North Idaho

Don't be caught unprepared if you encounter a bear

PRIEST LAKE, Idaho - Trails near the Priest Lake Visitor Center are back open one day after a woman and her dogs were attacked by a bear.

Someone else also encountered a bear and her cubs not far from where the woman was attacked. It's a good reminder about the dangers we sometimes face when heading into the mountains.

There are more bears in the Priest Lake area than anywhere else in the state of Idaho. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy the outdoors.

“It is very uncommon to have incidents involving bears because bears don't want to have anything to do with people, generally,” said Idaho Fish and Game spokesperson Phil Cooper.

Bears will become aggressive when they are surprised, so, be noisy while walking in bear country.

“Either take sticks and knock them together, or talk loudly,” said Cooper.

You can also wear bear bells. If you have a dog, keep it on a leash. Dogs almost always run ahead, and if they encounter a bear, they'll run back to you, with a bear chasing them.

“First off, probably the most important thing is to carry bear spray with you, in case you do actually come into contact with a bear,” said Cooper

Bear spray can save your life. And it's available at nearly all outdoor stores, including Mountain Gear in Spokane.

“If you hit them before they get to you, it's going to make their noise run, make it really hard for them to see, and they're usually going to turn tail and run if they haven't already,” said Lawrence Hall, Mountain Gear.

The cans don't require much accuracy. They shoot a fog 30-40 feet ahead and also work on other aggressive animals, like cougars.

But, what if you're empty handed, and you do come face to face with a bear? Fish and Game officers say to stand your ground.

“The last thing you want to do is turn and fun,” said Cooper. “If it's a black bear, you want to fight back, you want to punch it, kick it, yell at it, whatever.”

And if it's a grizzly? “You should play dead.”

If you do purchase some bear spray, make sure it comes with a holster. Because it won't do much good if it's stuck in your backpack.