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03/08/2012 12:20PM
Hello people. My lady friend and I are entering EP23 May 28. She has been worried about bears and I keep telling her that as long as we take the right precautions, we shouldn't have any problems. She thinks they're going to attack us while we sleep. I keep telling her we will be fine. Maybe she just needs to hear it from some of you and maybe some advice for her will calm her down a little.

And maybe some advice for me on some good campsites to try and good scenery. This is her first time up there and I haven't been up there for about 20 years. I was just a teenager and with my parents. Just looking for some helpful suggestions from others who have been there before. We want to camp on Fourtown or Horse Lake.
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03/08/2012 12:50PM
Been on over 30 open water trips since.1993. Saw one and only last year on Iron. Usually go in,may,, I think that helps as they have not patterned campsites,,yet.
03/08/2012 12:54PM
I have been taking canoe trips into the BWCA since 1986. I have only had issues 1 time in all those years. You shouldn't have any issues, just keep a clean campsite and maybe buy a can of pepper spray (not that you need it but it should help your lady friend relax)
03/08/2012 01:55PM
I have made over 40 total trips in the last 15 years. Never once had a bear problem... I have never even seen a bear in the BWCA only on the roads on the way in. I like both camp sites at the mouth of the bay on the NE end of Fourtown... there will be great fishing right out of camp that time of year for walleyes. Bring the leeches and a slip bobber 5-10 ft of water. Have fun nothing to worry about black bears don't like humans... we must not taste good :)
03/08/2012 02:31PM
I'm one of the new guys but I've been around bears all my life. My dad took me camping and catfishing when I was 5. The day we were gonna leave, they let me sleep and the big guys went to take up all the lines. When they got back, a bear had gotten the bag of sugar off the camp table and eaten the whole thing right beside my cot, never even woke me up. You probably don't want that story in Parenting magazine, but this was 50 years ago, things were different. Point is, outside the super rare nut case, black bears aren't aggressive. Tell your friend I'll walk through the BW and she can walk down 2nd Street in Memphis late on a Saturday night, let's see how THAT goes....;-)
03/08/2012 03:09PM
thanks alot any other info you got im al ears
03/08/2012 03:25PM
Don't leave food or especially garbage, which smells better to a bear, in the open and you'll be fine. Keep a clean camp at all times, and DO NOT bring snacks in the tent!
03/08/2012 04:06PM
I've been to both the BWCA and Quetico many, many times. I've never seen a bear. However, the best advice I've ever heard was to think of them as large racoons.
03/08/2012 04:27PM
I doubt you'll have a bear in camp, but if you do, take pictures. I have had many bears in camp over the years, (many trips, too), but very few sightings in the last 10 years. No food in the tent for any reason, and no cooking smell in the tent if possible.

On Horse Lake, go to the north end and look for an open is an old lumber camp, and you can walk around it and see foundations and old broken stuff. Used to be able to see where the narrow gauge railroad came thru the woods to the camp.
Savage Voyageur  
03/08/2012 05:58PM
I have been on more than 40 trips and only seen one bear.Remember that bears want one thing and it is not you. It is your food. Keep a clean camp and hang your food or get a bear barrel. You will be fine.
03/08/2012 07:20PM
Ive seen 4 bears in 26 years...and not in camp
Woods Walker  
03/08/2012 07:25PM
30 + trips & have seen one bear & that was in the middle of Quetico on a bushwhack. I doubt you will have an issue.
03/08/2012 07:28PM
one little bear incident for me.
03/08/2012 07:49PM
30+ years in the B.W.C.A.- I've seen 1 bear swimming across a lake.
03/08/2012 07:51PM
We went in at entry point 23 last August. Biggest animal we saw all week was a squirrel until the last day we saw a bald eagle. Never saw any signs of bears anywhere.
03/09/2012 06:44AM
I've only had two encounters with bears out of all my trips. One stole my food pack on a portage while i was leap frog portageing my stuff on a 189 rod portage, i did get it back from him.He got some skittles and i got the steak. The other was in camp in the middle of the night, my camp was clean and food pack was hanging so he got nothing and i just rolled over and went back to sleep.
03/09/2012 09:25AM
Make sure you keep food stored away, even when you're in camp. I cooked up my northern one time, and when I took it about 25 yards away to sit by the lake and eat it, I was visited by a large black bear. He got into my food pack that I hadn't yet re-hung, and got a taste of some sloppy Jo meat that I had brought along. I got bluff-charged, and huffed at a few times and felt lucky that I was spared when he walked away. It was enough to take the edge off my solo trip, and I immediately packed up and paddled across the lake to another campsite, where I slept on a rock and paddled out the next morning.

