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Hikers Prepare For Bear Encounters

By By Brett Crandall
Published On: Sep 15 2011 10:37:51 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 25 2011 07:49:22 AM CDT
TETON COUNTY, Idaho -

Over the past couple of months, bear sightings have been pretty common in eastern Idaho and western Wyoming.

With snowpack levels still high this summer, there have been quite a few close encounters, some even too close.

To see how you can stay safe on the trails, we visited the Targhee National Forest and spoke with those who know bears the best.

While we didn't find any bears, hiker Gavin Bouma from North Carolina said when he went hiking last week, he got pretty close.

"We saw tracks, and then a sliding track beside it as if they were dragging something,? Bouma said. ?That was cool."

With so much activity this year, manager of Yostmark Mountain Equipment Jake Holmes recommends everyone take bear spray with them.

"I don't like to hike or bike without bear spray,? Holmes said. ?It just gives me a peace of mind.?

Yostmark said the store has doubled its sales of bear spray up to five or six cans a day, and now there is only one more on the shelf.

Before one group of BYU-Idaho students set out on a weeklong service project in the Targhee Forest Monday, wildlife biologist David Ovard gave them a few pointers on how to stay safe in the bear world.

One, make sure your food is secure.

You can even use a bear can to store your food.

Remember the bears in this forest aren't the Yogi Bear type who want to join your picnic.

"There are other things besides food you need to be concerned about,? Ovard said. ?Folks don't realize that even strawberry lip gloss smells like strawberries to a bear."

Two, make noise.

?Before you get your bear spray, if you just going to go for a hike in these mountains, you'll want to have a bear bell,?Bouma said.

Three, stay in groups.

"I think the best thing is to stay together and stay on the trail and let them know they are coming,? said BYU-Idaho volunteer Valerie Gundersen.

"All the bears we have here in the Tetons are really, really wild bears,? Ovard said.

Bear spray does expire, so if you already have some, remember to check the date before you hit the trail.

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