While fat bear posts and liquor-store-bound bear videos make the animals look like furry friends, it is important to know what to do when confronted by one in the wild, to avoid a bear attack. After recent injuries and deaths due to bear aggression, these tips are crucial to remember before venturing into bear country.
Tips To Avoid An Encounter Altogether
Obviously, the ideal situation is to avoid a bear encounter altogether. The National Park Service suggests that following “viewing etiquette” is a surefire way to avoid a dangerous situation. Viewing etiquette listed on their site includes respecting bear’s space (use binoculars or viewing platforms), minimizing noise or disruptive movement, and staying on designated trails. Additionally, never approach or pursue bears even if they are “orphaned” or sick (a protective mother bear is most likely nearby) and leave pets at home.
If you do end up in a situation face-to-face with a bear, though, the NPS gives detailed advisory on how to exit the situation safely, so as to avoid a bear attack.
How To Avoid An Attack, If You Do Encounter A Bear
In a Facebook post on bear safety, The National Park Service jokingly advises to not “Do NOT push down a slower friend (even if you think the friendship has run its course.” While pushing a friend is obviously not the best course of action, exploring in groups is recommended. The large size of a group can be intimidating to a bear.
Similarly, making yourself look as large as possible will intimidate and scare off the bear. For example, move yourself to higher ground, like a large rock. This does not mean to climb a tree.
While one woman recently spent the night in a tree after encountering a bear, The National Park Services actually advises strongly against climbing trees to avoid agitated bears. “Both grizzlies and black bears can climb trees,” the NPS explains, so being in a tree may limit your escape path and put you in more danger.
The NPS warns that, similar to dogs, running from a bear will trigger it to chase you. Therefore, it is best to slowly back away from the bear with sideways steps. The sideways retreat will allow you to keep your eyes on the bear, while also avoiding tripping on sticks or rocks in your path.
It is important to identify yourself as a human rather than an animal of prey. “Help the bear recognize you as a human. We recommend using your voice,” The NPS says. They remind that while it may look threatening, a standing bear is most likely just curious.
Remember to avoid allowing the bear to access your food. This means make sure to keep your pack close to you and do not drop it. Getting human food will just encourage the bear even more. The pack can also provide protection if the bear is to advance and attempt to attack you.
The site adds to be especially cautious if you see a female with cubs– the “mama bear” trope is no exaggeration, as mother bears can become extremely aggressive in their attempts to keep their kin safe.