iPhone app targets bear hazing


A New Jersey man has developed a downloadable application for the Apple iPhone specifically targeted at shooing away bears.

The “Scare Bear Trail Companion” application costs 99 cents to download and provides digital sounds meant to frighten away bears on hiking trails. It gives users the option between the sound of an airhorn, bear bells, hands clapping or rocks shaking in a tin can, each activated by shaking the phone.

Inventor Alex Tiger of Green Pond, N.J. — an area with a rising black bear population and increasing bear-human conflicts — said he hoped the application would allow people to alert bears that they’re coming without the use of more cumbersome tools like actual bear bells or horns.

“I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if you could just have this on your iPhone instead of people having to buy all this stuff,’” Tiger, a 38-year-old lawyer and former Vail Resorts seasonal employee, recalled recently. He is hoping summertime hikers and campers will pick up the new app in bear country hotspots like Aspen, where the bears are now in hibernation but the memory of 2009’s history-making conflicts remain fresh. Wildlife officials killed 19 bears in the Aspen area last summer, and three people were injured by run-ins with the animals.

Worldwide, the Apple applications are changing the idea of a mobile phone’s capabilities — there are  apps for getting updates on ski conditions, tuning a guitar, playing games and making fart noises (dubbed “iFart,” naturally).

Tiger recorded the sounds of rocks in a can, clapping, bells and an airhorn in a sound studio for verisimilitude’s sake. “It was important to me to make it as genuine sounding as possible,” he explained.

But their volume goes only as high as the iPhone’s master volume control does, meaning the decibel level Scare Bear reaches is a fraction of actually blowing an airhorn or ringing a bear bell. To cover liability concerns, the download categorized Scare Bear as a “novelty item.”

Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said he was glad people are working on innovative ways to stay safe around bears, but he has not tried out the application.

“It’s good that people are trying to come up with new ideas,” he said. “But for now we’d say continue to make your own noises and be as loud as possible.”

Black bears, by nature, are not aggressive toward humans and generally will scurry away if they hear people coming at all. If you do come across a bear, wildlife officials suggest you clap and yell to scare it away.