Tips for avoiding hungry bears while camping this summer

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As camping season ramps up at state parks, park officials are reminding campers to be respectful and safe when sharing spaces with nature.

A fun camping trip for a Cooperstown Boy Scout troop at Harriman State Park recently took a dangerous turn when a bear injured a 12-year old scout while outside in his sleeping bag.

Henry Ayers suffered minor abrasions and contusions, but is OK.

But park staff at Harriman are reminding people what they can do to have a safe camping experience.

“This is one of three trail shelters on the Appalachian Trail, so it gets a lot of use,” said Ed McGowan, director of science for the Palisades Region of State Parks.

He said that attacks like these are extremely rare. This was the first in over 20 years there.

But park attendance is still greater than normal, a trend started during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Especially the last couple years, with all the demand for people to be outside, we’ve been really, really busy,” McGowan said.

Folks should know proper ways to ensure bears don’t get too close for comfort at camp sites.

“Bears are still inquisitive, but if they can’t get a food reward, that’s most of the battle. They may walk around and sniff things out, but if they’re not getting fed and people are keeping the area clean, they’ll generally leave,” McGowan said.

He said campers should also use a bear hang to keep food away from a bear’s reach.

In addition to using the bear hang, folks should keep campsite cleans and use the bear-proof dumpsters that are located throughout the park.

“It’s really on us to educate the public and the public to comply with really simple things that they should be doing anyway, which is keeping a clean campsite,” McGowan said.

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