likelihood of being hit by a car while riding her bike than of being killed by a bear. Such attacks are vanishingly rare, but nevertheless tragic.

Enjoy the road and the outdoors, but take care in doing so.

Original BBC article here.
 

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YAY BAIKS!
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I’ve watched some videos of touring cyclists camping in bear country and they had terrible bear safety. Hanging a pannier full of food 6’ off the ground, etc.
 

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Old, fat, and slow
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I'd leave my food on the ground and sleep in a hammock suspended 12 feet in the air.

I cannot imagine having a grizzly invade my camp, driving it off with toxic spray .... and going to sleep. it sounds like a joke. If we have just tear-gassed the region's apex predator .... let's leave the region. At Least keep watch.

I had never thought of that .... but it strikes me as being the same principal regardless of the predator, including humans. If we didn't kill the threat, we just made it angry.

Mr. Newleaf, you have spoiled many dreams for me. Camping just became a lot less fun. I thank yuo sincerely, in a way.

You should make "Camping With Grizzlies," the definitive video for prospective wilderness campers. I am sure there is a ton of stuff I have never heard or imagined, which might be simply and might also improve my odds.

I am throwing away my "Bear Musk" body spray immediately.
 

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Senior Member
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1,906 Posts
While bear attacks are surpassingly rare, they do happen. In this most recent case, a woman on a long distance cycling trip in Montana was dragged from her tent and killed by a grizzly bear.

Make no mistake: this is a terrible tragedy and my heart goes out to the woman and her family. No one deserves to die like this.

As someone who camps in bear country whenever I can, I tend to look for details in bear attacks which might help keep me safe in similar circumstances. In starting this discussion, my interest is in promoting safety, not victim blaming. A cyclist is dead, soon to be followed by the bear which attacked her. Both these outcomes are tragic and to be avoided if at all possible. It is my hope that the details of this attack might be used by others to avoid the same fate.

First and foremost, the group in question reportedly brought food into their tents. In bear country this is a huge, glaring no-no. Bears have a better sense of smell than dogs, and are always on the hunt for calories. When it comes to bears, 'food' includes things like sunscreen, tooth paste, and deodorant in addition to actual human-consumable food items. All such materials should be kept out of one's tent.

For those who have spent time in bear country, this virtually goes without saying. Of course not everyone knows this, and some who do may not understand how important it is. Bears almost never view humans as food items. Attracting them with 'regular' food can change this. Nothing good comes for anyone when it happens.

It's easy to imagine making such a mistake at the end of a long day in the saddle. Indeed, I've made it myself relative to tooth paste and deodorant, and without the excuse of a long day in the saddle. I got away with it. In the case below, the mistake may have contributed to a cyclist's death.

Second and less well known, bears sometimes return after being driven off. In this case, the bear initially showed up around 3am, only to be driven off by bear spray. The cyclist's group then reportedly removed food from their tents. Sadly too late. The bear returned later, dragged a party member from her tent, and killed her.

Though it's not included in the news article linked below, bear experts recommend not going back to sleep after a close nighttime encounter with a bear. Instead, either leave the area immediately or, if that is not an option, stay awake and on guard through the remainder of the night.

Would being awake have helped three humans facing a 400lb grizzly? Maybe so, maybe not. Having been once driven off by bear spray, the bear might have been so deterred again. Assuming any spray was left. Then again, it may not have. Bear spray usually works, but there are documented cases of bears ignoring it. The few times this is known to have happened, the bear was initially driven off by the spray before returning.

My purpose here is to use a tragic situation to maybe enable others to keep themselves safe. The group of cyclists referenced here are far from the first, or likely the last, to make mistakes in bear country. Most who do so come through without being harmed by their mistakes. Not all are so lucky, however.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that statistically, the cyclist who was killed had a far greater likelihood of being hit by a car while riding her bike than of being killed by a bear. Such attacks are vanishingly rare, but nevertheless tragic.

Enjoy the road and the outdoors, but take care in doing so.

Original BBC article here.
Thanks for the useful info. Many people largely underestimate risk, often to their detriment.
 

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YAY BAIKS!
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The best deterrent is not camping in habituated areas. I do week long canoe trips by myself in Minn and Canada. In The Boundary Waters the camps are established so they get certain lakes that develop problem bears. I check where I plan to be and if there is a problem bear I avoid that lake. If you camp where there are NO established camps you don’t even need to hang your food most of the time.