I've been back numerous times and still enjoy every minute, but I'm more careful now and understand that I'm not immune to things that could ruin my trip.
03/09/2012 11:55AM
I will be going in the same entry point two weeks later. I have been on 6 trips in the past and the only bears I have seen was when I was traveling and trying to be as quiet as possible. Saw one on the bank and another swimming. +1 to the advice on keeping a clean and neat camp area. Use a bear barrel for food or plan on hanging your food pack. I also think it helps to keep your trash tied in a plastic bag as well as away from the rest of your gear in camp. I believe one of the main reasons that it is not allowed to burn garbage or excess food is due to the smell it also releases. Hope this helps, I cant wait for the trip to come!
03/09/2012 12:08PM
Well at least your lady friend isn't worried about the bugs or weather. Both of which can wreck a trip far worse then the rare bear sighting or visit!!

2 bear sightings in 50+ trips for me.

03/09/2012 12:33PM
Only bears I have ever seen close to the BWCA were at the bear center in Ely.
No worries.
03/09/2012 04:54PM
I've seen two bears in 7 trips but our trips average 10 days and so maybe more like 10-14 trips for other people. Both times it was just fun. Never had any problems in camp.

If you are going through Ely, I recommend a trip to the bear center that was just mentioned. They have a lot of info about bear behavior that will put her mind at ease and their bears are fun to watch.

You can also pick up a pepper spray canister there to be extra safe or at least feel extra safe. We carry the small ones that are made for dogs because that way it is always handy. When we carried the big ones they often were in a day pack somewhere in camp and not right with us.
03/09/2012 08:17PM
In 30 yrs. and about 50trips, I've seen bears a couple of times. It's the little bears(mice), that will zero on your food pack. When we were still hanging the pack I have seen them climb down the rope to the pack, climb in, and commence to 'a chewin'. Big bears a photo op, little bears, not enough colorful adjectives! 2am whizz, most beautiful sky I have ever seen.
03/10/2012 10:48PM
It's like I tell my scouts,"bears? there arn't any bears around here! The sasquatches have scared them all away. Good night and good luck boys..."
03/11/2012 12:52AM
Keep a clean camp. Hang your food away from camp. Don't sleep in the clothes you cook in. Keep your cooking clothes and all food outside of your tent. You shouldn't have any problems. Read up on what to do in the event of a close encounter. Most encounters end with you and the bear going your separate ways. Remember that black bears are super fast and are excellent climbers. You can't out run them, and fleeing from them might trigger a predatory response from them. Never mess with cubs. The sows will defend their young. If a bear does make physical contact with you or tries to come into your tent at night, fight it with all that you have. Pepper spray is an effective defense mechanism. I have never had to use any, but peace of mind is worth something. I figure I can always use it in a pinch to season my walleye. :)

I have been into Quetico seven times and have only viewed bears twice. Both of those encounters happened very quickly and the bears were doing everything they could to get away from me. I felt very fortunate to catch a glimpse of the animals. They are amazing! The chances of you having an issue with them are very slim, but you should always be prepared to deal with them just in case you get that one out of a thousand "bad bear." Personally, I would be more worried about how quickly I could get to my camera.
03/11/2012 04:27AM
Only bears seen in camp by me were in close to entry point locations visited by weekend types who sometimes trash the site. Bears will return to sites where previous raiding visits were success was had. Travel a day or more into the park.
03/11/2012 05:26AM
Great advice from everyone. Let her know ahead of time that during the middle of the night frogs, toads, and mice etc. make a lot of noise outside the tent. It took my wife a while to get used to that a not think there was something "big" out there. A few things that help her with the "boogie man" or "bear" worries at night are ear plugs when sleeping, a campsite that is open and doesn't seem boxed or closed in by brush etc., and a campsite that we can set up the tent fairly close to the water.
03/11/2012 09:50AM
In over a dozen trips only saw one bear - a little guy up a tree while we were portaging in eastern Q. Hightailed it out of there pretty quick before momma showed up!

