How To Survive An Encounter With a Bear

Coming from the safety of my computer and my home where no bears are in sight, these safety tips may lack the urgency they should.

They do however, emanate from some research on this very terrifying prospect, and if you are a hiker or a camper or even just a lover of the great outdoors, heed them well.

You never know. The life you save may well be your own.

The best advice for confrontations with bears concerns avoiding them. Do not be a quiet camper or hiker. Make noise and be alert always. Hike in groups and if you are in a camp, always store trash at least ten feet off the ground.

Every bear encounter is different, and no advice can guarantee your safety. These guidelines, however, may be of some help.

According to the Alaska Interagency Bear Safety Education Committee, the first step in evaluating a safety strategy is to determine whether a bear is acting defensively or offensively.

A defensive bear is one you have surprised and this may lead to a rapid attack.

If attacked, drop immediately to the ground, lie flat and protect your head and neck. Play dead even after the bear leaves.

An offensive bear is one that appears to be stalking or moving purposefully toward you, or has come into camp at night.

According to bear experts, attacks are rare in these instances, but make loud noises and wave your arms about before the bear makes contact should this happen.

If the bear does strike or bite, aggressively fight it off with any means at your disposal.

It’s always best to be like the Boy Scouts; prepared. Most encounters between bears and humans concern mothers and cubs, which brings us to rule # 1.

1. Never approach a bear cub. Mama is always nearby and will kill to protect it.

2. Remain calm if you spot a bear and avoid sudden or jerky movements. Back away slowly and speak softly. (Forget about that big stick and Teddy Roosevelt. He is dead and cannot be there with you.)

3. If you see a bear far off in the distance, stop moving in its direction. Slowly return down the path the way you came for at least 400 yards until you are certain that the bear is out of sight.

Make as much noise as you can while you either pursue another trail to get to your destination or wait about twenty minutes before hiking back up the original trail.

4. Avoid eye contact. In the animal world, this is considered a challenge and no matter how cute the bear looks, it is no teddy bear!

5. If the bear pursues you, throw something on the ground as it may distract the bear and give you time to run like hell.

Don’t make it your backpack, as this can offer protection. Something portable, such as a camera, is fine.

6. Do not opt to climb a tree even if you are limber enough to do so. Black bears can climb and if you are both at the top, there’s no place to go.

To compound matters, many trees found in “grizzly country” have weak trunks and lack low branches which translates literally into falling into the “belly of the beast.”

7. If a bear does attack you, drop to the ground in the fetal position with your hands behind your neck. Stay silent and don’t move. (You might want to pray too, even if you are not very religious.)

8. Roll with the bear’s blows and return to your motionless fetal position.

9. This is most important and may well be the single factor that will save your life if you are attacked by a bear.

Stay quiet and motionless for at least 20 minutes once the bear leaves because they often watch from a distance and return at the first sign of movement.

10. Fight back only as a last resort. If you can get to your feet, strike the bear in the eyes or on the snout as you slowly back away.

It is hoped that these tips will never be needed, but record them somewhere in the back of your mind anyway.

It not only gives you an edge over the bear, but you never know what lies down the road and the life you save someday may well be your own.

Leave a Comment

  1. Rob says:

    You forgot the most important tip of them all:

    Carry a gun and pop a cap in Yogi’s ass. Did you learn nothing from the epic documentary on ursine behaviour “The Great Outdoors” starring noted woodsman John Candy.

  2. andy says:

    double plus one on the gun. A good 357 magnum. Smith and wessen even sell a grizzly kit with a gun, bear spray, airhorn, and a rope with a sack for a bear bag. all in a nice pelican case. Its expensive.