I use an Ursack when in bear country and would do so on a bike tour as well.
 

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Deranged Touring Cyclist
Joined
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5,453 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I'd leave my food on the ground and sleep in a hammock suspended 12 feet in the air.

I cannot imagine having a grizzly invade my camp, driving it off with toxic spray .... and going to sleep. it sounds like a joke. If we have just tear-gassed the region's apex predator .... let's leave the region. At Least keep watch.

I had never thought of that .... but it strikes me as being the same principal regardless of the predator, including humans. If we didn't kill the threat, we just made it angry.

Mr. Newleaf, you have spoiled many dreams for me. Camping just became a lot less fun. I thank yuo sincerely, in a way.

You should make "Camping With Grizzlies," the definitive video for prospective wilderness campers. I am sure there is a ton of stuff I have never heard or imagined, which might be simply and might also improve my odds.

I am throwing away my "Bear Musk" body spray immediately.
In truth, camping in bear country can be done with low level of risk and is quite rewarding. That said, precautions and some prior research are wise. Bear attacks are incredibly rare. By the numbers, it's really true that a touring cyclist has a better chance of being hit by a car than tangling with a bear. There's nevertheless an atavistic horror attached to the idea of being eaten by an apex predator which has a way of grabbing the imagination and shaking it madly. It's not a reason to turn away from the activity, at least for me. It is a reason to spend some time reading and thinking before heading out.

If your fears need further fuel, you might be interested to know that while adult grizzles cannot climb trees, 'little' ones can. Worse, adult black bears can - this is true - literally climb trees faster than an adult human can run on flat ground. Bears on the same flat ground can give a race horse a run for its money over short distances. Don't. Run. This engages the bear's predator instinct and is pointless anyway. This isn't a reason not to go, but is a reason to understand what you face in the event that you draw the sh!t card and do encounter a hungry bear.

I agree that going back to sleep after having to hit a bear with spray seems...unlikely. I don't know why the cyclists in the story responded in the way they did, though loaded cycling over long distances and in mountains can really take it out of you. Perhaps they were just that tired. They ended up in a dangerous situation and made a poor choice of moves. I'm sorry it ended the way it did.

The best deterrent is not camping in habituated areas. I do week long canoe trips by myself in Minn and Canada. In The Boundary Waters the camps are established so they get certain lakes that develop problem bears. I check where I plan to be and if there is a problem bear I avoid that lake. If you camp where there are NO established camps you don’t even need to hang your food most of the time.

I use an Ursack when in bear country and would do so on a bike tour as well.
Good practices! Mrs. Newleaf and I have more traditional bear vaults, but I have to say, your Ursack looks pretty awesome, and more convenient to boot. Color me intrigued.
 

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YAY BAIKS!
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The Ursack can be mauled by a bear and can still pretty much destroy your food but I chose it due to pack size. I have yet to have my Ursack mauled yet and I try to careful by using the scentlock liner bags. It’s not 100% scent free bit it does limit it. Ive been doing trips deep into bear country for 40+ years and just last year saw my first wild bear (mama and two cubs at 20 yards 💩 💩 💩).
 

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Deranged Touring Cyclist
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5,453 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
The Ursack can be mauled by a bear and can still pretty much destroy your food but I chose it due to pack size. I have yet to have my Ursack mauled yet and I try to careful by using the scentlock liner bags. It’s not 100% scent free bit it does limit it. Ive been doing trips deep into bear country for 40+ years and just last year saw my first wild bear (mama and two cubs at 20 yards 💩 💩 💩).
Yikes! 20yds is scary close, especially for a mom with cubs. I'm glad you came through the encounter safely.
 

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YAY BAIKS!
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It was super crazy because I was portaging a half mile from the parking area to the put in. It was surreal how my brain filled in what it couldn’t comprehend at the moment. I was walking along and I noticed someone in a black rain suit dropping a black food pack from up in a tree. As my brain started reasoning that it wasn’t raining and no one would have hung food on a portage and suddenly I saw it was a bear and two cubs. I started yelling and clapping as I slowly backed away reflexively. A most memorable moment for sure.
 

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Deranged Touring Cyclist
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I was chased by a big Bruin black bear while riding my bike home from work at 3:30 in the afternoon, the only thing that saved me was a semi saw what was happening and maneuvered his truck between me and the bear cutting him off. I didn’t stick around to see the outcome.
Wow! What a crazy scary situation!
 
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