Bear Safety – Survive a Bear Attack

Bear Safety – Survive a Bear Attack

A commonly asked question about bear safety is “What do I do if I run into a bear and the bear attacks?” There is no easy answer. Like people, wild bears react differently to each situation, and so bear safety needs to be made a flexible effort, which first should include how to prevent bear attacks.

The best thing you can do to prevent bear attacks is to make sure you have read all the suggestions for hiking and camping in wild bear country and follow them. Avoid encounters by being alert and making noise.

Wild bears may appear tolerant of people and then attack without warning. A bear’s body language can help determine its mood. In general, bears show agitation by swaying their heads, huffing, and clacking their teeth. Lowered head and laid-back ears also indicate aggression.

Wild bears may stand on their hind legs or approach to get a better view, but these actions are not necessarily signs of aggression. The bear may not have identified you as a person and is unable to smell or hear you from a distance.

Bear Safety: Prevent Bear Attacks

If you surprise a bear, here are a few guidelines to follow that may help prevent bear attacks:

  • Talk quietly or not at all; the time to make loud noise is before you encounter a bear. Try to detour around the bear if possible.
  • Do not run! Back away slowly, but stop if it seems to agitate the bear.
  • Assume a nonthreatening posture. Turn sideways, or bend at the knees to appear smaller.
  • Use peripheral vision. Wild bears appear to interpret direct eye contact as threatening.
  • Drop something (not food) to distract the bear. Keep your pack on for protection in case of a bear attack.
  • If a bear attacks and you have bear pepper spray, use it!
  • If the bear makes contact, protect your chest and abdomen by falling to the ground on your stomach, or assuming a fetal position to reduce the severity of an attack. Cover the back of your neck with your hands. Do not move until you are certain the bear has left.
  • Report all bear attacks to the nearest ranger or warden immediately if you are camping at a park.

In rare cases bear attacks happen at night or after stalking people.

These kind of bear attacks are very rare but can be very serious because it often means the bear is looking for food and preying on you.

If you are attacked at night or if you feel you have been stalked and attacked as prey, try to escape. If you can not escape, or if the bear follows, use bear pepper 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.

Bear Safety: Camping and Bears

Odors attract bears. Here are some more tips to prevent bear attacks:

  • Keep a clean camp!
  • Inspect campsites for signs of wild bears and for careless campers nearby. Notify a ranger or warden of potential problems if you are camping in a National Park or State Park.
  • Place all trash in bear-proof containers.
  • Pets, especially dogs, must be kept under physical restraint.
  • Report all bear sightings to the nearest ranger or warden immediately.

Originally published by the National Park Service

1 Comment

  1. Ariel Lupine

    Once while hiking near Lake Louise I had a black bear come up the path toward me. I actually wondered what to do. Do I drop my backpack or continue? I actually continued walking but slowly and told the bear in a calm and quiet voice to follow the upper path. When the bear and I were well past each other we both turned around and looked at each other and continued on our way. I felt lucky and did not use my whisle. Ariel

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