Bear tips for Pinetop, AZ

Forums Mountain Bike Forum Bear tips for Pinetop, AZ

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    • #220880


      Next week I will be heading up to pinetop for 2 weeks and will be doing some mtb. I’ve never really rid on any trails except the iron horse connected trail, but I have started racing and gotten better so now I’m going to start riding on the trails in that area. Anyways I was wondering if there are many bears out there, specifically by the blue ride trail and springs trail. If there are bears where are they most commonly seen? Do bear bells work in that area, what other tips do you have for avoiding theam, or when I encounter them?


    • #220908

      I grew up in Show Low and have spent most of my life hunting and fishing the area.  I can count on 1 hand the number of times Ive seen a bear while out riding, so you chance of an encounter is very slim.  That said, the Boy Scout Motto of “Be Prepared” is always important.

      Common sense goes a long way.  Never let your guard down and always make noise, as much as possible anyway, especially in terrain that is more dense and closed in.  In more open terrain remain alert and scan ahead as kich as you can.  Its not a bad idea to protect yourself with a defense item of your choice.  I always carry when I ride.  Its more weight but gives me peace of mind.  If you dont want to carry, bear spray can also help.

      As mentioned, the odds are very very slim of seeing one.  Have fun and stay safe.

    • #220977

      My experience in AZ forests and woodlands (1000s of hours in the forests and woodlands running from along the Mogollon Rim from Flagstaff to Payson to the White Mountains to the New Mexico border) is that most of the bears in the region are along the Mogollon Rim and below.  The Tonto NF has a high density of bear as do the Apache reservations.  They appear to prefer drainages and small canyons.  I think if you are riding on top above the Rim, then the likelihood of an aggressive encounter is minimal.  However, if you get on trails that break off the Rim and are below the Rim, then the likelihood of some sort of encounter increases.  Here is a bear distribution map published by AZGFD.  Click on the map to open it and zoom in further.

      I have had many encounters; none have been aggressive.  The bears have been curious to aloof to shy.  However, I have also been very careful with my food during extended stays in the backcountry.

      All in all, I think an encounter is unlikely if you biking.  If you are camping, take more precautions at camp.  One final thought, July is the breeding season. =)

      • #221041

        Thanks for that map. When you say July is breeding season does that mean they are more aggressive or to focused on mating that they will be very rare?

    • #220980

      Put a bell on your handlebars.  If they hear you coming they will leave long before you arrive.

    • #305997

      Your chances of being mauled by a bear are much much less than being struck by lightning.   Seriously, your fears are unfounded.   Bear attacks are extremely rare and totally random.  I live in Southwest Colorado and we have lots of Black bears (no Grizzlies).  Sometimes I look out my back door and a 300 pound bear is standing right there.  I wave my arms and shout at them and they run away.  Maybe run is the wrong word.  If they are big and fat it’s more like a waddle.  Black bears don’t want anything to do with people, they just want food.   The only way you are likely to get mauled by a bear is if you ride right into one or you’re sleeping outside next to a pepperoni pizza.   If you’re camping, keep your food and trash where a bear can’t get at it and keep a clean camp.  Don’t sleep where you cook.  And don’t rub bacon grease all over your body!

      Black bears are mostly nocturnal and you are most likely to encounter them at dawn and dusk.   With their heavy fur coats, they don’t like being active during the heat of the day.  I have bears that sleep all day long in the tops of my tall Ponderosa pine trees and only come down when the sun starts to set.  Once the sun is fully up, you will seldom see a bear unless you find it sleeping somewhere.  So ride in the middle of the day which you would probably do anyway.

    • #306005

      About three years ago a cyclist near Glacier National Park was killed when he and a friend ran into a bear. The friend escaped. Most of the riders on the Great Divide trail carry bear spray. It’s not infrequent to see bears on the trail and having spray along brings with it peace of mind even if it doesn’t need to be deployed. I think you’re wise to be somewhat concerned. I live in Montana and carry spray on my cycing trips. I’ve never had to use it but have seen bears on the trail when cycling. Many GD riders also use whistles or bells in densely vegetated areas.

      As far as carrying a gun, Montana FWP wrote an article recently comparing the safety and efficacy of spray as a deterrent vs a gun. The results of their study STRONGLY favor bear spray, which is quite effective in preventing injury. Guns were much less effective and almost always ended up with the bear also being dead, many times leaving a wounded bear which had to be tracked and dispatched thus putting FWP wardens at risk. Here is a quote from an Outside article on the subject:

      “Not only would it require the wherewithal to draw and fire a gun, you’d need expert skills to hit a charging bear in such a way that it would stop the charge. Examples abound of incidents in which bears get shot during an attack—and still keep coming. In one particularly unfortunate case in Montana last September, a man accidentally shot and killed his hunting partner while trying to defend the partner who was being mauled by a grizzly.

      “Hitting a target the size of a baseball, especially when the target’s coming at you at 30 miles an hour and swaying side to side, isn’t easy,” says Stephen Herrero, who is among those who have actually accomplished such a feat. ”


      Here is a link to Montana’s FWP website on using bear spray:

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