By Derek Lennon EBS Contributor

Will you be hiking or camping in bear country this summer? If so, it’s important to learn about proper food storage in bear country.

Proper food storage in bear country is imperative for the safety of everyone—including the animals. The food we eat is delicious—especially to the wildlife that craves it. Backcountry food thieves can include marmots, jays, deer, ravens, coyotes, goats, and of course both grizzly bears and black bears.

Wildlife will go after any “food” that smells. That includes food, sunscreen, lip balm, water bottles, snacks, pots and pans, and even the clothing that you cook in. Animals can smell these odorous items from long distances because they have a far superior sense of smell than humans. The smells attract creatures of all shapes and sizes and this is bad news.

When an animal smells food, it goes after it. It will eat through your tent, break your car window and rip out your seats, destroy your food bags, and ultimately leave you without anything to eat. This is bad. Not only because you’ll be hungry, but because now these wild animals will be trained to go after human foods—a habit that can ultimately lead to behaviors that will require that they are killed.

All it takes is one careless person out there and a normal bear that would prefer to avoid humans will become a nuisance bear that is not only a threat to people, but could potentially be killed for its behaviors. All because one person didn’t practice proper food storage in bear country. Don’t be that person!

If you’re camping at a campsite or plan to camp in bear country, there are some basic “food” rules that you absolutely must follow for everyone’s safety.

  • Keep your food secure at all times – day and night.
  • Treat all aromatic items and food items the same.
  • Never feed any animal.
  • Leave all zippers unzipped slightly at night so animals don’t eat through your things.
  • Always cook and store your food at least 100 feet away and downwind from your campsite. Farther is better.
  • Never leave food items in your car.
  • Keep a clean camp.
  • Never be careless with food items.

If you’re in grizzly bear country, you need to be even more responsible with your food items. Here are a few additional tips:

  • Utilize bear boxes at established campgrounds.
  • Hang your food 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet away from the tree. Store food in bear resistant containers.

Keep in mind, improper food storage in Yellowstone National Park can result in big fines.

What it comes down to is that smelly items attract wild animals. No one wants to get attacked by a bear because they left trail mix in their tent or have their car trashed for a few unsavory crumbs, right? These things happen, but when you practice proper food storage in bear country you’ll be just fine.

It’s your responsibility to respect nature and to be savvy with your food items while in Big Sky and the entire Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem—or anywhere for that matter. Montana is still wild. Go and experience it, but always camp responsibly.

Derek Lennon is a skier and writer who lives, works, and plays in the mountains of the world. He is based in Big Sky, Montana, where he lives with his wife Mia and two dogs.

A version of this story was originally published on the Visit Big Sky blog at https://visitbigskymt.com/proper-food-storage-bear-country/. Read more interesting content about the area on Visit Big Sky’s blog at https://visitbigskymt.com/category/blog/.