Bear Safety

Black bear swimming in blue water.
American black bear (Ursus americanus) swimming from Oak Island to Stockton Island.


Black bears are a common presence throughout the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. While islands like Stockton, Sand, and Oak often host resident bears, bears can swim to any of the islands. Spotting bears in the wild can be a thrilling experience, but encountering one at your campsite can be alarming and potentially dangerous. Follow bear safety guidelines to ensure an enjoyable experience in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

How To Minimize Bear-Human Conflicts

Store Food & Scented Items Properly

  • Use Bear-Proof Lockers: Use bearproof lockers at campsites on Sand, Oak, York, Manitou, Basswood, and Stockton Islands to store food and toiletries between meals.
  • No Locker? Hang Your Food: Hang your food cache in a tree away from your tent at least 12 feet from the ground and five feet from the trunk.
  • Proper Garbage Disposal: Do not bury, scatter, or burn food scraps. Bag your garbage and pack it out.
  • Stay Attentive: Never leave food or water bottles unattended.
  • Pets: Store dog food items along with other food in bearproof lockers.

Make Noise While Hiking

  • Make Noise: When hiking, create sound to alert bears of your presence.
  • Travel in Groups: Stick to established trails during the day and travel in groups.
  • Be Bear Sign Aware: Look for tracks (paw prints), droppings (scat), and claw marks on trees.

Reduce Food Odors Where You Camp or Picnic

  • Cook Away from Tent: Cook well away from your sleeping area if possible.
  • Clean Quickly: Wash dishes and clean the kitchen site.
  • Store Outside: Don’t keep food or toiletries in your tent.
  • Wastewater Disposal: Use minimal water, strain food particles, and broadcast wastewater at least 50-yards away from camp or use a vault toilet.
  • Pack Out: Take food scraps with other garbage.

If You Encounter a Bear

In the Backcountry

  • Walk Away While Facing the Bear: Slowly move away and avoid direct eye contact.
  • Speak Quietly and Act Passively: Remain calm and avoid sudden movements.
  • If the Bear Approaches: Wave your arms and speak louder to identify yourself as a human.

In a Visitor Area (campsite, dock, or picnic area)

  • Show that You are in Charge: Use a loud voice tone and upright body posture. Try to look as large as possible.
  • Make Noise: Bang pots, yell, and make loud noises until the bear leaves the area.
  • Report the Encounter: Report the encounter to park staff as soon as possible.
  • If Bear Acts Aggressively: Leave the area immediately, do not run, and report the encounter.

Keep Wildlife Wild

A problem bear is one that has lost its fear of people. To prevent bears from causing property loss or personal injury, the National Park Service will use noise and various projectiles to deter bears from visitor use areas, close campsites and picnic areas, or remove problem bear(s). Please follow the suggested camping practices to protect yourself and the bears of the Apostles Islands National Lakeshore.

Photograph of a brown metal box on the ground in front of green trees.
Bear box at Meyers Beach campsite.


Photograph of a black bear walking on a sandy beach with colorful sea kayaks on the shore.
Black bear investigates kayaks on a beach in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.


Last updated: July 2, 2024

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