A summer visit to Highlands offers a perfect place to enjoy being in the outdoors and enjoying nature. With numerous hiking trails and outdoor activities, there are numerous opportunities to get outside and enjoy the fresh mountain air. Although spending time outside in nature is often times a relaxing and stress-free experience, being outdoors in an area that is populated with bears can make it a bit more stressful if you aren’t educated on being Bear Wise! Read on to learn important tips and information on sharing the outdoors with bears. 

Highlands is home to a significant population of black bears, making it important to understand their behaviors to handle or prevent interactions. These bears are most active at dusk and dawn and possess an extraordinary sense of smell, which is seven times better than that of a bloodhound. While typically wary of humans, some bears may overcome their fear if they find easily accessible food.

Follow the Outdoor Bear Wise Basics for a stress-free outdoor experience: 


Always be aware of your surroundings and try to stick with others when outdoors. Don’t wear earbuds so you can hear what’s happening around you. Try to make noise frequently so bears will know you’re there and avoid you. If hiking with kids, keep them close. 

Remember to Leave No Trace and pack out all food and trash. Double bag your food when hiking and don’t burn food scraps or trash in your fire pit or grill if camping. 


Always keep your furry friends on a leash to avoid an unwanted interaction with a bear. Don’t let your dog bark at or chase bears. 


If camping, set up your camp away from dense cover and natural food sources for bears. Don’t cook near your tent, store food, trash, clothes worn when cooking or toiletries in your tent. Use bear resistant containers, lock things in your car, or suspend them at least 10 feet above ground and 10 feet away from any part of a tree. 


Carrying bear spray is a proven way to easily and effectively deter a bear that may threaten you. To use bear spray, release the safety clip, hold with both hands, aim slightly downward and toward the bears face. Spray in a short burst of 2-3 seconds and if the bear keeps approaching spray again. After us, remember to replace the safety clip and stow the container. For a demonstration on how to use bear spray, check out this video by bearwise.org


If you do encounter a bear, here are some important safety tips to follow:

1. If you see a bear that has not yet noticed you, don’t approach it. Just stand still and quietly move away. 

2. If the bear sees you, slowly back away. Never run. Running can trigger the bear to chase you. 

3. If a bear approaches you, stand your ground, wave your arms and yell, “Hey Bear” until it leaves. If the bear keeps approaching you, use bear spray.

4. If a bear makes contact with you, don’t play dead, always fight back to the best of your ability. 


For more information about being Bear Wise, go to bearwise.org. Bear Wise is a trusted black bear program offering reliable information and practical solutions to help homeowners, businesses, and communities coexist safely with bears.