Bear Responsible - Bears Belong!

The American black bear (Ursus americanus) exists from northern Mexico to Canada and is found in 32 of the American states. There are approximately 900,000 black bears in North America and their numbers are increasing in many of these areas, including Nevada.  While we estimate the number of black bears in Nevada to be upwards of 600 animals. Nevada’s bears are part of the larger Sierra Nevada population, estimated to be around 10,000+ bears. 

Historical records indicate black bears were once widely distributed throughout Nevada, and likely existed at low densities.  They were extirpated from Nevada’s interior by the early 1900s, due to direct removal of bears from conflicts with people and decimation of their forested habitat during the mining booms in the 1800s.  Due to habitat regeneration, and conservation efforts by NDOW and it’s partners, black bear populations have increaseddramatically in the western part of the state, and sightings in Nevada’s interiorGreat Basin have increased in the last two decades.  BEARS BELONG in Nevada and we are ensuring they continue to expand, as they are an important piece of Nevada’s vast and varying ecosystems.

Unfortunately, this path to expansion for Nevada bears is now packed with us humans and our garbage, bird feeders, fruit trees, livestock and other good smelly stuff that will attract a bear.  It’s up to Nevada’s residents and visitors to BE RESPONSIBLE in bear country!  Bears are very strong and agile animals so don’t think your food is safe just because it’s in your car. Bears also have an extremely sensitive nose and can smell things like bird feed in a closed container inside your shed! They are quick learners and they are very persistent, eventually learning to open doors and windows.

NDOW recognizes that bears rummaging through garbage or eating apples in backyards may be perceived as a concern and possibly frightening, however, it is your responsibility while living or recreating in bear habitat to remove these attractants before further steps are taken by NDOW. Don’t wait until it’s too late: remove attractants before you have a bear encounter.  By allowing a bear access to your trash, even just once, you are rewarding that behavior and it will revisit your home. Bears may become human-habituated and human-food conditioned, which often times leads them into conflict with people. They may sometimes get to the point where they constitute a public safety risk and have to be killed to avoid a dangerous encounter. This is not fair to the bear. Living in bear country is unique and requires residents take extra precautions.

We are here to help you learn to live and recreate in Nevada’s black bear country.  Below are frequently asked questions and resources that will provide solutions to help make your property or visit safer and less attractive to bears.


What about that garbage? What can be done?

Garbage is usually the easiest thing for a bear to get in to and it is what teaches a bear that being in human-occupied areas is easier than natural food sources.  Securing garbage is a simple solution!

Putting garbage out on the morning of pickup, while sometimes a pain, ensures the bears won’t have access to it during the night when no one is around to stop them. 

Purchasing a bear-resistant container (BRC) is the best solution to garbage woes.  With a BRC you don’t have to put your garbage into your garage and risk a bear wanting to break in to access it.  You can leave it outside and the bear can’t get into it and will move on.These systems are always improving.  Find one that works for you here:  


Bear Encounters

Whether you are living and/or recreating in bears country you should know how to act in a bear encounter. Keep in mind that bears exhibit stress behaviors which indicate their anxiety and preference to avoid conflict with you. These are not necessarily signs of an aggressive bear.

  • Moaning and woofing while avoiding direct eye contact with you.
  • Clacking of their teeth and smacking of their jaws.
  • Stomping on their front feet and false charges which stop short of making contact with you.

In most cases these behaviors are the bears way of telling you that you are too close. Back up and leave the area. Although black bears very rarely attack people, those attacks have increased in number over the last 20-30 years. Knowing how to behave in an encounter will help keep you and your loved ones safe.

  • Never approach or feed a bear! Give them respect by keeping your distance and observing them from a safe area.
  • Give a bear plenty of room to pass by and it usually will.
  • Keep a close watch on children while they are outdoors and teach them what to do if they see a bear. Tell them to stay together, back away from the bear and find an adult.
  • If a bear approaches you, speak in a loud, firm voice "get away bear!" Raise your arms to make yourself appear bigger and back away to a safe area. You cannot outrun a black bear as they are capable of bursts of speed up to 35 miles per hour!
  • In the rare event of a bear attack people have succeeded in driving away the bear by hitting it with stout sticks, rocks and punching it in the nose.
  • Carry bear spray and know how to use it! NDOW does not endorse any product but our bear biologist and game wardens use Counter Assault for close bear encounters.
  • Keep a clean camp Never store food in your tent
  • Do not cook in the same cloths you sleep in and always cook away from your sleeping area.

Remember, persistent or extremely bold bears that pose a public safety risk, such as those that enter homes, may have to be killed. You can play a part in keeping Nevada’s bears out of trouble by being responsible with your food and trash and insist your friends or neighbors to do the same.

For more information on staying safe in bear country refer to these training DVDs.