When a Bear Wanders into Camp + Leave No Trace Tips

A couple weekends ago we spent (tent) camping at one of my all-time favorite spots in Teton National Park: Jenny Lake. Jenny Lake is a tent-only campground that has easy access to the fabulous paved trails, the gorgeous lake of the same name and tons of hiking.

It’s a no-reservations site, so we try to hit it in the spring and/or fall to avoid peak crowds. If you are planning on visiting the Tetons, we highly recommend it (though definitely have a plan B if you can’t get a site.)

When a Bear Wanders into Camp + Leave No Trace Tips When a Bear Wanders into Camp + Leave No Trace Tips

After a 16 mile round-trip bike ride to Moose for pizza at Dornans (another must-do), timed perfectly to avoid a massive lightning storm that conveniently hit when we were safely eating our pizza, we were just hanging around our camp.

Because we were having some snacks, our bear box was open, and we had some banana peels on the picnic table. However, other than that, our camp was (and usually always is) very clean. The kids were being loud, we were talking and not worried about much. I had just been in the tent vestibule with L (age 16 months) and had walked back towards the truck to put something away.

My husband and son biked up to tell us that they had just heard a bear was in the campground. Not two seconds after they had finished the sentence, my husband proceeded to point out the bear was now in OUR campsite, right by the tent.

I realized that L (aged 16 months) was still in that tent which was now less than 3 feet from that bear.  I did what any good mother would do – I completely forgot all bear ettiquette and ran to get her. Luckily this young bear (probably last year’s cub) was more curious than anything and wasn’t startled at all about the fact that we were IN camp and making a good racket. While we stood posed by the truck ready to jump in if needed, he did a little sniffing around and then moved on his way when we started yelling to get him out.

When a Bear Wanders into Camp + Leave No Trace Tips

Growing up in Alaska, I’ve seen lots and lots of bears. To be honest, this one didn’t have me too worried, but maybe that was my own way of handling the situation in my head. It certainly had me thinking twice of not having L right next to me and watching the boys carefully too.

While we didn’t end up suffering in any way from the bear being in camp, the bear most likely will in the future. It had obviously gotten some reward from a negligent camper in the past and wasn’t shying away from people at all. It knew where to find food. Unfortunately bears like this one often end up having to be relocated or destroyed – having them hang around camp just isn’t an option.

While Jenny Lake campground does have required bear boxes to use to store food, not all sites do, especially if you are in the backcountry.

Throughout the weekend, as we looked closer we also realized that there were small bits of trash left from other campers all over our site. We did our part to try to remove as many of them as we could. However, our trash clean up coupled with the bear threat got me really thinking about Leave No Trace and how important that is for our environment AND our safety.

When a Bear Wanders into Camp + Leave No Trace Tips

Coincidently, I just came across these great illustrations from a post by Amy Whitley over at Fix.com and thought they were some perfect reminders. Please feel free to share them, pin them, print them and use them! These were shared with permission from Fix.com. Also, be sure to check out their full article – full of great Leave No Trace quick tips!

Because a dirty camp attracts bears (as we got a good reminder of) – even if it wasn’t YOU leaving the mess! Respect the earth, the wildlife AND future campers.

When a Bear Wanders into Camp + Leave No Trace Tips


When no bear box is available…..

When a Bear Wanders into Camp + Leave No Trace Tips

And the whole thing to share…..

When a Bear Wanders into Camp + Leave No Trace Tips


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Bear in Camp

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  • Rebecca has lived in five different states in the last decade with her Navy submariner husband and two boys. A former science teacher turned home educator, she now focuses on exploring her surrounding area (currently Virginia Beach) with her family as much as possible before life sends them on another adventure elsewhere. Their favorite outdoor activities include hiking, kayaking, camping, and paddleboarding.

7 thoughts on “When a Bear Wanders into Camp + Leave No Trace Tips”

  1. Yikes! Thats a bit intimidating for sure! Although I’ve tent camped in bear country I’ve yet to have a bear that close. Glad you all are safe and have a memory for sure!

  2. Wow! I thought your occasional bison neighborhood stroll in was nerve wracking, but this bear takes the cake. Glad no one got hurt!

    • Alyssa – got my nerves rattled too! πŸ˜‰ But, this was honestly no big deal….though could have been. Glad it turned into that…and got us thinking more about just being aware, even in a very heavily used campground!


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