If You Encounter A Bear

Bears are very intelligent and complex animals. Each bear and each encounter is unique; there is no single strategy that will work in all situations. Some guidelines:

If You Encounter a Bear
  • Stay calm. Most bears don't want to attack you; they usually want to avoid you and ensure you're not a threat. Bears may bluff their way out of an encounter by charging and then turning away at the last second. Bears may also react defensively by woofing, growling, snapping their jaws, and laying their ears back.
  • Immediately pick up small children and stay in a group.
  • Don't drop your pack. It can provide protection.
  • Back away slowly, never run! Bears can run as fast as a race- horse, both uphill and downhill.
  • Talk calmly and firmly. If a bear rears on its hind legs and waves its nose about, it is trying to identify you. Remain still and talk calmly so it knows you are a human and not a prey animal. A scream or sudden movement may trigger an attack.
  • Leave the area or take a detour. If this is impossible, wait until the bear moves away. Always leave the bear an escape route.

Bear Spray?

Black Bear

Effectiveness is not guaranteed!

Recent research indicates that bear spray can be effective against some bears when used properly. If you plan to carry it, be aware that wind, spray distance, rain and product shelf life can all influence how well it works. Carefully read directions on the can prior to your trip. The best way to live safely with bears is to avoid contact with them.

Bear Attacks

Bears do not like surprises. Try to avoid such encounters by being alert and making noise.

If you surprise a bear and it defends itself:

If you have bear spray, use it. If contact has occurred or is imminent, PLAY DEAD! Lie on your stomach with legs apart. Protect your face, the back of your head and neck with your arms. Remain still until the bear leaves the area. These attacks seldom last more than a few minutes. While fighting back usually increases the intensity of such an attack, in some cases it has caused the bear to leave. If the attack continues for more than several minutes, consider fighting back.

If a bear stalks you and then attacks, or attacks at night:


First – try to escape, preferably to a building, car or up a tree. If you can't escape, or if the bear follows, use bear spray, or shout and try to intimidate the bear with a branch or rock. Do whatever it takes to let the bear know you are not easy prey. This kind of attack is very rare but can be very serious because it often means the bear is looking for food and preying on you.

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