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LCN OutdoorsCampingCamping BasicsWhat to Do When You Meet a Bear

What to Do When You Meet a Bear

What to Do When You Meet a Bear
What to Do When You Meet a Bear

“If a bear wants to eat you, it will eat you.” Among the large animals, elephants, hippos, and bears are dangerous to humans. All three species are dangerous: black bears, grizzly bears (also called brown bears), and polar bears. This content talks about what to do when we encounter a bear. You can listen to a short lecture on our Youtube channel, and for those who like to read, we have prepared an article based on the lecture. The material is useful for hikers, campers, hunters, vacationers, and all those who live or work in forested areas. Because where there are forests, there are bears. You will learn more about What to Do When You Meet a Bear by LCNOutdoors article.

The conflict between bears and humans is not uncommon. The result of such conflicts is often the death of a human or, more commonly, an animal. To avoid such situations and get out of them with as little damage as possible, it is important to choose the right strategy and react appropriately.


What Types of Bears Are There

What Types of Bears Are There
What Types of Bears Are There

To understand how likely it is to encounter a bear, consider the range of its habitat and the total number of each species.
There are three types of bears in the United States: black bears, grizzly bears (also known as brown bears), and polar bears. Because polar bears are so rare, we’ll focus on black bears and grizzly bears.


Black Bears

The black bear is the legendary “dog bear”. A black bear does not have to be black! A black bear does not have to be black! A black bear does not have to be black! Its fur may be brown, light gray, reddish-brown, dark brown, etc. The black bear is a good tree climber, omnivore, and has a wide range: from Alaska to Mexico, from California to Maine. Ranging in weight from one hundred to five hundred pounds, Noah has seen black bears in California, Oregon, the Great Smoky Mountains, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

There are wild bears and domesticated bears, both of which have injured people (don’t forget the nature of predatory animals…) However, wild bears can be roughly divided into “mountain bears” and “park bears”, which is Noah’s own classification, do not written on the biology test paper.

These bears live in areas where hunting is allowed, so they have a certain fear of people and are basically “I’m not a criminal”.
Park bears are those that live in protected areas, including national parks, nature preserves, state parks, wildlife refuges, and other public lands, as well as large animal reserves. The more typical areas in the United States are mainly in the Yosemite – Sierras Nevada generation and the Blue Ridge – Great Smoky Mountains – Shenandoah generation in the east. These two areas had only a short history of hunting before being protected by the national park system; Yosemite is said to have had recreational programs where bears were kept in captivity for feeding until the 1970s; the Great Smoky Mountains also had fencing around their sanctuaries, once leading to a situation where “people were surrounded by bears”. These silly measures have allowed these “park bears” to become pampered and to flourish, not only without fear of people, but often actively searching for food in residential areas, garbage cans, and campgrounds. In order for the park bears to learn some negative experiences, the Yosemite Park-led site has a lot of restrictions, implementing bear boxes/canisters and strictly regulating the placement of food in the campgrounds; if there is a disruptive bear, it usually ends in “warning”, transferring, or shooting, making the bears fearful of “people”. This makes bears fearful of creatures like “people”.


Grizzly Bear

The grizzly bear, or “brown bear” in some places, is an upgraded version of the black bear (remember the gray Gandalf in Lord of the Rings?). This is the largest, fastest running, one of the most ferocious mammals on land, here warning: you humans in front of the grizzly bear is no longer the top of the biological chain!

Why are grizzlies so ruthless? Mainly because they live mainly in the northern mountains, tundra and tundra, where there is very little to eat; the grizzly bears next to the Alaskan coastline can hunt salmon and grow fat; the inland ones can only use their sucker mouths to suck up a blueberry and grow skinny. But grizzly bears range in weight from 300-1200 pounds and can have paws 3 inches long. The harsh living conditions make them defend their territory and hunt with all their might.

In addition, grizzly bears do not necessarily have a gray coat but can be creamy yellow to dark brown. There are roughly 1,800 grizzly bears in the U.S. mainland, throughout Canada, and an estimated 30,000 or more in Alaska. Grizzly bears are protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and cannot be hunted in many areas, and numbers are on the rise.

Grizzly bears are slow to reproduce; females have to be 4-5 years old to reproduce, and mothers who are too thin to get pregnant have an average of 2 litters at a time, and mothers have to carry their children for 3 years and avoid the interference of daddy bears and uncle bears (who are very aggressive), making “bear life” difficult. Bears generally have to eat and drink enough in the summer to cope with the 2-4 months of hibernation. The Disney documentary “Bears” is about a grizzly mother in Alaska who struggles to find food for her two children in the summer.

