It's that time of year again, the huckleberries are arriving! If you’re anything like me you can’t wait to get outdoors in search of those delicious berries. But before you head out the door, here are a few reminders to try and make your berry picking experience a little safer.
I would say bears love huckleberries even more than us; they rely on them as a primary food source this time of year. So when you head to your favorite huckleberry spot, be sure to keep a few things in mind.
Carry bear spray: A can of bear spray will cost you between $35 to $50. Bear spray doesn’t just work on bears; any critter will feel its impact if sprayed in the face. Bear spray is also known to be more effective than firearms when used during a close encounter. Make sure if you bring bear spray that it’s in a quickly accessible place. No point of packing it inside your backpack if you can’t get to it quick enough, it won’t help you.
Make noise: It’s difficult to not get entranced by those berries and become silent, but making noise allows animals to know that you are in the area and prevents you from startling them or vice versa. Simply yelling “hey bear” every once in a while or singing a song will allow critters to know you’re there and leave the area.
Don’t go alone: Traveling in a group is always a smart idea, and it’s more fun! Who wants to pick berries alone? Berry picking with multiple people allows you to create more noise and have more eyes out on the landscape. If you do end up going out alone, make sure to let someone know where you are headed, and what time you plan to be back.
Know your bear: If you happen to encounter a bear it’s important to know what species of bear it is. Black bears and grizzly bears look and behave differently. Black bears have a pointed face, taller ears with no shoulder hump. Grizzly bears have a dished face, rounded ears and a large shoulder hump. Remember that there are various color shades and sizes of black and grizzly bears, so black bears may not always be black and a large bear may not always be a grizzly bear. Black bears are more likely to run away if you make noise, get big and throw things. Grizzly bears can get aggressive if you act this way, so you’re best to slowly and calmly back away with your bear spray in hand. In the unlikely event a bear charges you, have your bear spray ready and when the animal is about 20 to 30 feet away start spraying. Spray at a slight downward angle, as the cloud will billow upward and be aware of the wind direction at the time. You want to create a wall of spray between you and the bear, while aiming for the eyes and nose.
Now that you are bear aware, it’s time to get picking!
- Attribution:Idaho Department of Fish and Game- Panhandle Region