Many consider wildlife to be the most dangerous aspect of the wilderness. This goes double when talking about bears. These big, fuzzy mammals can cause serious injury or death if not dealt with carefully.
But not all bears should be treated the same. If you treat a brown bear like a black bear, you’ll likely have signed your own death warrant. Here’s what to do in the forests to best handle both kinds of bears.
What To Do For Both
Regardless of what kind of bear you suspect is nearby, there are a few rules to follow if you want to avoid an altercation.
- Stay on the footpath when possible. If you wander, you increase the chances of coming across a bear’s territory.
- Make some noise. We don’t mean to go shouting and yelling. Not yet. If you think a bear might be near, do innocent sounds like singing, talking, etc. This will help the bear hear you and not be taken by surprise. A surprised bear is an aggressive bear.
- Do not leave food behind. This just incentivizes bears to hang around the trail and possibly follow you.
What To Do For Black Bears
The North American Black Bear is up to five feet tall and can weigh up to 300 pounds. If you encounter one in the wilderness, the common recommendation is to scare it away. Do not run, do not try and climb a tree. Stand your ground and shout. Sound big, angry, and intimidating.
If the bear charges you anyway, do not run, but try and fight back. Use a tool or weapon if you can and aim for sensitive areas like the nose. You want it to run away from you.
What To Do For Grizzly (Brown) Bears
Grizzly Bears are considered the deadliest kind of bear. They can stand up to seven feet tall and weigh as much as 800 pounds. This is where the important distinction comes in. All that advice for Black Bears? DO NOT DO THAT. You cannot intimidate a grizzly and doing so will only encourage it to attack you. If you encounter a grizzly, be quiet, try and look smaller, and carefully back away from it while avoiding eye contact.
If the bear charges you, do not run. Quickly lay down and curl into a ball. Protect your head and stomach. There is a real risk that the bear will hurt you. Just pray it doesn’t. Once the bear loses interest and leaves, wait about 10 to 20 minutes before getting up and returning home.