You Might See a Bear in Rocky Mountain National Park

Black Bear
Jeff Vanuga

Breath easy there are no Grizzly Bears inside the Rocky Mountain National Park, but there are Black Bears, which at times can be just as pesky. Usually invisible, these bears can hang around campsites and designated wilderness campgrounds scavenging for a quick meal. Rangers stress the importance of knowing what to do if you see a bear, but also stress the fact that it’s rare to actually see one. So don’t worry, odds are you’ll never know they are there.

About Black Bears at Rocky Mountain National Park

No one knows the exact number of bears inside the Park, but what is known is Black Bears are not always black. In fact some appear a cinnamon or brown color and can weigh between 200 and 500 lbs. The bears, which typically patrol a designated space ranging from 10 to 250 square miles, are usually in search of a quick meal and can be found in all alpine zones of the Park.

What to do if you see a Bear

The most important thing to remember if you see a black bear is not to panic. Now I know what you’re thinking: you’re nuts! But it’s true. Make sure to pick up any small children and raise your arms up to make yourself appear bigger. Then shout at the bear to go away. Black bears are not naturally aggressive towards humans, in fact they usually immediately run the opposite direction, so stay calm and stand your ground. One of the biggest mistakes occurs when you try to outrun the bear. Trust me, there is no way even with Michael Johnson’s gold Nike running shoes you’re going to beat that bear, so stay put and back away slowly if needed.

Protecting your Food from Bears

If you plan on going into the backcountry make sure to speak with a ranger first about how to properly store your food. Park regulations require a bear canister or bear bag to be hung at least 10-feet high and four-feet from the tree. Since bears are excellent climbers a poorly hung bag can mean going hungry for the duration of your trip.