Using Sound to Ethically Repel Bears on the Trail
Though there aren’t too many studies on the subject, there is evidence that sound, specifically bells playing consistent sounds as people walk, lowers the instances of bears charging hikers. A study by Katherine L Jope 1985 found that when hikers used bear bells, bears either moved away or walked past hikers, while when hikers had no bear bells, bears either stood their ground, approached hikers, or even charged.
Jope theorizes that the bells act as a warning device to bears, letting them know that humans are coming so they don’t become startled and attack. The bells communicate to bears in advance that humans are approaching so they have the opportunity to leave the area.
Unfortunately, bear bells are not a perfect solution. If a bear has been fed by hikers before or if they left behind tasty leftovers for the bear to enjoy, that bear may not be deterred by the sound at all. When planning a hike, it’s important to look up the recommendations by your local forest rangers. Not only do they know which species are generally active in the area, they keep tabs on the habits of local wildlife and can give recommendations based on knowledge and experience. What Sounds Repel Bears?
Experts recommend a variety of noises to keep bears off your trail, but a common recommendation is audio recordings like podcasts and audiobooks. Whether it’s two comedians riffing off the latest movie release or The Epic of Gilgamesh, the conversational human noises can encourage bears to leave the area without causing alarm. The volume should be loud enough for bears to hear. If you’re looking for a light and portable speaker you can easily reach during a hike, we highly recommend NARWHAL Bluetooth speaker lids available as 20 oz and 30 oz tumbler lids. The speakers are compatible with Yeti, Stanley, the pointedly named Grizzly, and dozens of other popular tumblers.
Is Sound an Alternative to Bear Spray?
While bear deterrents like talking, bear bells, and playing sounds on a speaker can help to discourage bears from approaching, bear spray plays an entirely different role. Unlike passive deterrents which are used to encourage bears to leave the area, bear spray is an active and aggressive deterrent which should only be used if a bear is charging or attacking.
Other Ways to Avoid Bears (Short-Term and Long-Term)
Sticking to recommendations by the US Fish & Wildlife Service will help you to stay safe from bears, and to help bears stay safe from humans.
- Stay on the main trail
- Never feed bears or give them access to food
- Keep food securely locked away including leftovers
- Hike in groups of three or more
- Only hike during daylight hours when bears are less active
Remember to look up the recommendations by your local forest rangers, and have fun on the trail!