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Thread: Bear Bells

  1. #1
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    Default Bear Bells

    I was wondering about the effectiveness of those little bells people wear to alert bears to their presence. I know people joke about them a lot, but is there any particular reason why they wouldn't work?

    My biggest concern comes from something that was told to me by a park ranger when I was a kid. He said that whistling wasn't a good idea because bears didn't associate the noise with humans. I'm worried that the same would be true for bells.

    On the other hand, a bear that's never run into a human before wouldn't associate anything with us, so maybe the whistling thing was BS. I guess it's possible that bears would mistake whistling with birds singing, thereby rendering it ineffective. I was in cub scouts when I was told this, so it's also possible that I'm remembering the ranger's advice wrong all these years later.

    It's easy enough to strike up a conversation when in the woods with someone else, but when alone I get tired of babbling to myself.

    Do you guys think a bell or other noise maker would be a good thing to carry?

    (Sorry if this post hasn't made any sense, I'm very tired.)

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    Member Bear Buster's Avatar
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    I was wondering about the effectiveness of those little bells people wear to alert bears to their presence. I know people joke about them a lot, but is there any particular reason why they wouldn't work?
    They work as good as bear spray IMO.....why not carry one of those little air horns and just toot it once in awhile.

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    The overall feeling I've gotten from talking to bear experts and rangers is that the bear bells are not all that effective. The sound is too high pitched and doesn't carry very well. Not to mention the fact that they can be really annoying! They are probably better than nothing, but I feel more secure when I'm making a bit more noise than a little bell can muster.

    I do know what you mean about babbling to yourself in the woods. However it seems like it comes with traveling in bear country. If you're in the open with good line of sight in all directions then you probably don't need to make noise as frequently. I try to let out a hearty "Hey bear" or other yell every few minutes if I'm in the woods, near a noisy creek or river, or coming over the crest of a hill. If you get sick of yelling you can clap your hands.

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    Member AKPacker's Avatar
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    I've also heard that they are too high pitched for bears to associate them with humans. I've even heard that they could actually attract bears since they associate high pitched noises with small prey animals, don't know if there's any truth to that though. I'm with Kennicott, I try to keep up a conversation with my hiking partners, and every once in a while, loudly yell out "hey bear" so that they'll know we're coming.
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    So it sounds like bear bells aren't that effective.

    I like the clapping idea, thanks.

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    Default Hey bear

    Quote Originally Posted by AKPacker View Post
    I've also heard that they are too high pitched for bears to associate them with humans. I've even heard that they could actually attract bears since they associate high pitched noises with small prey animals, don't know if there's any truth to that though. I'm with Kennicott, I try to keep up a conversation with my hiking partners, and every once in a while, loudly yell out "hey bear" so that they'll know we're coming.
    The yelling is more effective. When I take folks through brush I tell them to make noise. But simple conversation is not very loud. If I can barely hear someone who is ten feet behind me then the bear won't hear us coming either. Bears have a great sense of smell but their hearing and vision is similar to humans. So if a bear is busy munching on berries then he might not hear you coming.

    All of that said, there is too sometimes too much concern about bears and there is no need to go hoarse yelling every 15 seconds "HEY BEAR". As Paul said, a lot of Alaskan hiking is over pretty open ground where you have a good view of the area and so you don't need to worry as much.

    In the vast majortiy of cases, the bear will hear or smell you before you get close enough for a close encounter.

    I highly recommend the DVD "Staying Safe in Bear Country"... great information by the leading experts in bear behaviour.

    hope this helps

    Greg
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    Guided Alaskan Backpacking Adventures

    Author of Hiking Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
    published by Falcon Guides

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    When hiking alone I find that my rendition of Tammy Wynet songs keep me really safe.
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    Member OKElkHunter's Avatar
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    Sorry folks, but I hike all summer and the only bear encounter I ever had was when I did not have my bell. Any noise is better than none, at least the bear is not surprised because he knows you are there; bear attacks are because the person surprised the bear. Its hard to surprise something that has heard you coming, even if it is a bell.

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    Member Flintlock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OKElkHunter View Post
    bear attacks are because the person surprised the bear.
    This is not always true. There are various reasons why bears attack and surprise is only one of them.

    I encountered bears on more than one occassion last year during summer hiking and I was on popular trails with other people around. Noise was being made and dogs were in the vicinity. The bears didn't seem to care.
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    Default Bear Bells

    Bear bells would be more effective if they sounded like a rifle bolt slamming shut. Actually tests showed that bears don't care about bells except that they disrupt the digestive system on the way out.
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  11. #11
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    Default Noise Options

    Personally, I feel like a dork yelling "hey bear" every five minutes...not that I feel goofy making noise to alert a bear to my presence...but that I'm using words that are actually pertinent to the situation under the assumption that the bear would actually know what the hell I was saying and upon hearing me would swing his little ears in my direction and answer in a deep voice "Yes, bear here". When alone I often say thoughts outloud, or even sing...poorly, or purposely clank something metal against a tree...anything to sound distinctly human. Mostly, as some have suggested here, I walk the open ground as much as I can and make noise when visibility and hearing conditions are less than ideal, such as before trudging through that alder thicket. On rivers I walk the waterline or even in the water so i can be as far away from those nice little nooks along the well beaten bear trails that bruins like to take naps in, even though those trails are often easier walking.

    Basically, what you say is up to you, but say it loudly, never tried the bells, mostly because they are always clanging no matter the terrain and after a few miles of that racket I'd probably just shoot myself.

    As far as conversation not travelling that far...I was moose hunting in an area that was far enough from water that no subsistence hunter in their right mind would be there...except me but I'm learning. Anyhoo, as I was watching over this prime little meadow, I thought I was losing my mind from the solo hunting isolation as I thought I heard two people talking even further away from the water. 5 minutes later, two young guys come tromping through at 100 yards off, (two graduate students pulling some equipment from the stream I was near). I had heard them coming from probably more than 200 yards on a day with some light wind but also with them in some thick spruce as they approached. Now, with a bear's extremely sensitive hearing, I'd imagine they can hear you coming pretty good if you are making any noise at all.

    Plus, we can't smell ourselves (thank god) but bears can, so if I'm walking with the wind I feel comfortable making less noise. I feel that if you are doing these things and keep your eyes and ears open, getting close to a bear is more up to the bear's discretion than it is ours. Sometimes they are just curious, or perhaps lazy, I don't even want to know how many I have walked by at less than 20 yards that figured I wasn't worth bolting from...I can tell you exactly how many I have walked by at twenty yards and they DID decide it was worth bolting (cuz I have a stained set of shorts for each). But that's why I never turn my hunting mode off when I'm hiking in the bush.

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    What about bear bangers? Anyone know how effective they are? I have been toying with the idea of picking some up.

  13. #13

    Default my bear bell

    Several years ago, I was hiking with my girls in Portage valley and came across a mangled bear bell in a pile of bear squat. I assume it was placed in there by some teenagers as a joke for the tourists. We washed it off in Portage Lake, and it still worked. It has remained in my truck since and has accompanied us on many hikes, although there always is a pretty interesting discussion of who has to carry it and be the "bait". Don't really know if it does any good, but it is a good story.

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  14. #14

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    A person could go tribal and wear a deer hoof rattle around their ankle. It wouldn't sound as annoying as a bell, but it might say "here's dinner!" more than anything else would.
    Tsimshian tribe, wolf clan, the house of Walsk.

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