Like the other posters have stated - keep a clean camp (especially inside the tent) and you're unlikely to have a problem
03/11/2012 02:10PM
I've been going to the BWCA since 1973 most every year. In all of that time I have seen one bear and that was running across the road on the way into an entry point many years back. Follow clean camp practices and bears won't be a problem.
03/14/2012 09:54AM
I've been going to the BWCA since I was 11 years old. I am now in my mid-fifties. I have never had a problem with bears. I have never even seen one up there. Keeping a campsite clean, as others have advised, is most important. I always vacuum seal and double or triple pack any food items. Lotions, deodorants and any toiletries with an odor are keep in a tightly enclosed container, then double packed. All of this is hung up in a tree fairly far from the campsite. I consider the most dangerous species in the BWCA the human, followed by the squirrel.
03/14/2012 10:27AM
No worries. Bugs are worse.
03/14/2012 01:12PM
I think you can safely tell your friend from all of the 100's of years of combined experience on this forum that bears are rarely a problem.

Just keep your camp clean. Clean dishes away from camp, seal up any leftovers and garbage and store them in the food pack. Don't bring food in the tent. And either hang the food back away from camp or use a barrel and stash it a little ways away.

Also feel free to have a little fun with it. Make up some sort of stupid ritual that you can tell to your friend. Tell them that you've heard that doing whatever you come up with helps keep bears away. Then see how often your friend does it.

03/14/2012 01:59PM
A few years back in May, a group of 5 of us came across a guy as we entered Kekekabic. He warned us of a bear that frequented a camp on the northeast side of the lake- we didn't think much of it.

After picking up 3 or 4 lakers, we made camp on the northeast side of the lake(of course); beautiful sight on a hill with great views. We wrapped the trout in foil and roasted them on the grill. Fantastic. As always, we tidied up camp, did dishes, hung the food, etc, and hit the sack.

My brother was first up, he lowered the food bag and used it as a back rest as he relaxed and stared at the lake. After a few minutes, he decided it was time to get the camp cracking, so he got up to begin making coffee. He walked 20 feet to fetch the coffee pot, and when he turned back towards the food pack, a huge, adult black bear had already got into the bag and started feasting on our trash bag, which we had stowed on the top. He hollered at the bear, which woke the camp up. I looked out of the tent to see this beast no more than 10 feet from the tent, chewing through foil.

Long story shorter, the bear very reluctantly left our camp, but only after yelling, pot and pan banging, and finally having rocks thrown at him.

Goes to show, that although a bear sighting is rare, and usually a cool thing to see, bears are very much opportunists, and it only takes a moment with food, or in this case, garbage, left out for them to make a move.

My brother later said he had heard something in the bush all night. That sucker smelled that trout dinner a mile away and stalked our camp until he had mere seconds to make his play.

We use a bear barrel now.

Hell of a memory.
03/14/2012 02:27PM
Even on "problem" lakes with known bears, I've had no issues. Bear has visited my site twice. Once, all he could find was a water sack - so he dragged that away and punctured it. The other time, he moved the kitchen logs to find a scrap of used TP waiting for the next latrine trek. Neither time did the bears bother the tent or find our cached food. They are looking for "easy" and "habitual". Do something "different" and you'll be fine even when they are around. At least that's my theory.
03/14/2012 07:26PM
Same for me. Been doing BWCA since 79 and have not seen a bear.
03/14/2012 08:51PM
My first trip was in 2005 from lake one to insula. The first 10 minutes we were at our campsite at insula a huge bear started swimming straight to us. We made a commotion and he turned around quickly. But all i could think that night was "what the heck did we get ourselves into?" I have did 6 trips since and seen one more while paddling down heritage lake. I tie little xmas bells to my food pack (while its hung) just for peace of mind.
03/15/2012 05:26AM
I have a had a few encounters..none a threat. Better chances of getting hit by lightening or a home invasion than physical bear contact. These are black bear..nothing like the mighty grizzly.
03/15/2012 11:03AM
quote wildernessfan2: "I have a had a few encounters..none a threat. Better chances of getting hit by lightening or a home invasion than physical bear contact. These are black bear..nothing like the mighty grizzly. "
Yeah. But lightning would be quick and painless :)
03/15/2012 11:07AM
Had one in campsite 15 years ago, got a few pictures, scare crap out of of friend when i pointed it out to him, but he never been in woods before city boy.
03/15/2012 02:45PM
Lots of good info on how to avoid bears, but for me, seeing any wild creature- bear, moose, otters, etc, is always a highlight of a BW trip.

