Be Bear Safe in the Guadalupe Mountains

A forest scene with three bears partly visible through the trees
A female bear and two cubs spotted along the Juniper Trail.

NPS Photo

Warning: Bears are wild animals that are dangerous and unpredictable.
Do not approach bears or allow them to approach you!

While rarely seen, black bears live throughout the high country of the Guadalupe Mountains Wilderness.

All backpackers must do the following to reduce the risk of bear interactions:

  • Food Storage: Attend your food, water, and aromatic items by keeping them packed up and away from your tent and sleeping area. Consider preparing and eating food a distance from your sleeping area. Keep your campsite clean at all times.
  • Contain your trash and pack it out.

If you see a bear:

  • Remain watchful.
  • Do not approach a bear. Give it plenty of space.
  • Do not allow the bear to approach you.
  • If your presence causes the bear to change its behavior (stops feeding, changes its travel direction, watches you, etc.) you are too close.
  • Being too close may promote aggressive behavior from the bear such as running toward you, making loud noises, or swatting the ground. The bear is demanding more space.
  • Don't run, but slowly back away. Stand together, make yourself look big, and continue watching the bear.
  • Increase the distance between you and the bear. The bear will probably do the same.

NOTE: When visiting the Guadalupe Mountains, leave the bear spray at home. Bear spray is generally unnecessary and poses a greater risk to you and other hikers through accidental discharge.

The text of a bear safety sign

If a bear persistently follows or approaches you, without vocalizing, or paw swatting:

  • Change your direction.
  • If the bear continues to follow you, stand your ground.
  • If the bear gets closer, talk loudly or shout at it.
  • Act aggressively to intimidate the bear.
  • Act together as a group if you have companions. Make yourselves look as large as possible (for example, move to higher ground).
  • Throw non-food objects such as rocks at the bear.
  • Use a deterrent such as a stout stick.
  • Don't run and don't turn away from the bear.
  • Don't leave food for the bear; this encourages further problems.

If the bear's behavior indicates that it is after your food and you are physically attacked:

  • Separate yourself from the food.
  • Slowly back away.

If the bear shows no interest in your food and you are physically attacked, the bear may consider you as prey:

  • Fight back aggressively with any available object!
  • Do not play dead!

Help protect others, report all bear incidents to a park ranger immediately. Above all, keep your distance from bears!

Last updated: September 20, 2022

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