Bears are omnivores. They love insects, plants, and you guessed it, berries. 

  • When you find a patch of berries, first check for bear scat and upturned rocks. 
  • If you see a bear, slowly back away and leave the area; don’t run. 
  • Avoid picking berries in the early mornings or late evenings when bears are more active.  
  • Make noise. A bear bell works but talking loudly or singing is just as effective. Keep up conversation with your huckleberry-loving friends and family to pass the time and keep the bears aware of your presence. 
  • Remain aware of your surroundings. Use your senses of sight, smell, and sound. 
  • Assume every bear is a hangry mama. Do not get between a bear and berries, or between a female bear and her cubs. 
  • Bring bear spray and know how to properly deploy it in case of an encounter with a charging bear. Keep spray easily accessible, but be sure kids do not play with it. Review online resources to learn how to use bear spray, including Bebearaware.org and online instructional videos from the National Park Service or Backpacker.com.  
Sampling huckleberries on the way to St. Joe Lake. Photo: Aaron Theisen
Sampling huckleberries on the way to St. Joe Lake. // Photo by Aaron Theisen

Originally published as “Bears Love Berries: Be Bear Aware” in the April 2020 print issue.