Summertime in Idaho features many fun places to explore and enjoy, but while doing so, we must be mindful that we share this land with the animals that inhabit it.

Over the past few weeks, multiple people between Wyoming, Montana and Idaho have been attacked by grizzly bears. The closest attack happened two weeks ago in Henry’s Lake State Park.

Grizzlies are one of the most dominant mammals in the Rockies, and they are not something you want to mess with.

“Grizzly bears the biggest, baddest, toughest things in the woods, and they’re pretty well aware of it,” said James Brower, regional communications manager for Idaho Fish and Game.

As bears come out of hibernation, many of them have cubs, which was the reason a grizzly was provoked to attack a man near Casper, Wyoming, last month.

“We are not what they want to eat in most cases,” Brower said. “Most attacks are defense attacks, where they are defending cubs…a carcass…or we are just in their space.”

All people are encouraged to carry bear spray with them, as it’s the most effective defense against an agitated bear. Bears have incredibly sensitive noses, and the spray will irritate a bear to the point that it’ll hopefully walk away.

Brower said another great way to prevent an encounter with a bear at all is to travel in groups and make noise. Bears have great hearing, and if you talk and make just enough noise on your trip, bears will likely avoid you altogether.

If you encounter a bear and do not have bear spray, do these things to have the best chance at surviving an attack:

· Do not look a bear in the eye (it’s an intimidation factor).

· Lay flat on the ground on your stomach.

· Spread your legs out as wide as you can (this helps prevent the bear from flipping you over).

· Put your hands over the back of your neck (to protect that vital area).

· Wait for the bear to leave.

· Get out of the area and call for help.

Brower said that bears are only looking to neutralize threats and are not looking to attack people for the sake of attacking. So, if you follow those guidelines, the bear will likely eventually leave after it feels you aren’t a threat anymore.

According to Idaho state law, if you have a gun or some other weapon to defend yourself against an attack, you are permitted to do so. Keep in mind, however, guns are not as effective as bear spray, according to Brower.

Brower said bears are looking for food this time of year, and in the past, they have made their way into towns and residential areas. Brower said bears had made it as far into St. Anthony and the Sugar City area, sometimes eating potatoes in the fields.

Bears are most prominent in Idaho near Island Park and going north.

Another major concern is bears coming near people’s homes. Brower said during this point in the year, people should not put out bird feeders and they should keep garbage in a locked container. Bears often come near people’s homes at the first hint of food, and oftentimes, they’ll keep coming back.

“When you found the fridge, you just don’t stop going back,” Brower said.

As we do the things necessary to keep ourselves safe this summer, Brower said, we should have nothing to worry about.

“You can have an enjoyable time getting out there and enjoying what Idaho has to offer, and you can do so safely,” Brower said. “[Bears] shouldn’t prevent you from having a good time out in the woods.”