Black Bear Cub


Bears are unique and natural parts of the Philmont environment! Like all wild animals, they must be treated with respect. Black bears are not normally aggressive, and most crews will not even see one.

Anything with an odor (except the human scent) may attract bears. It does not matter if the odor is food-related. Any odor may generate curiosity in a bear, which may result in a closer examination of that odor.

At Philmont Scout Ranch, all items with a smell, "smellables," are placed in a bear bag at night. It is recommended for all crew members to have their own ditty bags with their personal "smellables" in it to put in the bear bag. A few of these "smellables" are food, soaps, toothbrushes and toothpaste, lip balm, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, unused film cartridges and first aid kits.

The following camping practices are the best ways to avoid contact with the bears:

  • Avoid carelessness that results in improperly disposed food.
  • Burn or store all uneaten food in a bear bag.
  • Cook close to the fire ring and away from the sleeping area.
  • Clean up only at the sump.
  • Never eat food in a tent; the odor remains after the food is gone.
  • Tents must be used only for sleeping.

Human scent does not attract bears. However, the superficial application of scented lotions, soaps, deodorants, shampoo or spilled food does attract bears. Washing your body with various products should be done before mid-afternoon in order for the residual smells to dissipate before nightfall. Avoid perfumed products with strong odors. Any clothing that has had food spilled on it must be placed away from the sleeping area at night.

If a bear does visit your campsite, stay away from it and make noise. Protect your food by hanging it from a cable that has been erected by Philmont Scout Ranch for that purpose. Crews that stop for a program or a conservation project should leave one or two persons with the packs at all times. Crews hiking into the Valle Vidal area off Philmont Scout Ranch will need an extra rope for hanging bear bags. In Philmont camps, the weight of the rope alone is sufficient to carry it over the cable. In the Valle Vidal, where there are no cables, crews will be instructed to put several handfuls of dirt in a bandanna, tie the corners and attach it to the bear rope to serve as a weight. Never risk injury by attempting to protect your food or equipment from a bear.

When you arrive at Philmont, your ranger will thoroughly train you on the camping practices that are most effective in keeping wildlife away from your camp.



Rabies and bubonic plague can be transmitted by rabbits, bats, ground squirrels, chipmunks and other rodents. Do not handle or feed any animals.


Some parts of Philmont Scout Ranch are inhabited by prairie rattlesnakes. They generally live at elevations below 8,000 feet. Prairie rattlesnakes are not aggressive unless provoked and will usually sound a warning rattle before they strike. If you see one, give it a wide berth! Rattlesnakes are beneficial in controlling rodent population. Do not try to kill one yourself! Instead, please report it to the nearest Philmont Scout Ranch staff member. Rattlesnake bites are rare at Philmont.

Repel Mosquitoes and Bees

Mosquitoes are common during wet periods. They are also potential carriers of the West Nile virus. Insect repellent is recommended for the trail. Repellents with DEET are the most effective. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants in the evening is another wise precaution.

There are also bees and wasps at Philmont. If you are allergic to stings, be sure you have antitoxin and that a crew member is informed of your condition and the treatment you may require.


About Philmont Scout Ranch

Philmont Scout Ranch, the Boy Scouts of America's premier High Adventure™ base, challenges Scouts and Venturers with more than 214 square miles of rugged northern New Mexico wilderness. Backpacking treks, horseback cavalcades, and training and service programs offer young people many ways to experience this legendary country.