The U.S. Forest Service is reminding recreationists to remain alert for the presence of bears while in the woods this summer.

In general, bears avoid people, but they are voracious scavengers with a highly-acute sense of smell; Something Robin DeMario of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest says campers should be especially mindful of.

“A really good way to discourage bears from visiting your campsite is to make sure your camp is really clean, with nothing there to entice a bear to visit. Store food properly and dispose of garbage – don’t ever leave it laying around your camp.”

DeMario says hikers should also be prepared for how to safely deal with a bear encounter.

“If you’re hiking and a bear walks toward you, identify yourself as a human by waving your hands above your head and talking in a low voice. You’ll also want to slowly back away from the bear and you don’t want to make eye contact. And never run from a bear because they sure can outrun you.”

Carrying a whistle or attaching a bell to backpacks or clothing are also good ways to deter bears.

Bear spray can also be used for defensive purposes and dogs should always be leashed to aid in avoiding encounters.

Forest Service officials say bear-human interactions, including those which prove fatal, have been on the rise nationwide in recent years.

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