How to scare a bear

State wildlife biologists experimented for years with different methods to keep bears from stealing campers’ food in the High Peaks Wilderness. Finally, the state decided to require all campers in the eastern High Peaks to store food in bear-resistant canisters.

A black bear. Photo from Wikipedia.
A black bear. Photo from Wikipedia.

This not a problem unique to the Adirondacks. The latest issue of the Journal of Wildlife Management includes a study conducted in California’s Sequoia National Park of the various ways people try to scare away “problem” bears: yelling at them, spraying them with pepper, throwing things at them, shooting them with rubber bullets, etc.

“Aversive conditioning was most effective when applied quickly after a bear’s first contact with human food. Shooting bears with rubber slugs from a 12-gauge shotgun was found to be slightly more effective than any other method,” according to a news release from the journal.

“Overall, aversive conditioning reduced but did not eliminate incidents of bears entering developed areas to forage for food,” the news release said. “The study noted that in areas where bears require access to critical habitats, it may be best to seasonally exclude people rather than bears.”

Incidentally, Mary Thill wrote a story about Adirondack bears in our September/October issue. And if you’re interested in bears, you’ll be interested in our earlier post about Yellow-Yellow, the bear that learned how to open food canisters.

Click here to  read the California study.

Click the link below to read the news release.

news release pdf

About Phil Brown

Phil Brown edited the Adirondack Explorer from 1999 until his retirement in 2018. He continues to explore the park and to write for the publication and website.

Reader Interactions


  1. Joe H says

    Hey Phil,

    Here’s a link for you. Bear attack? There’s an app for that!

    A new Iphone application designed to frighten away aggressive black bears uses the recorded sounds of an airhorn, bear bells, hands clapping or rocks shaking in a tin can. Inventor Alex Tiger, a lawyer, understands the decibel level of the sounds falls short of the real thing, so he’s selling “Scare Bear” as a novelty item to cover liability concerns. Good idea

    Visit to see the product. And make sure you’re carrying ab iPhone the next time a bear is chasing you.

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