Avoidance ║  Encounters ║  Deterrents ║  Camping ║  Identification ║  Reporting 

Despite taking precautions, you may still encounter a bear. Remember that bears are complex, intelligent animals and no two encounters are alike. There is no single strategy that will work in each situation, but you can minimize your risk by following these guidelines:

Remaining calm is the most important thing you can do.

  • Do not run as this could trigger a chase response.

Ready your bear spray and assess the situation.

  • Have your bear spray ready to deploy in case you need it.

Is the bear UNAWARE of your presence?

  • Try to move away without getting its attention. Watch for any change in its behaviour.
  • Make a wide detour and try to leave undetected.
  • If you see young bears on the ground or in a tree, or you hear bear vocalizations, be extremely cautious and go back the way you came as quietly as possible.

Is the bear AWARE of your presence?

  • Group together.
  • Speak calmly to the bear using a firm voice.
  • A bear’s usual response to detecting a person is to move away. Let it leave.
  • If the bear stays still, back away slowly. Do not run. Avoid sudden movements and keep an eye on the bear. Try to leave the area by giving the bear as much space as possible and calmly speaking to it as you go.
  • Never approach a bear.

If the bear APPROACHES

Remember… remain calm. Do not run. Keep your bear spray at the ready, and try to determine why the bear is approaching.


If the bear is feeding, protecting its young and/or surprised by your presence, it will see you as a threat. The bear will show agitated or stressed behaviours, including:

  • Flattened ears
  • Vocalizations such as growling, woofing, moaning, huffing
  • Jaw popping
  • Swatting or slapping the ground or nearby objects
  • Jumping towards you
  • Bluff charging – running towards you and then turning away at the last second

If the bear is showing defensive behaviours, your best strategy is to show the bear that you are not a threat.

  • Avoid eye contact with the bear
  • Slowly move away from cubs or bear foods
  • Talk to the bear in a calm voice; do not yell

If the bear keeps coming closer

  • Stand your ground
  • Keep talking to the bear in a calm voice

If the bear comes within 10 m (20 to 30 ft.)


Between 4 to 6 m is optimal, depending on the wind. Adjust your angle for wind direction and deliver the spray in 2 to 3 second bursts.


The bear may be curious, after your food, or testing its dominance. In the rarest case, the bear might be predatory – seeing you as potential prey. All of these non-defensive behaviours can appear similar and should not be confused with defensive behaviours. The bear will be intent on you and showing hunting behaviours, including:

  • Head and nose up
  • Upright ears
  • Silent, confident movements
  • Circling, following or approaching you

If the bear is showing predatory behaviour, your best strategy is to show the bear that you are not prey.

  • Talk in a firm voice
  • Slowly try to move out of the bear’s path

If the bear follows and stays intent on you

  • Stop and stand your ground
  • Make yourself look big: group together; move uphill or stand on top of something; wave your hands, hiking poles or a stick above your head
  • Shout and act aggressively
  • Try to intimidate the bear with anything you can find

If the bear comes within 10 m (20 to 30 ft.)

  • Between 4 to 6 m is optimal, depending on the wind. Adjust your angle for wind direction and deliver the spray in 2 to 3 second bursts.

If the bear ATTACKS

Most encounters with bears end without injury. If a bear actually makes contact with you (attacks), you may increase your chances of survival by following these guidelines.

In general, there are two kinds of attack:


This is the most COMMON type of attack.

  • Use your bear spray
  • the bear makes contact with you: PLAY DEAD!

PLAY DEAD! Lie on your stomach with legs apart and position your arms so that your hands are crossed behind your neck. This position makes you less vulnerable to being flipped over and protects your face, the back of your head and neck. Remain still until you are sure the bear has left the area.

Defensive attacks are generally less than two minutes in duration. If the attack continues, it may mean it has shifted from defensive to predatory – FIGHT BACK!


This is the most serious and potentially deadly attack a bear might make. It occurs when a bear appears to stalk or follow you for a period of time and then chooses to attack; or the bear attacks you at night. Predatory attacks are very RARE. In this situation, playing dead is not appropriate.

  • Try to escape. Climbing a tree may be an option if there are suitable trees around, but remember that black bears climb trees easily.
  • If you cannot escape, react aggressively and try to intimidate the bear.
  • Use your bear spray and FIGHT BACK!

FIGHT BACK! Use anything at hand such as bear spray, rocks, sticks, knives or other possible weapons to let the bear know that you are not easy prey. Group together and yell loudly.

Remember… It is very difficult to predict the best strategy to use in the event of a bear attack. That is why it is so important to put thought and energy into avoiding an encounter in the first place.

Avoidance ║  Encounters ║  Deterrents ║  Camping ║  Identification ║  Reporting 

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