For many keen hikers and nature enthusiasts, the prospect of encountering bears on their travel is both exciting and frightening. Consequently, it is essential to prepare oneself for what you may encounter on a hiking trail in the wild. So what time of the day are bears most active in the United States of America?
With regard to the daily habits of common bear species in the United States of America, such as black bears and grizzly bears, bears are most active during the early mornings and late evenings during the spring and summer months. In the winter months, bears are usually hibernating.
It is essential to know where and when bears may be active, meaning that hikers and campers should always consult with camp counselors before outdoor activities and expeditions. That being said, let’s explore the nature of bears in the wild and what to do should you encounter them:
When Are Bears Most Active?
Bears typically avoid the heat of the day, meaning that they will opt for a nap or two during the peak mid-afternoon heat. Therefore, bears will usually perform their foraging, hunting, socializing, and mating in the early hours of the morning and into the late evenings.
It is also more common to see bears eating or hunting during the cooler hours of the day within thickets and being present around bodies of water such as lakes and rivers to cool off before or after their midday naps.
Consequently, if you opt to stray from a camping trail or a designated camping spot, avoid thick bushes during dusk and dawn while ensuring there are no bears near bodies of water if you decide to go swimming, fishing, or kayaking during midday.
With mating occurring around July and hibernation lasting throughout the winter months, bear encounters are less likely between August and February.
However, because bears will leave their dens and exit hibernation with their cubs in March and April, one should be particularly cautious, as bears can display heightened aggression and territorial instincts around their cubs.
Are Bears Active At Night?
Although bears are not nocturnal animals, they typically continue to forage and eat two hours after sunset, meaning that you should remain vigilant during the early evenings. Once they have finished foraging, hunting, and eating, bears will typically sleep a couple of hours and arise just before sunrise.
However, there are some instances where bears may be more active during the night than usual.
You first need to consider the species of bears in an area and the relationships different bear species have with each other, namely the interactions between black bears and grizzly bears. Black bears are smaller and less ferocious than grizzly bears, meaning that areas populated with both species will see black bears being more active at night to avoid encounters with grizzly bears during the day.
A second instance is humans’ role in promoting nocturnal activities, such as bears entering people’s properties to look for food in places such as trash cans or unguarded vegetable gardens, while not evoking attention in the same way as if they did so during the day.
Therefore, it is crucial not to entice interactions with bears by leaving campsites unattended, especially when it comes to cleaning up after an evening meal.
How Common Are Bear Attacks?
Although frequenting areas where bears may be present sounds like an extremely dangerous activity, basic park rules and regulations coupled with common sense means that bear attacks are extremely unlikely.
Furthermore, because bears do not view humans as prey, they seldom have any reason to chase down and attack humans unless they or their cubs feel particularly threatened by someone’s presence.
Between 1900 and 2016, there were only 71 recorded deaths due to bear attacks across the United States of America.
What To Do If You See Bears In The Wild?
While being attacked by a bear is extremely unlikely, it is vitally important that you take the following precautions if you encounter a bear in the wild:
- Remain vigilant and stay focused on the bear,
- Once spotted, do not approach the bear,
- If the bear notices you but continues to engage in natural behavior such as feeding or climbing, you are at a safe distance. You should slowly continue along a hiking trail or path while watching the bear monitor its behavior (provided the path doesn’t take you closer to the bear.)
- If the bear notices you but changes its behavior in response to your presence, such as swatting the ground, growling, or starting to approach you, this is a clear sign that you are too close to the bear.
- If a bear engages in aggressive behaviors, you must create a safe distance between yourself and the bear. To create space, slowly back away while maintaining sight of the bear. It is probable the bear will mimic your behavior and back away as well.
If a bear continues to approach or follow you, despite you backing away from the bear, you should consider the following:
- Change your direction to lose the bear and/or exit its territory.
- Should you fail to stop the bear from approaching you, stand your ground and face the bear.
- Shout or act aggressively to deter the bear from getting closer if you are by yourself.
- If you are with a group, make a combined effort to scare away the bear by shouting or acting aggressively in unison.
- If possible, make yourself look bigger by elevating yourself to higher ground.
- Should aggressive actions fail, use non–food items to throw at the bear or shake a stout stick aggressively.
- In the event that also fails and the bear approaches you, wait for a 20-yard distance before discharging bear spray as a last resort.
In conclusion, bears are wild animals that can sometimes act unpredictably and will have different waking hours dependent on climate, their relationship with other species of bears, and their interactions with humans.
You must familiarize yourself with the daily activities of bears in a specific area before engaging in any hiking or camping activities—all the while respecting their space as a visitor to their habitat.