Something we do, and try to remind rookies of, is to be quiet as possible while paddling and scan your surroundings. Critters can hear you long before you might see them. In particular, whenever I'm turning a corner, entering a bay, a weedy area, or at the end of a portage, I try to be stealthy. Its often when and where you will spot an animal doing its thing.

I wonder how many of us have blown a cool sighting by talking loudly, dropping stuff in the boat, etc.

A bear in camp is a different story, or a bull moose, which I've had too.
03/15/2012 03:22PM
quote peteb: "Lots of good info on how to avoid bears, but for me, seeing any wild creature- bear, moose, otters, etc, is always a highlight of a BW trip.

Something we do, and try to remind rookies of, is to be quiet as possible while paddling and scan your surroundings. Critters can hear you long before you might see them. In particular, whenever I'm turning a corner, entering a bay, a weedy area, or at the end of a portage, I try to be stealthy. Its often when and where you will spot an animal doing its thing.

I wonder how many of us have blown a cool sighting by talking loudly, dropping stuff in the boat, etc.

A bear in camp is a different story, or a bull moose, which I've had too."

Ditto - I could have touched a deer and its fawn one time if my paddle was twice its length. I was gliding quietly at the time and moving around a bend.
03/16/2012 02:45PM
40 some trips since 1983. Two bears sighted in all that time, neither near our camps. I would base camp a little further in than the "entry" lakes for a variety of reasons. Sleep well, knowing the sounds you hear out there are not gonna bother you. Maybe if you will get what I call the northwoods lullaby: light rain falling on the tent and calling loons.
03/31/2012 02:37AM
Nuisance bear visited our site last year in May. We were on the hilltop site at the Lewis Narrows on Basswood. The bear came in around 2am after the campers around the bend cracked a few rounds off in the air to scare him away. He ripped through our screen tent to check out our camp stove which woke us up. Our packs were hung in a tree which he tried to climb and he got his paws around the ropes. We all got out and did our best to scare him out but our little buddy just wouldn't leave. He sat down in our camp and huffed, woofed and snapped his jaws at us. We had to stay up all night. We later learned that he took the food pack from the campers before us at that site. He had his way with it while they waited him out in their canoes. We did not provoke him but we stood our ground and let him know that he wasn't getting away with our stuff. He wasn't happy with us but we played it safe. We made noises but we did not corner him or toss anything at him to get him riled up. Bottom line is, they are just hungry and looking for an easy meal and people aren't on the menu. Leave them be and if they won't leave, let them know that you aren't giving up your gear without a fuss.
03/31/2012 07:51AM
I had a bear in camp on my first trip with girlfriend back in 1983. It was our first night and yes, he scared us big time but left us alone as he searched our camp for food. He later ripped down our food pack and ate everything.

The bottom line is you are not in any personal danger unless you are covered in peanut butter or mess with a female and cubs. I would bring one of those air horns to scare one off if he comes in your camp.

The bear thing is more mental than anything else. It will take some trips to ease your mind.

03/31/2012 08:40AM
I've had few bear encounters in the BW. One reared up at me but quickly backed away. But I've seen more where I now live and never an issue. Once while living in Cloquet some kids were chasing a cub down our back alley. I got them to quit in time for when mamma came out of the dumpster at PJ's Little Store and come to her babies rescue. I think the kids learned their lesson.
03/31/2012 05:08PM
I have been coming up to the BWCA since 1974. I have never seen a bear. I would like to (at a distance), but never had the pleasure.
03/31/2012 05:18PM
38 trips over a life time, and lost one pack to a bear, when I dropped it for my wife, and went fishing. I've seen 2 others, but I don't concern myself with bears at all. I hang my bags, but otherwise don't think about them. I'm more concerned about flies, mosquitos, and weather. Bears are a non-factor.
03/31/2012 05:42PM
One bear encounter on Polly about 10 years ago on the island site. He crawled out of the water at dusk, scared the jeebers out of my buddy and I (think Keystone Cops!) who were seated around a fire. He ambled quickly past us into the woods. We could hear him at night, but we had no problems with him. Our camp was clean, and our food stashed out of sight-and not hung. I am more afraid of bats...I...hate...bats!
04/08/2012 07:58PM
I'd take a black bear in my campsite over a cow moose and her calves. Keep the site clean and hang anything edible and you'll be fine.
bear bait  
04/08/2012 08:16PM

