Bear Attacks: How to Get Out Alive

Marion Fernandez

A trip into the wilderness comes with a few dangers. From poisonous plants, heat exhaustion, and getting lost, the outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen of the world know what they are getting into before setting out. One of the more unpredictable circumstances is an encounter with wildlife, including bears. Bear encounters can be frightening for even the most experienced hiker. There are plenty of ways to make sure you get away from such an encounter safely, but you need to be prepared and know what to do.

Carry bear pepper spray

Bear attack deterrent spray – Author: Arne Nordmann – CC BY-SA 2.5
Bear attack deterrent spray – Author: Arne Nordmann – CC BY-SA 2.5

This is a good bit of kit to keep on you for any outdoor adventure. Bear pepper spray is effective in any bear encounter. The spray is made up of a concentration of capsaicin, which will make a large cloud when sprayed. The stuff is powerful enough to stop even the biggest bears where they are and send them away. Make sure to not spray it at yourself by mistake, because you will regret it.

What to do with a grizzly

A grizzly bear – they are more ferocious and aggressive than black bears.
A grizzly bear – they are more ferocious and aggressive than black bears.

It is important to note that every type of bear responds differently to encounters. With a grizzly bear, you do not want to run away, because it will chase you. Without pepper spray, just drop onto the ground in a fetal position and play dead until it moves away.

Grizzlies can be patient, however, and will wait to see if you move, so you really need to make sure that a long time period has passed before you get up. Grizzlies are recognizable from their large shoulder humps and brown fur color.

What to do with a black bear

A black bear
A black bear

Black bears a little less terrifying than a grizzly bear. They do not have the giant claws and are little bit smaller in size. Do not run from a black bear, but instead begin to make a lot of noise. Black bears are not usually interested in attacking people and will retreat if you seem like you are interested in them. Remember, however, that black bears are tree climbing bears, so attempting to escape up a tree won’t do you any good. In the event that the bear does come at you, you should stand your ground. They do not like conflict and a good punch to the snout is usually enough to make them lose interest and leave you alone.

Remember the difference in bears

Sometimes black bears are brown. That, of course, makes it confusing to know what kind of bear you are dealing with when you see it, but if you can keep an eye out for the hump on the bear, you should know which it is. Grizzly bears are far more aggressive than the calmer and more relaxed black bear. Grizzlies are typically the bear responsible for attacks and chasing humans and there has been a noted increase in attacks from bears in recent years.

If you are harmed

Bear attack
Bear attack

Seek help immediately if you have been attacked by a bear. Not only for your injuries, but to let the wildlife officials know that there is an aggressive bear around that could do more harm to people. Having a first aid kit with you as well as having informed someone where you were going hiking are both excellent ways to help yourself if you are struck by a bear.

Hopefully you will never get up close and personal with a bear, but if you do, try not to panic. Remember the difference between the bears as well as the best thing to do in that situation and you should make it out just fine. It is also wise to not go looking for a bear; you may not like what you find. And of course, please DON’T think they are cute and cuddly and go near them to hug them – that is an invitation for death.

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marion-fernandez is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival