Bears in Salt Creek Canyon, Canyonlands

Laura V.

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Hello,

I have a trip planned to Salt Creek Canyon and I'm wondering about the current bear situation there. I have read that people are seeing increasing bear sign these days. I'm curious about how aggressive/habituated to humans the bears are in this area. Thanks!
 
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Bob

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Welcome, Lol.... They are there as throughout Utah. Problem is there are not many places to hang smellies and of careless people in the past. They are blackies and generally still somewhat afraid of people, unlike grizzlies. That said do not take it lightly as they kill people as well... Pack the spray where you can reach it easily. Read up on bears and the sprays use. A small air horn works wonders on blackies,. Especially if one is picking around at nite by your tent.... Be aware of your surroundings and have a good trip...
 

RyanP

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I think most of the bear activity there is in the Fall. If it were me, I'd definitely bring the canister but probably skip the spray. I'd call the ranger first to ask about recent reported activity, though.

Bear activity is high there compared to the surrounding area, but that's partly because there are so few bears in the canyonlands area as a whole (compared to places like SEKI anyway). IMO, for an April Salt Creek trip (or most trips for that matter), the biggest danger by far is stumbling/falling and spraining an ankle/knee or the like. Any pound reduced from your carried weight (including items like bear spray) will decrease the odds of that happening. But that's just my take, and other experienced people here may disagree. Have fun on your trip!
 

Laura V.

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I think most of the bear activity there is in the Fall. If it were me, I'd definitely bring the canister but probably skip the spray. I'd call the ranger first to ask about recent reported activity, though.

Bear activity is high there compared to the surrounding area, but that's partly because there are so few bears in the canyonlands area as a whole (compared to places like SEKI anyway). IMO, for an April Salt Creek trip (or most trips for that matter), the biggest danger by far is stumbling/falling and spraining an ankle/knee or the like. Any pound reduced from your carried weight (including items like bear spray) will decrease the odds of that happening. But that's just my take, and other experienced people here may disagree. Have fun on your trip!
Thank you. I haven't pulled the trigger so to speak on purchasing bear spray yet. I've been weighing the risks of not carrying it versus the added strain of hauling it around. (Ok. I'm finished with the bad puns.) I'm definitely cutting ounces where I can. I've never carried bear spray before, but I've always hiked with groups of people. As a solo hiker this time around, I guess I'm being more cautious. Thanks for the input!
 

Outdoor_Fool

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Bear spray is the cheapest and lightest insurance policy against bears there is. The likelihood of a negative encounter is extremely low but if you have one, you will sure wish you had bear spray. Most likely, you will be like millions of people who carry it but never use it, but I bet you will sleep better at night knowing it's there. FYI, the last time I checked, you still cannot fly commercially with it. Cans of inert spray for practice are cheap (~16 bucks) and let you see what kind of cloud the can sprays. Don't practice with the real stuff if you are within a couple hundred yards of any unsuspecting people.

As @Bob said, carry it where's it's immediately available. Having it in your pack is worse than not having it.

Anyway, enjoy your trip!
 

LarryBoy

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Bear spray is the cheapest and lightest insurance policy against bears there is. The likelihood of a negative encounter is extremely low but if you have one, you will sure wish you had bear spray. Most likely, you will be like millions of people who carry it but never use it, but I bet you will sleep better at night knowing it's there. FYI, the last time I checked, you still cannot fly commercially with it. Cans of inert spray for practice are cheap (~16 bucks) and let you see what kind of cloud the can sprays. Don't practice with the real stuff if you are within a couple hundred yards of any unsuspecting people.

As @Bob said, carry it where's it's immediately available. Having it in your pack is worse than not having it.

Anyway, enjoy your trip!

I think that's the Alaskan in you talking :) I think I'm with @RyanP on this one. This ain't the Sierra or Adirondacks, thankfully. While it totally makes sense that there's a canister requirement inside Canyonlands (wildlife in a National Park is deserving of a particularly high level of protection), the fact that there's no canister requirement for the adjoining Manti-La Sal National Forest is telling. I similarly wouldn't bring bear spray in Rocky Mtn National Park, or Bryce Canyon. The bears just aren't as habituated, numerous, or bold as they are in the Sierra.

I'd never say it's dumb, or wrong to take it, but to me, it's like taking a personal locator beacon on a quick-overnighter on a popular trail. At some point, the marginal risk reduction is so small that it's just not worth the weight on your back. Whether it's worth it to you - that's a question only you can answer. And I guess on that point, O'fool and I respectfully disagree. :)

Re practicing with your bear spray: 100% agree. Safety equipment doesn't have any use at all unless you're practiced/skilled in using it. And, speaking from personal experience, when bears attack, they do so very quickly :)
 

Goat

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Just another opinion here, but I would not ever consider taking bear spray or a bear canister (unless required) anywhere outside of grizzly country. When I'm hiking in grizzly habitat, I do carry bear spray as a last-minute point defense/deterrent (almost certainly useless but you never know) and more importantly follow strict grizzly camping practices; i.e., don't cook where you sleep, keep the food far away from tents, make noise, avoid strong odors (especially in your tent and on your clothes) and so on. Bear canisters are an invention of the regulatory folks and are a sign that either bears have been known to associate people with food in that area, or to avoid that from happening. It's important to remember that bear canisters will not make your chances of a bear encounter any less; the bears will smell your food just as much as if it wasn't in the canister. The canister has but one function, to prevent a bear from getting food, and thus preventing the people=food connection. Black bears as a rule are much more timid, and much less likely to result in trouble or danger. That's no guarantee but I don't worry about black bears nearly as much as grizzlies. I don't worry a lot about grizzlies either, but I am much more alert and careful in grizzly country, and for good reason.
 

Goat

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I should add that I think people put way too much stock in bear spray, as though it's a magic cloud that will make a bear turn around. A determined bear, especially a determined grizzly, isn't going to notice it. A curious bear might be deterred, but only if you manage to spray it close enough, and downwind, and avoid dosing yourself. To see what I mean, go out and pretend a bear is charging you from, say, 25 yards away out of a thicket, and see if you have the presence of mind to accurately and effectively deploy it. I think the odds are pretty low most people will manage to point it the right direction, let alone do anything that might affect the bear. It's a last-ditch point defense, and a pretty poor one at that. If you have to deploy it, a whole lot of things have gone wrong and mistakes have probably been made already. But it's definitely worth carrying.
 

LarryBoy

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Just another opinion here, but I would not ever consider taking bear spray or a bear canister (unless required) anywhere outside of grizzly country. When I'm hiking in grizzly habitat, I do carry bear spray as a last-minute point defense/deterrent (almost certainly useless but you never know) and more importantly follow strict grizzly camping practices; i.e., don't cook where you sleep, keep the food far away from tents, make noise, avoid strong odors (especially in your tent and on your clothes) and so on. Bear canisters are an invention of the regulatory folks and are a sign that either bears have been known to associate people with food in that area, or to avoid that from happening. It's important to remember that bear canisters will not make your chances of a bear encounter any less; the bears will smell your food just as much as if it wasn't in the canister. The canister has but one function, to prevent a bear from getting food, and thus preventing the people=food connection. Black bears as a rule are much more timid, and much less likely to result in trouble or danger. That's no guarantee but I don't worry about black bears nearly as much as grizzlies. I don't worry a lot about grizzlies either, but I am much more alert and careful in grizzly country, and for good reason.
It's also worth pointing out, pursuant to your point, there there really aren't any good ways of storing your food in Canyonlands other than a canister. Those flimsy junipers just aren't suitable for hanging food and there's similarly nothing sturdy enough to tie an Ursack to. So insasmuch as bears exist in part of Canyonlands and there's heavy human presence (i.e. people camping in the same sites every single night), canisters are the only reasonable solution, even though the danger to humans isn't really that high at present.
 

Bob

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Disagree.... While aware of surroundings and prevention is number one ... Bear spray is an important component and has saved a lot of people ..if you use it properly, as you say .. most would have a hard time standing ground to spray with a 600 lb griz coming at you....!
 

Goat

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Like I said, people put way too much faith in bear spray. Much more important to do everything you can to avoid the encounter from ever happening. That little can of spray might help, and is worth carrying (in grizz country) for that reason...but everyone needs to realize it probably won't do much in the real world. I disagree that it has saved a lot of people. Just my opinion.
 

marmot_boi

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It's also worth pointing out, pursuant to your point, there there really aren't any good ways of storing your food in Canyonlands other than a canister. Those flimsy junipers just aren't suitable for hanging food and there's similarly nothing sturdy enough to tie an Ursack to. So insasmuch as bears exist in part of Canyonlands and there's heavy human presence (i.e. people camping in the same sites every single night), canisters are the only reasonable solution, even though the danger to humans isn't really that high at present.
To add to this, a lot of people don't do a very good job with bear hangs, even in places where there are sturdy enough trees to make it possible. Bear canisters may not save your life, but they could save a bear's life and also reduce the chance of the next people who camp in that spot of having a close encounter with a bear. Thus they are worth having even in black bear country.
 

Laura V.

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Thanks, everyone, for your comments and advice.
 
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regehr

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re. effectiveness of bear spray, there's actual research on this and it is most likely a better idea for all of us to read up rather than relying on the amazing diversity of anecdotal opinions found among internet users:

the article itself is not free but you can get the full PDF by going to this site:
and pasting the DOI for the paper into the search bar (their shortlink thing doesn't appear to be working)
 

Outdoor_Fool

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Like I said, people put way too much faith in bear spray. Much more important to do everything you can to avoid the encounter from ever happening. That little can of spray might help, and is worth carrying (in grizz country) for that reason...but everyone needs to realize it probably won't do much in the real world. I disagree that it has saved a lot of people. Just my opinion.
Obviously the whole point is to avoid negative encounters but I suggest you read a couple journal articles by Tom Smith and Stephen Herrero regarding the record of bears being deterred by bear spray. A pretty strong track record thus far, and growing every year.

And @LarryBoy Yes, we can certainly agree to disagree but it's definitely NOT the Alaskan in me talking, more likely being the parent of 2 kids raised in the wilds, as well as 25 years of teaching bear safety classes. I think most of us realize the extremely low chance of suffering a bear attack, but if carrying an extra 12 ounces or so seems like a lot, just carry a cup less of water and you'll nearly make up the difference.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to carry bear spray, use my seatbelt, and wear a mask in public.
 

Bob

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Check out many on google.... Nps, idaho, igbst, bearwise....etc etc...
 

Kmatjhwy

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Now personally have hiked hundreds and hundreds of miles in bear country. I have had multiple close encounters to both bears and wolves, especially some real close encounters to some Grizzlies. In almost every situation I have had bear spray with me but have never really used it. In almost every case, the bears just as much as myself not wanting a close encounter. I did not want a close encounter with a bear, and it seemed many a bear did not want a close encounter with a human. These days with such a chaotic society that we live in, I Trust Bears including Grizzlies and Wolves more then most people. At least the Bears have never never stabbed me in the back like many people will do for the slightest of reasons. In all my years of wilderness wanderings, have seen as when it comes to the bears including grizzlies. Many of them have as much desire to stay away from you as you desire to stay away from them. In what I have a seen that if you give them their space, then they will respect you and give you your space. And it seems as many a bear might have more common sense then some people these days. But will say this when hiking and camping in bear country ... keep a clean camp, watch and keep a lookout on what is going on around you - in other words be alert, and Yes carry bear spray just in case. In could come in handy with not only against bears but other irate creatures like some angry Moose, or who knows. Hope this helps. Wishing You The Best!
 

Janice

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Such an interesting discussion - thanks everyone. @Goat I'd love to know what your top recommendations are "to do everything you can to avoid the encounter from ever happening."
 
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