Tip: There are 200,000 brown bears in the world. Russia has the largest number of bears, with 120,000. The next largest in the United States, with 32,500 bears. The next is Canada with 21,750 bears. Of the brown bears in the United States, 95% are in Alaska.


Comparison of black bears and grizzly bears

The black bear looks more like a dog, with a flat face (like an iron), straight ears, small black paws, and, most importantly, a flat back without a bulging “hump”; the main difference between the grizzly and the black bear is the arching “hump” on the back.

BLACK BEARGRIZZLY BEAR
Bodyweight125-550 lbs300-1500 lbs
Bite force700 lbs1200 lbs
Speed30 mph45 mph
North American DistributionSouth to Mexico and north to Alaska, encompassing most of the eastern, west coast, Rocky Mountains, and the southwestern United States; common throughout Canada.Five major Native American settlements: Greater Yellowstone region (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho); Northern Continental Divide (Rocky Mountains of Northern Montana, Elberta, Canada); Northern Washington (Cascade Mountains, British Columbia); Bitterroot (northeastern Idaho); Cabinet-Yaak region in the northeastern corner of Western Montana and Idaho. Alaska, western and northern Canada (Yukon Territory)
ColorsBlack, gray, brown, reddish-brown, etc.Gray and brown predominant, also light creamy gray and dark brown
CharacteristicsEars erect and high, face flat, no bulge on back, paws small and blackRound face, raised back, long/light paws, inconspicuous ears
Comparison of black bears and grizzly bears

Where do Bears Appear?

Black bears are most common in.

  • Three West Coast states (California, Oregon, Washington).
  • Eastern (New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania).
  • Along the Blue Ridge Mountains (from the Great Smoky Mountains to Virginia/West Virginia).
  • New England states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine).
  • Arizona/Utah/New Mexico/Southwest Texas.
  • Great Lakes region
  • Canadian provinces; Alaska
  • Most common national parks: Yosemite, Giant Sequoia/Kings Valley, Yellowstone, Shenandoah (Virginia), Great Smoky Mountains (Tennessee/North Carolina), etc.

There are about 1,800 grizzly bears in the mainland U.S. They are found in five major ghettos, mainly around Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and a few in northern Washington. The existence of grizzly bears in Utah and Colorado has not been conclusively established. However, the historical population of grizzly bears is about 50,000 and was once spread throughout California and the southwestern United States.

In a nutshell: black bears are found everywhere in the United States, most in the east and west; grizzly bears are rare, mostly in the north; and two species of bears are common in Alaska and Canada, especially along the southern coastline of Alaska.


Do Bears Eat People?

Bears are expanding their range? Are bears turning to “cannibalism” because of food shortages? In recent years, there has been a range of speculation that warming, ecological damage, species extinction, and other causes have damaged the food chain of North American grizzly bears, causing them to look “elsewhere” for food and leading to the annual climb in human-bear conflicts and fatalities. Bear expert Herrero says that human-bear conflicts are primarily caused by rising populations (in the wild), and are not inherently related to changes in bear habits. Some studies also point out that the lower the number of bears in a given area, the more likely it is that conflicts will arise between humans and bears. So, “Bears are where they find you.”

Overall, being attacked by a bear is a very low probability event. One user posted that one in every 19,625 people will become a homicide suspect, and only one in every 220,000 bears will kill a person. Others point out that 26 people are bitten by dogs and 90 people are killed by lightning each year, so the odds of a “bear killing” <3 people are very low. Noah believes that both comparisons are unreasonable.

If 2 people have died in bear attacks each year for the past 30 years, how many human/bear conflicts have there been without death or injury? And how many times have tourists seen bears and had encounters with bears? Noah did not find data on this, so there is no way to know what the probability of death from contact with a bear is. Unfortunately, it is often only the bears that kill people that appear in the media, and other human-bear conflicts are rarely documented.

So, in these documented deaths, why do humans and bears come into conflict? Noah counted 71 bear killings from 1990 to the present, and there are probably several reasons.


