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Old 07-24-2010   #1
penguin's Avatar
Tahoe City, California
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 53
Managing food amidst grizzly bears on N. Fork Flathead in Montana

Hey all,

Heading up to the N. Fork Flathead in Montana for a four-day float. This river is considered prime grizzly bear habitat. I've got experience with black bears, but little of it seems to apply to grizzly bears.

The four suggestions given by our river guide include:

(a) Keep it in the vehicle.
(b) Keep it in an approved bear-proof container, which is not a drybox.
(c) Stay with it.
(d) Hang it

Well, we're on a boat and have no vehicle - (a) is out. (b) seems like a hassle - we've got a reasonable sized group of nine people and a fair amount of frozen food. Putting it in a bear-proof container means it'll warm and thaw, and melt our ice more quickly.

And (c) - now that sounds like a lot of fun. Sleep with the food so the grizzly bears harass me instead of the food.

(d) hanging it is possible, but another challenge. Ever hang a cooler? I guess it could be quite easy with the right setup. . .

I really thought the guide would recommend bringing a dog. That's the best way to eliminate [black] bear problems where we live. Nothing seems to compare to the effectiveness of a dog - not pepper spray, bear guns or anything else. We have no dog for this trip.

So, what's the best way to manage this situation? Seems like hanging it is the way to go.

Would appreciate any and all input, jokes, or whatever.

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Old 07-24-2010   #2
Denver, Colorado
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 106
Revisit option (b).


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Old 07-24-2010   #3
penguin's Avatar
Tahoe City, California
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 53
Awesome. I have an Engel cooler, which I've now determined to be "bear resistant" thanks to your tip!

Seems there's a whole mess of data all over the web on this exact subject. Guess it would also be a bad idea to leave the cooler in the boat because if a bear gets it then my boat will be history.

In this case the drybox contents will still need to be hung. Not bad. . . looking better.

Thanks for the tip!
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Old 07-25-2010   #4
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 166
I lived up in the Bob Marsall for a year about 20 years ago. There are a bunch of bears up there.

Would not recommend the dog theory for griz, that is if you like the dog. My shepard [May he rest in peace] use to lay still as a log and not make a sound when a bear came into camp up there.

There are good ways to hang food, and the Griz is a very bad climber. If you do not hang it, park it far from where your sleeping.

By the way, what exactly is a bear gun? A hunting guide I lived with up there use to carry a 44mag, and would tell his clients it was not for the bear, but for them after the bear mauled them.
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Old 07-25-2010   #5
penguin's Avatar
Tahoe City, California
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 53
Thanks festivus - a "bear gun" is probably not the right choice of words. What I'm referring to is a bear deterrent - it's a gun that shoots a lit M-80 firecracker about 100'. These things are fun to shoot if nothing else - it's sort a well-timed way of putting a lit M-80 into your "slingshot".

I can only imagine fumbling with a bear gun while I'm crapping my pants.
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Old 07-25-2010   #6
Redpaddle's Avatar
Newport, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 206
Not spent that much time in Grizzly country, but up North, in Polar bear country they swear by a 12 gauge with slugs. On Canada trips they recommend hanging bags. Can't do this too far north as the trees are shrubs or non-existent. I have always kept my "smell-ables" under the canoe surrounded by gas for the stove. When the wind is not bad we would put pots and pans on top of the canoe to act as a warning. There is probably no fool proof way, but I'd rather deal with a bear than have it make off with a week's worth of food. I've heard good things about using dogs as deterrents/alarms.

Strategy might change with a 4 day trip though, less loss....

just my 2 cents....
"Paddle silently, boof loudly"
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Old 07-25-2010   #7
wildh2onriver's Avatar
irvine, California
Paddling Since: 1987
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 1,197
Stack and strap all cooler and dryboxes together in a 'cube'. Keep kitchen immaculate and food odor free. Burn all burnable trash and grease nightly. I use a squirt bottle with a bleach solution and spray everything down and stack pots and pans on the 'cube'.

Dogs are not a good idea in griz country, often times a dog will chase a bear out of camp until the bear decides it's had enough and then will chase the dog--where do you think the dog goes when it's running for it's life?
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Old 07-25-2010   #8
Snowhere's Avatar
Buena Vista, Colorado
Paddling Since: 93
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 844
The quote about dogs ^ depends on the dog. I have always had working dogs, Australian Shepards, who have always known how to deal with bears. Up in Alaska, Kodi would just get in-between us and the grizzly and just let the grizzly know we are there. He would never actually engage the bears and the bears would proceed to detour around us. As a result, I never needed to resort to more drastic measures. Just the same, I always carried a bear gun. And like the other poster, this was always a 12 gauge with one round of 00 buck as a deterrent, and then, 650 grain, 3" magnum slugs.

I spent 2 summers in the Alaska bush, and with proper camp cleanliness, our 'bear' dog, and good common sense, we never had a bear come into camp, let alone cause trouble.

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