How Bear Bells Keep You Safe
Safer, anyway. If a bear decides you are causing a problem for the bear or their cubs, there’s not much a bell can do. When you are camping, hiking, long term camping, hiking from site to site, or even living in a tent, you want to make a positive relationship with your non-humans neighbors. Everything you can do to metaphorically extend an olive branch will help you in the long run. Camping safety should always be your #1 mission out there.
However, that being said, bear bells are a great item to carry while camping or hiking. They make a little jingle, warning wildlife that you are there and a dumb human. This is not to impugn any particular human, or even humanity as a whole, it’s just a simple statement to display the difference between the senses of most animals and the senses we possess.
The jingle lets them know you are there, and they can track the general direction you’re headed so they can avoid you. Thus, you get to avoid them.
But I don’t want to scare away the animals!! I want to see the cute little creatures!!
Yes, you want to see the cute ones. But you don’t want to see the bears, cougars or wild pigs (with the latter being the most vicious most often – yes, also true).
Most smaller animals won’t care that you’re moving through the area. You aren’t acting like you’re hunting them, and you are making plenty enough noise to let them know you’re not a threat.
The babies of small animals, however, may scatter. It’s usually a new sound for the young cutie-pies, and everything at that stage is frightening (or maybe-food while still unnerving). Slightly scaring the smaller babies is worth avoiding the larger, problematic, omnivores. It can even expose the adults while they corral the kids, letting you see them interact.
Bears don’t want to attack you, but if you aren’t behaving in a way that makes your intentions clear (and most people don’t) or if you surprise them, they don’t know if you’re friend or foe. Being bears, they don’t take chances.
This holds true for most animals. A cougar or lynx may move up to get away, whether or not you ever know they’re near. Problems occur not only when they are surprised, but also when they believe there may be a threat to their young. Makes perfect sense: you’re out with your kids and a weird thing comes towards you, suddenly you notice your kids are separated (and maybe even behind the thing) and you’re going to overreact. If you can’t figure out how to communicate with the thing, and you can’t tell what it’s trying to do, you wouldn’t risk taking any chances either.
I’m giving the discussion of wild pigs their own emphasis because they are nasty, mean little mothers.
A pig can go feral faster than a group of guys drinking at a tailgate roundup.
Okay, a slight exaggeration (on both parts), but they do revert back sooner than any other animal (and there’s no conch for them to revere or destroy). And feral pigs don’t just revert. They ignore all domestication and all wild pig community behavior.
However, as you can’t tell which are wild and which are feral until it’s too late, I’m grouping them together here.
You want to avoid them. Even more than you want to avoid bears.
Bears like being left alone.
Wild pigs like starting you-know-what just for kicks and as something to do in that immediate second.
Use the bell anyway. If they have enough warning, a deeper instinct can kick in and nudge them away, or encourage them to hunker down and let you pass them by.
Anything you can do to avoid them is good.
If you have your (or others’) kids with you: keep them away. Feral pigs like prey of recognizable size. A 6′ adult might tangle with an upset pig, but a kid would definitely get charged at by the beast.
Oh, and they aren’t little. I referred to tell as little up above, but the adults aren’t. They can get to be a good, medium dog size. If they were well taken care of before they reverted, they can be even larger and resemble a short cow.
If you’re a city-based human: think of one of the little electric cars, but add the force of a real engine block behind it (I prefer the ’67 Chevy as a glorious example of a muscle car); or consider a 12-year old who has decided you have his ice cream, and he is going to get it away from you and his parents are not there to punish him.
I don’t want to try to carry a bell around! It’s weird!?!
Well, I don’t want to try to get your attention to let you know you’re walking towards a known bear nap area; but you’re ignoring me (again, also true) because you’re more interested in looking up bird calls (which is fine; but not when something is about to dismember you). For example, the picture at the top is a bear and not a husky. You may know that, but I’ve met people who didn’t.
Also, bear bells come with their own little sacks and silencers. The example for today (finally):
It’s a bell! Surprise!!
Like the Christmas story with the train we all loved (and with a movie I never watched), it’s just a little bell. A sphere with a metal bit to rattle inside. Percussive impact to create sound. Simple.
These bells also come attached to their own bag. The bottom of which houses a little magnet, so you can stop it from jingling when you’re in, or near enough to, civilization. They also come with a nice little velcro strap, so you can hook around your belt loop or water bottle or walking stick. If you don’t carry any of those with you (bad!! You need water!!!!!!!!!), you can even wrap it around the sizing band or tie on your hat (tell me you at least wear a hat?!???).
So, wear the bell. To avoid the pigs, if nothing else.
What do you think of jingling along the trail? Are you also an alum of Aux 2 who thinks of a much different bell design every time you hear the word? Share in the comments!
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