Grizzly Bear Cases

People running away bears chasing, slow runners sacrificed.
Mother bears out for a walk with her cubs, runs into several humans, protects cubs, and attacks people.
Bears are partaking of the carcasses of their prey.
bears are frightened by people while catching salmon.
bears protecting territory when a human walks unobtrusively past a bear den.
people shooting and angering bears not being killed.
cross-country running being chased by a bear, climbing a tree, being dragged down by a bear.
being inexplicably attacked by a bear while walking/boating/hunting.
Died in a tent, cause unknown; etc.


Black bear cases

Being bitten to death by a black bear that you raised yourself.
Feeding a wild bear and being bitten to death.
People running away bears chasing, slow runners sacrificed.
Attacked while fishing/mountain biking/hiking, cause unknown.
Dragging people out of tents.
Sacrifice in wilderness cabins.
Small baby was taken by a bear in front of a vacation home at an upstate NY resort.
Breaking house glass to enter a home (New Mexico).
Forced entry into an RV (Colorado).
Attacked while walking to a spa.
Attacked walking home/car from work; etc.

The above cases show that bear attacks are not irregular: some people “disturb” the bear and the bear attacks; some people are in camp and have food in their tents/backpacks/on their person and the bear attacks; some people enter the bear’s territory by mistake, and some people are moving too fast (mountain biking, trail running, running away) and the bear (black bears run at 30 mph, grizzly bears at 45 mph; besides, bears don’t trip when they run). The remaining one, and the most frightening, is that bears attack in order to prey on humans. This is the nature of bears.

In addition, there is one other characteristic of these deaths: no group of more than 6 people has ever been attacked by a bear; the bears mostly attacked on the fringes of human society and the wilderness, what we often call the “suburbs” (e.g. resorts, public camps, mines, more isolated premises, wilderness cabins, etc.); many cases were due to people “spooking” the bears, probably because they didn’t make noise, didn’t have bear bells, didn’t use hiking poles, etc.; in one case a person shot a bear and was bitten to death, but there was never a case where a bear attacked and killed a person who had used bear spray/pepper spray ……

From the above, we can roughly summarize the precautions against bears in the wild. Noah divides these measures into two types – those not related to human food, and those related to food.


Which Bear is The Most Dangerous

Which Bear is The Most Dangerous
Which Bear is The Most Dangerous

Bears are dangerous, no matter what age they are. The most dangerous are the young bears, who actively explore everything around them, and the larger males, who already have their own territory. But first things first.

Cubs (30-35% of the total)

Very young cubs, no more than 1-2 years old, always follow their mothers closely. They do not weigh much, from 11-22 lb (5-10 kg) to 132 lb (60 kg), and pose more of a threat not to humans, but to camp property. The main threat comes from their mother, who is always around somewhere. If you see a cub, know that the mother is nearby and could follow you at any time.

The cubs can be easily chased away using simple methods, but be careful not to let them whimper and call their mother for help. However, don’t underestimate them: there are at least two known cases of adult cubs killing people.


Medium-sized bears (about 50% of the data)

These are 3-7-year-old animals that have not yet conquered their territory. They are forced to roam between large males and females with cubs until they are driven away.

These bears have a juvenile complex: they enter the camp, knocking over anything that smells bad, overturn it, destroy the tents, and tear the inflatable boats to pieces. There is no malice in these actions, they are just interested in everything, they want to try it on their teeth, scratch it with their paws and eventually they get so hot that they tear the whole camp apart.

It is possible to get rid of them in an easy way, although it is not as easy as with young animals. But don’t underestimate them – even the smallest solitary bear weighs 132-330 lb (60-150 kg) and can easily take on a physically strong person.


Females with cubs (15% of the population)

Large animals, weighing 155-485 lb (70-220 kg). Often ambivalent, as they want to protect their young. They are extremely difficult to get rid of and must be handled very carefully. In order not to provoke aggression in bears, cubs must not be harmed, but they must be kept away from them and not touched.


Large adult bears (15-20% of the population)

Adult dominant males and large solitary bears fall into this category. They will clash with humans during the feeding season, to protect prey, or in case of accidental disturbance. Usually not inclined to destroy men, in 95% of cases they can be separated peacefully. However, it is in this species that predation on humans occurs.

Large males will not get out of the way, nor do they feel the need to avoid anything in their territory. If you pitch your tent on a bear track, the bear will walk right through your tent without turning around.

Large animals are difficult to chase away, but can easily provoke an attack. If a bear decides to attack, it will be very difficult to stop it.


