What to Do If You Encounter a Bear
When we get to July and August, millions of people will be heading off to enjoy the national parks. Whether you are camping, hiking, or taking a stroll, there is a chance that you will come across a bear.
So, what would you do? Would turn around and run for your life? Would you climb up the nearest tree? Well, neither of those actions offer the best chance of survival. Here’s what you should do you if you encounter a bear.
What Are the Odds of Being Attacked by a Bear?
The odds of getting attacked by a bear are far lower than many people believe. Although bears do pose a risk, they are more likely to run away than bother you. Even so, it’s you who are playing in the bear’s backyard. So, it’s wise to give them a wide berth, especially if you come across a female bear with cubs.
There are approximately three people killed by bears every year in America. To put that into perspective, there are 15 people killed every year by dogs. Here are some stats relating to bear attacks in Yellowstone National Park:
Since 1979, more than 118 million people have visited Yellowstone. During that time, 44 people have suffered injuries caused by bears. So, your odds of getting injured by a bear in Yellowstone National Park are approximately one in 2.7 million. You have a more chance of getting struck by lightning.
Why Do Bears Attack Humans?
Having said that the odds are against it happening, bear attacks do occur. And, when a bear attacks, it’s a terrifying experience for anyone. So, why do bears attack humans?
One of the main reasons that a bear will attack humans is that we don’t give bears enough respect. Bears look cute and cuddly from a distance, so people tend to want to get close to them to take photos or see them better.
Bears will attack humans for several reasons. They will attack if you startle them or they feel threatened. They will attack to protect their young, And, they will attack if they are hungry or protecting a food source.
How to Avoid a Bear Encounter
The best thing to do is to avoid a bear encounter in the first place. If you see a bear in the distance, walk the other way. Although the odds of a bear attack are low, bears can be unpredictable. So, keeping your distance is the safest thing to do. Here are the best ways that you can avoid encountering a bear in the wild.
- Stay Alert – Look and listen for bears.
- Walk on well-used hiking trails.
- Avoid thick brush, streams, and berry patches.
- Put all food away in sealed containers.
- Hike in a group of 3 or more people.
- Make noise so that bears know you are coming. They don’t want to encounter you either!
- Be careful walking around blind corners in case you startle a bear.
- Carry bear spray in bear country.
- Avoid carcasses – Bears will defend carcasses because they are a source of food.
- Don’t hike at night, dawn or dusk. That’s when bears are most active.
What Should You Do If You Encounter a Bear?
If you follow all the advice and you still encounter a bear, your first instinct might be to run away. That, though, is the worst thing that you could do. If you run, a bear will think you are prey. Here’s what to do if do encounter a bear.
- Don’t run.
- Stand your ground but avoid direct eye contact.
- If the bear doesn’t approach you, back slowly away.
- Don’t stop to take photos!
- If the bear charges, stand still. You will never be able to outrun it.
- Don’t scream and shout.
- Talk softly and wave your arms to show the bear that you are a human.
- If the bear charges and gets to within 25 feet of you, use your bear spray.
What is the Best Defense Against a Bear Attack?
The best defense product to use against bears is a bear spray. You can also buy bear bells to warn bears that you are approaching.
Bear sprays are pepper sprays that spray a thick fog of pepper spray over a long distance. The spray doesn’t cause any permanent injury to the bear. It affects its vision and its sense of smell. It creates a barrier between you and the bear that the animal won’t want to pass through.
If you are carrying a gun, you will better off reaching for your bear spray rather than your gun. A bear running towards you at 25 miles per hour is a difficult target to hit. You are more likely to wound the bear than you are to kill it.
When you are hiking in bear country, remember to wear your bear spray in your belt so that can get to it fast. It’ll be no use to you packed away in your backpack. If you encounter a bear, reach for your bear spray slowly and then use it only if the bear gets to within 25 feet.
Remember, the best way to avoid getting attacked by a bear is to avoid them. Make noise, hike in a group on trails, and stay alert. Then, with luck, you will never have to use your bear spray.
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