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Hiking and Camping Safety : Bears

Braving the Arkansas Wilds

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Arkansas has black bears (which are the smallest of the North American bears). Bears can be a big nuisance to camp sites. If you're camping in a bear area, be sure to follow some simple precautions.
  • Don't feed the bears. That just teaches them that humans mean free food and they learn to harass and raid campsites. Besides, in Arkansas, state law prohibits feeding bears at any time for any reason, whether at your house, in a campground or elsewhere. You can get a fine or worse.
  • Keep food away from your campsite. You might feed the bears unintentionally. It's recommended that you tie food in trees at least 15 feet away from your tent to prevent attracting the bears accidentally.
  • Keep dogs leashed. Your dog might enjoy camping but he will scare any bears in the area. If the bear happens to be a female bear with cubs, a dog could excite her enough to attack. It's best to be safe and keep your dog near your campsite.
  • Most bears don't like humans. In general, bears will not approach humans unless they feel threatened or think they'll get an easy meal.
  • Play dead or fight back? The United States Forestry Department suggests that if your campsite is approached by a wandering black bear, you should flap your arms and make noise to scare them off. Do not play dead or try to outrun them. Some suggest playing dead if the bear is a female with cubs.

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