Tuesday, October 26, 2021
Oct. 26, 2021

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Prepare for bears if visiting Mount Rainier


TACOMA — It’s hiking and camping season, and Mount Rainier National Park is a great spot to do both.

A recent deadly bear attack in Montana raises some important safety questions: Are there bears at Mount Rainier? What can I do to avoid an encounter?

Black bears can be found at Mount Rainier National Park and are one of the largest and most feared wildlife species there, according to the park’s website. There are no grizzly bears at the park, public information officer Kevin Bacher said. It was a grizzly that pulled a California woman from her tent and killed her in Montana.

There has never been a reported black bear attack at the park, Bacher said.

“It’s an extremely rare situation for black bears here in the Pacific Northwest to be so aggressive that you have to go a further step,” he said. “Most places where that does happen, it’s places where bears have become accustomed to people because they’ve been careless with food. And that’s just not the case of Mount Rainier.”

One’s chances of spotting a black bear at Mount Rainier National Park increase in the late summer during huckleberry season.

The park recommends safety precautions for those who come into contact with bears while hiking:

  • Do not feed any black bears you spot in the park.
  • Do not approach cubs. An adult bear might be nearby and become defensive.
  • Back away slowly from any black bears you approach and talk loudly to them.
  • A black bear getting riled up — like stomping, huffing or snapping teeth — is a sign it may charge.

While camping, Bacher said, food should be stowed and never kept in one’s tent in case of bears. Mount Rainier National Park gives information on stowing food to all campers. Food should be kept in campers’ cars, a bear box or on a bear pole, the last of which can be found at backcountry campsites.

If a black bear ends up charging, people should keep the following in mind:

  • If the bear stops charging, slowly back away and talk loudly until you have exited the area.
  • If the bear continues to charge, be aggressive. Shout and throw sticks or rocks.
  • Distance yourself from any food you might have.
  • Fight back aggressively if a bear charges or attacks and you have no food. The bear is likely viewing you as prey in a predatory attack.

The National Park Service notes on its website bear pepper spray can be an important addition to a hiker’s backpack. Hikers are advised to check with the park they will be visiting to see if the use of bear pepper spray is recommended and permitted.

Mount Rainier National Park encourages anyone who spots bears to report it to a ranger or to call park dispatch at 360-569-6600.