A bear attack is no joke, and while bears generally mind their own business and do their best to avoid humans, encounters do happen. Bears are unpredictable and therefore dangerous, so if you happen to see one in the wild, keep your distance. The National Park Service has some great information on proper viewing etiquette.
If the unthinkable happens and you do find yourself face to face with an angry bear, here are some tips on how to survive a bear attack.
First of all, if you happen to see a bear while you’re out hiking or notice one in camp, keep your distance. If you are in an area known to have bears, be aware of your surroundings at all times and make yourself known, don’t tip-toe around in silence. Bears hate nothing more than being surprised.
If you come upon a bear and it’s obvious they have noticed you, these 7 tips may keep the encounter from turning into a potentially deadly attack.
- Identify yourself as a human by speaking calmly, this lets the bear know you aren’t a prey animal. Stand still and wave your arms slowly. It’s possible the bear will stand on its hind legs or move closer. A standing bear is generally a curious bear, they are trying to smell you or see you better, this is not necessarily a sign of attack.
- Be calm. Bears don’t usually sit around waiting to attack people, they prefer to be left alone. In some cases a bear may try and bluff its way out of the chance meeting by charging and veering away at the very last second. Scary, right? They may also act defensively by yawning, growling, woofing, snapping their jaws, salivating, or putting their ears back. If this happens, keep speaking to the bear in low tones, this has a calming effect on both you and the bear. Never, under any circumstances, scream or move out of impulse, this can trigger an attack, and please, do not mock the bear.
- Do pick up small children right away.
- Stay with a group. Large groups of people create quite a bit more noise and smell than a single individual. Bears can pick up on bigger groups of people from further away and a pack of people is more intimidating than one lonely hiker.
- Food should not be accessible to the bear. Keep your pack on to protect your back as well as keeping any food items out of the bear’s paws.
- If the bear isn’t moving, you should move away slowly and sideways. This makes it possible for you to keep one eye on the bear and one eye on the ground. Never run from a bear, they are capable of running as fast as a racehorse and they enjoy chasing after fleeing animals. Bears can climb trees, so if a bear chases you, stop and hold your ground.
- Make sure the bear has an escape route and leave the area as quickly and carefully as you can.
The Bear Attack
If the unthinkable happens and you are attacked by a bear, here is the best way to survive.
Play dead. Immediately lay flat on your stomach, hands clasped behind your neck, and spread your legs (this makes it more difficult for the bear to turn you over.) Don’t move until the bear leaves. While your first instinct may be to fight back, this usually makes the attacks more intense. If, for some reason, the bear doesn’t leave and continues to attack, fight back with all you’ve got and use whatever you may have at your disposal to hit it in the face.
Do not play dead if you are attacked by a black bear. If possible, run to someplace secure like a building or car. If you can’t get away, fight as hard as you can and try to hit the bear in the face and muzzle with any and every object you can find, including your legs.
It’s rare for a bear to attack inside of a tent or stalk a human, but if this happens, fight back.
It’s always a good idea to be mentally prepared if you are heading into bear country and be sure to discuss and have a plan in place with those you are traveling with incase of a bear encounter. To find out more information on how to survive a bear attack, check out this handy article from the National Park Service.