What to Expect From a Bear

When will a bear attack a person? There are many situations in which animals can harm people or their property. Let’s look at all of them.

Entering a town

Usually, teenage bears and female bears with cubs do this. They come here to get some food: they eat the available food supply, trample vegetable gardens and small livestock, and smash up barns. For example, in the last two years in Khabarovsk, there have been cases when bears have entered supermarkets and it is difficult to chase them out. Bears are not afraid to approach human dwellings.


Food parasitism or removal

Bears may be attracted to campgrounds, poultry farms, or meat processing plants if waste is not properly disposed of and removed in their vicinity. They are particularly attracted to burial sites that are not deep enough or even very shallow. Such poor burial practices have cost the lives of so many bears.

Wild animals can also smell food from the camp. For example, you heat some stew over a fire, it boils and spills over the coals – as a result, all the bears within a few kilometers know that there is a delicacy somewhere nearby.


Territorial defense

Territorial defense is a characteristic of large and mature animals – they will be eager to drive humans out of their territory. In a head-on traffic situation, such a beast may simply not give way and pass through the camp.


Protection of offspring

This is the most important basic maternal instinct. A mother always wants to protect her cubs.


Prey protection

Another unpleasant and dangerous topic. If a bear buries its prey somewhere, it will sit on it to protect it. The problem is, you don’t know where that prey is buried. Here’s what usually happens: A fisherman or poacher catches a fish, it is dried and thrown into the brush in a compact pile. A bear comes by, feeds on it, and lays down next to it. And you walk by here, but the bear doesn’t know that you are not interested in its prey – it doesn’t know and attacks.


Rutting period

The brown bear’s hormonal burst lasts from May to June, while the polar bear’s hormonal burst lasts from April to June. At this time, both males and females are very excited and respond to all large moving objects, whether it is another bear, moose, deer, or human. They are very aggressive and often attack suddenly.


Predation

The most unpleasant part of the conflict, and the most unpredictable. There’s nothing to put your mind at ease: if this bear is on to you, he’ll see it through. There’s no way around it.


Hunger Migration

Spring and fall are forage-free periods. However, in spring, the animal emerges from the den with considerable fat reserves, which allows it to live comfortably until the first grasses appear. This animal becomes more dangerous in autumn when the berry crop is bad and the fish are poor; this is when the bears start to look for food and actively hunt for it. There is a whole season of hunger when the animals come in large numbers to the villages and attack livestock and people.


Show of strength

The bear is considered to be an omnivore, but it is still a predator. It considers itself the strongest and most capable of dealing with animals of any size, including humans. This is its way of showing its superiority. In places where the animal has not seen a human for a long time (for example, in some areas of Chukchi), there have been instances where a bear has charged at an SUV – it doesn’t understand what it is and thinks it can knock down a moving object.


How to Avoid Attacks

Experienced people who encounter bears regularly (hunters, shepherds, hunters, reindeer herders) have a saying that “a bear is an animal without eyes”. This is true, a bear’s eyesight is monochromatic and very poor – it can only distinguish objects at close range. If you are standing still and the wind is blowing past you, he may pass by at a distance of 16.4 feet (5 meters) without noticing you.

Like most forest mammals, the bear is oriented by movement, scent, sound, and touch. It has excellent hearing and smell: there was a case where a bear smelled a dead moose 7.4 miles (12 km) away from the carcass and walked unmistakably towards it.

Hint: A bear receives a lot of information by touch, using the pads of its paws. However, exactly how this happens is not fully understood.

If possible, you should try to avoid encountering predators. There are a few rules that can help protect you from attacks.

  1. You need to move in groups while trying to talk loudly and make noise along the way.
  2. It is recommended to have a dog in the group. She smells the bear and starts barking, indicating where the beast is – he understands he has been spotted and leaves. But you can only trust those dogs whose human defense reflexes are raised to absolute. Many people have died in coniferous forests because a frightened dog rushed towards its owner and knocked him down, not the dog, but the bear “broke” the owner.
  3. Have protective equipment on hand: from metal instruments (or similar instruments that can be struck loudly) to flares.

Tip: Bears rarely attack groups of visitors, they just avoid them. If a dog cannot sacrifice its life for a person, it is much more dangerous to take it through a bear than without it.


