HomeOutdoorsViralVIDEO: Hiker’s Encounter Shows How Difficult Spotting Black Bears in the Woods Can Be

VIDEO: Hiker’s Encounter Shows How Difficult Spotting Black Bears in the Woods Can Be

by Jon D. B.
black bear in the forest
Black Bear in a Forest (Photo by Raymond Gehman/Corbis via Getty Images)

Despite their size, black bears are remarkably hard to spot in dense forest. And if you manage to spot one, get ready to be loud.

As far as naming footage of this encounter goes , “Walked Up on a Big Missouri Black Bear” is about as apt as it gets. The owner of Cedar Gap Hounds was out for a hike in his state when he saw a large figure moving through thick foliage.

Even knowing what you’re looking for, spotting the bear yourself in his footage shows how difficult a task this can be in the wild. Dense forest cover creates a lot of shadows, and black bears can blend right in.

Surprising a bear, however, is never good. As National Park Service (NPS) experts will tell you, being a noisy hiker is actually recommended in bear country. The louder you are, the less likely it is that a bear will stay in your vicinity – or surprise you in turn.

“Hey bear,” the videographer says as he films the bruin. This is a good start, but his gentle tone isn’t enough to make the wild animal budge. A louder, more forceful grunt, however, is. As soon as the bear hears this, he begins walking in the other direction.

Despite their curious nature, black bears aren’t a trouble-seeking species. The first hint of trouble is typically enough to ward one off. There are always exceptions to this rule, of course, but appearing large and loud is a proven method of deterring bear encounters – or attacks – regardless.

Know what to do if you see a black bear in the wild

Nature is full of surprises. You can do absolutely everything right, be completely BearWise, and still encounter a bear. It falls to us to discourage the wild animal from approaching in such an event.

If you spot a black bear from a distance, NPS recommends giving them a minimum of 300 feet of distance if possible. That’s the length of a football field (100 yards = 300 feet). If this isn’t possible, then it’s time to get loud.

To scare off a black bear, make yourself sound and look as big as possible. Wearing a coat or overshirt? Fan it out with your arms as you yell. Raising your arms and waving them while shouting in the bear’s direction is as good a natural deterrent as there is.

If you have equipment with you (especially metal) bang it together and make some noise. Carrying an air horn and/or whistle along for your venture is also advised. Bear bells that jingle and make constant noise while moving are also a great pre-sighting deterrent.

Carrying bear spray is also advised, but is illegal in some parks/areas. Always check regulations before carrying bear spray on an excursion.

And if all else fails, never run from a black bear. This is critical, as bears are large predators. Fleeing makes you look like prey, and bears are inclined to chase, then attack, as a result. While standing your ground, maintain eye contact with the animal at all times, and never turn your back to them.

For more expert black bear tips, see our Surviving a Black Bear: How to Prevent Encounters and Deter an Attack next.