Bears in the San Gorgonio Wilderness


There have been a number of bear-human confrontations in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. The following information is designed to help the visitor protect both person and property from the creatures of the wild.

big bear, little bear Bears are usually more afraid of people than people are of bears. Bears are mainly herbivores, eating berries and other vegetation, while not passing on the opportunity for meat-items left by campers. They have a large range and move quickly through the mountains. People and bears normally avoid each other. One of the few catalysts for people and bears to interact is climatic.

Southern California has been undergoing a period of drought. This climatic condition has caused deer, bear, and other animals to move to lower elevations in search of food. Sometimes, this search for food has placed animals and humans in confrontational situations. In many cases, this competition and confrontation has disturbed the balance of solitude sought and desired by these animals.

Hungry bears will walk through camps and go through packs and food bags. They will rip and tear at scented items not easily offering up their contents. When bears become accustomed to obtaining food from backpackers, they learn to approach people and camps continually. Such bears often end up dead because of the carelessness of campers.

To avoid loss of property and physical danger, the SGWA now only advocates the use of bear-proof canisters to store food. We recommend purchasing or renting (see below) bear-proof canisters, such as those made by Garcia Machine. The Garcia canister weighs only 2.7 pounds and also makes a great camp seat. The retail price through the SGWA is only $67.50 (it is selling for over $75 at most stores). All SGWA contributing members receive a 20% discount on this price!! To purchase your canister, please visit our Back Country stores at the Mill Creek Ranger Station or the Barton Flats Visitor Center.


Beginning September 6, 2002, the SGWA in partnership with the US Forest Service, San Bernardino National Forest will be offering bear backpacking canisters for rent at the Mill Creek Ranger Station starting at $10 for 1-3 nights.  We believe this will make it a little easier for everyone wanting to help protect the bears by properly storing food while out on the trail. Please contact the Mill Creek Ranger Station for more details (909) 794.1123


To learn more about the American Black Bear (Ursus americanus), visit The Bear Den or Bear Lore for bear avoidance materials.