Ways to Scare Away Bears: What Works and What Doesn’t

Ways to Scare Away Bears What Works and What Doesn't
Ways to Scare Away Bears What Works and What Doesn’t

When encountering a bear, it is important not to fight it off, but to prevent conflict in principle. The animal must be scared away so that it not only does not want to attack but also runs away from humans. There are many ways to scare a bear away.

Voice

The human voice is one of the most unnatural sounds in nature, so it almost always scares the beast away.

A typical situation is that you are walking along a trail and a bear comes up to you, very involved in what it is doing and paying no attention to anything. There are bushes on either side of the road and you have nowhere to go – what do you do? Wait until the bear will come up to 65 feet (20 meters) and then say, in a calm voice, as in a normal conversation, “Where are you going, you fool, are you going to break in? After a few seconds, you won’t see the bear again.


Metal knocking

Bears can be intimidated by a sharp, unpleasant sound. You can hit a rock with a can, or a metal bowl with a spoon – the animal will stand up on its hind legs, look around, and pull away. There was a case where a shipwrecked sailor walked 24.8 miles (40 km) through a very dense bear habitat: he picked up a bare head from the ground and hit it with the blade of his knife, quite loudly and unpleasantly – the bear did not approach the sailor.


Whistling

On any camping trip, each group should carry at least one emergency whistle – it’s not just to repel bears. Some backpackers have built whistles into their chest straps. A loud, high-pitched whistle is very effective at scaring off bears. Loud hand-clapping has a similar effect.


Fire

This method does not work in life because bears are hardly afraid of fire. Unless, of course, it is a wall of flames that threatens its life during a fire. And a separate fire, especially a fire on which to roast something delicious, is no problem for him.


Powerful flashlight

This is a very useful means of self-defense. Hunters who hunt professionally in Africa claim that a 1000 lumen light in the eye can stop an elephant. And it can also deter bears.


Dichlorvos (Dichlorvos)

Dichlorvos is an effective tool to prevent bears from visiting poorly guarded camps that have been set up for a long time.


Resize

American campers use this tried-and-true method to protect their campsites: they apply a cylinder of Dichlorvos to condensed milk and spread it 328-393 feet (100-120 meters) from the campsite. The bear found the cylinder, took a bite …… and never returned to camp.


Animal repellent balloon

Become more than you are – for example, by standing on a log or a rock. Bears, like any creature, fear the unknown and the unexpected. You can change your size in other ways, such as dramatically unfolding your tent, lifting the flaps of your jacket over your head, or even tossing your pack upward.


Smoke Bomb

Smoke bombs are a great tool for releasing large amounts of brightly colored smoke. No bear can withstand such a sight.

Only balloons made specifically for bears will work. Don’t confuse them with those designed for people and dogs – using them will only annoy the beast, but won’t scare it away.

The most effective means of stopping bears. This is a signal ship fire that, when lit, produces a bright flame, a loud hissing sound, and a lot of foul-smelling smoke. It burns for about 10-15 seconds, with sparks, stench, and smoke – very effective. It can only be used at very short distances when the animal is 6.5-10 feet (2-3 meters) away from you and all other scaring methods have failed. If the bear is far away and there is no current danger, don’t light the flare: the animal will be used to fire and won’t be afraid of it as it approaches. It is better to leave it to the real danger.

False flares come in plastic and cardboard. If you are going to a rainy area, bring a plastic one, because the cardboard one will definitely get wet and stop working. It’s best to bring several flares, as one may not be enough to get out of the danger zone.

Bears are afraid of fake flares – they make a hissing sound and spew out flames that really scare them. But relying on it isn’t a good idea. It’s not uncommon for flares to fail, so it’s best to have a spare


About The Weapon

Why are guns not mentioned in the article? It’s simple: under modern law, you can only take a gun into the woods during hunting season or with special permission. It is forbidden to take a gun in the woods just for self-defense. If you go into the woods with a gun and encounter a hunting inspector, you will automatically become a poacher and your weapon will be confiscated. At best, it may result in administrative penalties.

An exception is Svalbard, where there are almost as many polar bears as humans. They are not afraid of anything and feel very comfortable in a densely populated area. That is why weapons are a mandatory security measure here, and every tourist is obliged to carry a weapon even without any permit. But here they take bear hunting very seriously and investigate every case thoroughly: if you shoot a bear, you have to prove that it was in self-defense.

Keep in mind that all the advice given here is not a complete guarantee that a bear will not attack and run away. The main weapon is in your head, use it, and be situationally oriented. Avoid conflict, think, and good luck!

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