Bear Safety Tips – Hiking & Camping

By Becky Lewis

May is “Be Bear Aware and Wildlife Stewardship” month so it is the perfect time to remind Island Park residents, visitors, and tourists how to safely recreate in bear habitat.

Island Park is home to both black bears and grizzly bears so it is important to understand how to safely recreate in this area. Because hiking and camping are two of the most popular activities in Island Park, we hope the following tips will help you safely enjoy your activities.


Island Park has a wide variety of hiking trails offering varied terrain and changing views.  Follow the tips below to help ensure your safety and reduce bear encounters while hiking.

  • Tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return
  • Hike in groups of three or more
  • Make noise by talking, singing, and/or clapping your hands
  • Hike at a pace everyone can maintain and stay together
  • Keep children close to the group and have them refrain from squealing or making other animal-like noises
  • Be aware of bear signs:  scat, tracks, day beds, hair rubs/scratches on trees, logs/stumps torn apart, holes in the ground (bears digging for roots), and carcasses (strange smells and/or ravens in the area)
  • Be especially cautious around thick brush, blind corners, near berry patches and streams
  • Avoid hiking at dawn, dusk, and at night
  • Avoid off-trail hiking
  • Don’t leave backpacks unattended
  • Keep dogs on a leash
grizzly bear walking through snow


Camping is a great way to experience Island Park.  There are a lot of ways to camp including RV camping, car camping, tent camping, and “under the stars” camping.  Regardless of the type of camping, bears visit campsites looking for food rewards.   The following guidelines will help you stay safe while camping in bear habitat.

  • Always keep a clean camp
  • Store all bear attractants in a bear-resistant container or a hard-sided vehicle (in the backcountry, your sleeping area should be at least 100 yards away from your cooking area)
  • Keep your sleeping area including your tent and clothes free of food odors
  • Use the designated gray water disposal grates; do not dispose of grey water near a human-use area
  • Keep your fire pit clean and/or grill free of food residue
  • Do not leave pet food or water bowls out; do not leave pets unattended in the campsite
  • Keep bear spray and a flashlight readily available in your sleeping area

Becky is an Idaho Master Naturalist who lives in Ashton, ID

She volunteers in the USFS Campground Bear Safety program, at the IDFG Bear Education Trailer, for the Bear Safe Island Park project, and has obtained grant funding for Bear Spray Giveaway Events