Bear Safety

What to Do If You See a Bear

If you are in a developed area (e.g. campground, parking lot) or if a bear approaches you, act immediately to scare it away: make as much noise as possible by yelling as loudly and aggressively as possible. If you are with other people, stand together to present a more intimidating figure, but do not surround the bear.

The intent is not to harm the bear, but to scare it from the area and restore its natural fear of people by providing a negative experience.

If you see a bear anywhere else, keep your distance (at least 50 yards, or about the distance four shuttle buses parked end to end would take up). If you get closer, you will be helping the bear become used to being around people. Bears that become comfortable around people lose their natural fear of us and sometimes become too aggressive; sometimes they then have to be killed.

When a ranger sees a bear, the ranger may use non-lethal aversive tactics to chase the bear out of a developed area. During your stay, you may see and hear rangers patrolling public areas. You may hear rangers yelling at and chasing bears. The intent is not to harm the bear, but to scare it from the area and restore its natural fear of people by providing a negative experience.

What to Do if a Bear Charges You

This is uncommon, but if a bear charges you, look big, raise your arms, and stand your ground; keep yelling as loudly and aggressively as possible. If the bear backs away, you should back away as well because the bear may be guarding food or cubs and view you as a threat. The good news is that black bears in this area nearly always bluff charge (i.e., they are just trying to scare you away by asserting their dominance).

Food Storage

What must be stored?

All food and anything with a scent (even if you don't consider it food). This includes garbage, recyclables, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, sunscreen, first-aid kits, baby wipes, lotion, hairspray, scented tissue, air freshener, pet food, insect repellent, tobacco products, and window cleaner. Bears recognize ice chests, cans, bottles, and grocery bags so store them also.

How do I stored these items properly?

  • Use the metal food lockers that are provided in every campground in the Reds Meadow Valley including at Devils Postpile.
  • Shop and pack for your visit so that everything will fit in the boxes and is easy to store upon arrival.
  • All items should be put in the locker before setting up camp.
  • Seal foods in containers to minimize smells.
  • Remove baby car seats from vehicles when parked overnight if you're comfortable reinstalling them.
  • When food lockers are not available, put all food and related supplies, including ice chests, in vehicle trunk with food sealed in air-tight containers.
  • In vehicles without trunks, all food and related supplies, including ice chests, must be stored out of sight. Cover them completely to hide them from view.

In Picnic Areas

Store all food and related supplies properly, including ice chests. Never leave food unattended; keep food within arm's reach. Dispose of all garbage properly.

In Campgrounds

In all campgrounds, store all food and related supplies in food lockers. Never leave camp unattended if food is not stored. Store food day and night. Bears may enter campsites during the day or night, even if people are there; keep food within arm's reach when it's not stored. Keep a clean camp. Put trash in bear-resistant cans and dumpsters regularly.

While Hiking

Properly store all food and related supplies left at the trailhead, including ice chests. Don't leave your backpack and walk off to take a photograph. Bears know packs are a source of food.

While Backpacking

You are required by federal regulations to store all your "food" properly throughout Devils Postpile National Monument. You must have your food stored unless it's within arm's reach (so, don't go for a swim or take a nap while leaving food out). Learn more about food storage and bear canister use.

Bear-Resistant Food Canisters

Bear canisters are hard-sided portable containers intended to fit within a backpack and capable of storing several days’ worth of food. You may use any allowed canisters.

Food Lockers

Food lockers ("bear boxes") are only available at designated campsites in the Valley and at the trailheads. You are encouraged to carry canisters even when hiking in areas where bear boxes are available because they may be unavailable or full in these busy areas. Canisters increase your freedom in selecting campsites away from developed or highly used areas. Food lockers are communal: personal locks are not allowed and will be removed.


NOTE: These regulations and precautions help decrease the chance of personal injury or property damage. However, bear damage and confrontations are still possible even when all of the above guidelines are followed. Failure to comply with these regulations may result in citation and/or impoundment of property.

Last updated: October 25, 2021

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