they seem so cuddly...
04/08/2012 09:24PM
04/08/2012 10:12PM
I have can think of six bear encounters in 34 years of canoe trips. three times a bear came into our camp,two of visits the dog chased it away. the third time a bear came to our site was in may at koma lake. we had been out fishing in the morning and when we returned I could not find my pack. I looked up in a grassy area and spotted my pack and right behind it was the biggest bear I have ever seen. it was red haired and as big as a volkswagon. we keep a clean camp, but this time I had mixed a Tang before we went fishing and I left it on top of my pack. the bear had dragged pack a few yards,grabbed the plastic container of Tang, bit it open and licked it clean.we yelled and chased and the bear backed away far enough for me to get my pack and the empty Tang container. then we loaded up and went to polly for breakfast. the other bears we have seen were not in our camp.
04/09/2012 07:45AM
This tread should be a sticky.

The best compilation of bear information I've ever come across.
04/10/2012 12:43PM
7 trips to the BW and others in northern MN and had 1 bear visit. They nosed around camping obviously looking for food, but found none and were easily shooed away.

04/17/2012 06:44PM
Thats an incredible encounter. Thanks for sharing. I've been thinking about a solo trip for years.....
04/18/2012 02:44AM

To really do justice to a bear visit - it is necessary to have kids along. While we never had any bear visits of consequence in the BWCA, we did have several in Canada when I was young - and I remember each one vividly. There is nothing that enlivens a kid's memory of a canoe trip like a good bear visit.

04/18/2012 07:33AM
Yeah, first trip I took, chaperoning HS kids. We had a bear in camp on Shell Lake on our very first morning ever in the BW, and the next night on Agnes the girls would settle down in their tent.... rising conversation level... SCREAM!!... settle down for a while again... SCREAM!!... all night. Oh, yeah... memorable.
04/20/2012 10:54AM
1 trip 1 bear but not in camp. Just walking down the shore while we were fishing. Same trip also had a wolf follow us on our way out for 400yds.
04/20/2012 11:59AM
I have told this story here before...but, here goes again...took my 13 year old daughter to the BW in August 5 years ago, we were waved over by a couple on the South Arm of Knife Lake as they recognized from the BB that it might be us as I had posted we would be in the area...anyway, as we stood talking, my daughter said "ummm, hey dad, there is a bear" Sure enough, a large bear ambled out of the woods maybe 50 feet away from us, proceeded to a large blueberry bush and began feasting. I got my camera from the canoe and took a lot of picture. What a great memory- point being, I think you are fortunate to see a bruin, most of the time, My daughter will never forget it...

04/29/2012 02:17PM
I found this statistic interesting:

"Research shows you have precisely a 1 in 10 million chance of being attacked by a black bear on a given day in the BWCAW."

Source:Lynn L. .Rogers, Wildlife Research Biologist, North Central Experiment Station.
David Garshelis, Wildlife Research Biologist, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. From their article found at:

Some other stats for reference (all from respectable online sources):

Chance of being in a fatal plane crash (airliner): 1 in 11.4 Million
Chance of winning $1 million in Powerball: 1 in 5.2 Million
Chance of being struck by lightning this year: 1 in .775 Million
Chance of death by drowning this year: 1 in 93000
Chance of dying in a car crash this year: 1 in 9000

If you are still honestly concerned about the chance of bear attacks up there, I'd recommend buying a powerball ticket at the Holiday in Ely, avoid playing golf in thunderstorms, wear a life jacket at all times (at work, the bar, everywhere), and wear a seat belt and hockey helmet in the car. I'm sure following appropriate bear deterrent precautions that others are posting about would be helpful too.

I've been up to the Bdub a dozen times or so, never seen or heard a bear. I've seen some at a state park in Hinckley, they were digging through the trash bins. Not very intimidating...didn't seem to care about much other than the dirty diapers they were sniffing. Mmmmm, diapers. I don't think they are looking for man (or woman) flesh as a first choice.
04/29/2012 03:01PM
quote lundojam: "No worries. Bugs are worse."

Agreed. Never seen a bear during my trips, just take proper precautions.
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