How to handle a bear encounter
Bear encounters in the wilderness are rare, but that doesn’t mean they are unheard of and they are scary when they happen. However, many bear encounters do not lead to aggression as most bears prefer to avoid human contact and are as frightened of you, as you are of it.
If you see a bear in the distance avoid the temptation to approach it. Give it as much space as you can – remember, you are in its natural habitat, it is not in yours. If possible, turn around and retreat back along the path you have been walking down. If you have to continue along your path, take a detour so you can give the bear a wide berth.
The trick is to successfully handling a bear encounter is to stay calm and composed and to remove yourself from their situation as quickly as you can (without running). As bear attacks are so manageable, it is well worth having some idea how to handle an unexpected meeting with bear so both of you are as safe and well after it as you were before.
QUICK TIPS FOR SURVIVING A BEAR ATTACK
- If you are in bear country, always carry bear pepper spray. It is your first line of defence if you encounter a bear attack.
- Avoid moving through bear habitat silently and alone – pay attention to your surroundings so you are aware of any bears before they become aware of you. Ideally, try to travel in groups (the larger the better) and even if you are alone, make lots of noise as you walk either by talking or singing.
- Make sure you stand your ground and make lots of noise. Bears mainly want to scare you away and can make false attacks to ward you off. Take the hint and back off.
- There is no point in climbing a tree. Most bears are excellent tree climbers.
- If the bear actually gets as far as attacking you, fight back.
When you meet a bear
The number one thing to do is to remain calm and get ready your bear spray (or any other deterrent you have). If you are with others, make sure you stay together so you appear larger and more intimidating to the bear. You need to work out:
- Whether it is a grizzly or a black bear (they behave differently).
- Whether there are cubs present.
- Whether the bear is defending food (a carcass, for example).
Handling black bears in a camp site
The best way to handle a black bear in a camp site is to persuade it to move on. Make sure it has a clear and safe escape route and that there are no people or obstacles in its path. Begin by standing up straight and looking the bear directly in the eye. Shout at the bear loudly and tell it to leave: “Get out of here, bear!” Make sure you have your pepper spray at the ready in case the bear get too close. If you encounter a grizzly bear in camp, do not use this method.
Handling a grizzly bear attack
If a grizzly bear makes physical contact the best thing to do is to fall to the ground and stay completely still so the bear thinks you are dead. Roll onto your stomach and do your best to cover the back of your neck and your head with your hands. Spread your legs and arms so it is more difficult for the bear to flip you over.
When the attack has finished, stay completely still and wait for the bear to leave. You must not get up until you are absolutely certain that the bear has left the area. You may have to wait a while – perhaps 30 minutes or more – but it is essential that you do not move until the bear has gone.
If a bear tries to bite or eat you, it is time to fight back with everything you have. Use your fists, rocks and any other weapons you can lay your hands on to fight the bear.
REMEMBER, BEAR ATTACKS ARE RARE
Even thinking about a bear attack may be enough to put you off going into the wilderness, but if you understand the risks, know how to behave and understand how to prevent bear encounters in the first place, you can enjoy hiking without fear of attack. Bear attacks really are very rare.While the above hacks will help you handle a bear attack - there is no great adventure companion than a pair of Ridgemont Outfitters hiking boots. Shop the range here: