How to Survive a Bear Encounter

by Guest Writer

If you’re planning on spending a lot of time in the woods this summer, it’s always good to brush up on a few safety tips. Even though bear attacks are rare in North America, you can never be too cautious. To keep you safe should you encounter Smoky or his friends, we’ve gathered a few precautionary and defense tips.

When planning a trip in an area where bears may be present, it is important remember that these animals are most active during dawn and dusk. If you are looking to do any hiking try to do so during the morning or afternoon. Along with planning your adventures accordingly, make sure that your campsite is as “bear proof” as it can be. It is advised that you store any left over food or toiletries with strong odors at least 10 feet above the ground and burn all of your trash completely in a fire.

The precautionary measures listed above may help decrease the chances of getting a visit from a bear, however if you find your self in a furry situation, remember to stay calm–sudden or jumpy movements are only going to only trigger them.

There are two main species of bears that live in the continental United States, Grizzly Bears and Black Bears. It is important to know the main differences in their physical appearance because these species act differently when it comes to close encounters. Grizzly Bears have long light claws, a dished profile, short round ears and a shoulder hump. Black Bears have short dark claws, a flat profile, taller ears and do not have a shoulder hump. During times when bears may attack, knowing the differences between these species may help to keep you alive.

If a Grizzly Bear tries to attack, the key is to be as still as you can and essentially play dead. The US National Parks suggests laying facedown with your legs spread apart and your hands behind your head and stay as still as you can. When you notice that the bear has walked away, continue to stay as still and quiet for as long as you can. Often times bears watch their prey from a distance and will wait for movement until they decide to approach again.

However, if you find yourself in danger around a Black Bear, the protocol is completely different. In this situation you want to be loud, waive your arms, stand your ground. Use any objects that you may have to protect you and be aggressive. Another tool that is recommended is pepper spray. Start spraying once the bear is within 40 feet of you. This will begin to irritate the bear’s eyes and hopefully deter them from pursuing you.

Now that you’re up on your bear defense skills it’s time to go exploring! What outdoor adventures do you have planned for this summer?

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