What to do if attacked by a black bear: Tips that could save your life

6 mins read
bear
photo by Enric Cruz López / pexels



Attacks by black bears can be extremely hazardous, and they even occasionally result in death; nonetheless, the likelihood of ever being attacked by a bear is extremely low.

According to research published in the Journal of Wildlife Management in 2011, only about 63 individuals were murdered by non-captive black bear encounters in the United States and Canada combined between the years 1900 and 2009.

To see a mother bear with bear cubs from a range might be thrilling. Still, a bear encounter can quickly become hazardous, particularly if you startle the animal, mistakenly enter its feeding grounds, or go too close to their kids.

The National Park Service of the United States estimates that the likelihood of being wounded by a bear attack while visiting Yellowstone National Park is approximately one in 2.7 million.

However, venturing out into the wilderness requires you to be prepared for the chance of running into wild animals, especially black bears.

black bear
photo by Pixabay / pexels copyright2022

Do black bears attack humans?

An attack on a person by a black bear is highly unusual. However, it is not impossible. According to the findings of a study conducted by The Wildlife Society, there were 59 fatal attacks between 1900 and 2009.

To put that into perspective, the possibility of accidentally suffocating yourself with your bedsheets is around one hundred fifty times riskier.

It is of the utmost need to maintain a safe distance when around wild black bears. The course of action will ensure the least amount of risk for both humans and black bears.

To be more specific, it is against the law to intentionally approach a black bear within 150 feet or at any distance that causes the black bear to get agitated.

Before deciding whether or not to launch an actual assault, a bear will frequently engage in what is known as a bluff charge. 

The National Park Service of the United States identifies two distinct categories of black bear attack charges that visitors should be on the lookout for. A bluff charge is the initial type of charge and the most prevalent type.

To give the impression that it is larger than it is, the bear may elevate its head and point its ears upward as it makes a bluff charge. You must remain calm in this situation when the bear approaches.

The grizzly bear may charge at you while utilizing its front paws, but it will either veer off to the side or stop before it attacks. It may growl or maybe flee at this moment.

It is highly recommended that you should not flee the scene during the bluff charge. The bear may backward attack if you continue in this manner.

Instead, you should maintain your position, speak to the bear in a quiet voice, and wave your arms over your head to make yourself appear larger and assist the bear in understanding that you are a human.

If the bear pauses or walks backward, move away from it cautiously while ensuring that you can maintain a clear line of sight on the animal until it leaves the area or you reach a place of safety.

When a bear charges aggressively, it almost always signifies that it is about to attack. 

An aggressive charge is the second type of bear charge that can occur. This takes place most frequently when a bear is under pressure and has the perception that it needs to attack to defend either itself or its young.

When a bear is getting ready to make an aggressive charge, it will spread its mouth wide open or clench its teeth together.

When a black bear attacks, its ears and head may be lowered during an explosive charge, displaying an aggressive posture. If you happen to be carrying bear spray with you, this would be a good moment to use it.

When a grizzly bear attacks charges at you aggressively, it will almost always make contact with you or attempt to harm you in some way physically.

What to do in the event you encounter a bear

A pre-determined hiking itinerary drawn out on maps based on recognized trails and likely camping places is the greatest approach to prevent interactions with bears while out in the wilderness.

Always remember to check with the local visitor center or backcountry office as soon as you arrive in a National Park or State Park to obtain the most up-to-date information on bear safety and recommendations on where to hike and camp.

Stay on designated hiking trails, never approach a bear to take its picture, and under no circumstances should you ever attempt to feed a bear.

bear attack
photo by Ibrahim ALbrdawil / pexels copyright 2022

1. Don’t run

If you come across a bear, the most important thing to remember is to resist the temptation to flee, regardless of whether or not the bear is aware of your presence.

The majority of black bear species can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. They can cover 100 meters in approximately seven seconds, making them significantly quicker than the best Olympic sprinters in the world.

If you run, you may arouse the bear’s natural drive to hunt, leading it to pursue you to protect itself from potential danger. This is especially true if the bear is still young.

If the bear has not yet spotted you, remain hidden and make every effort to move so that you are moving downwind.

This will prevent the bear from smelling your scent or any food you are carrying. You should get out of there as quickly as possible, even if it means you have to change your route.

2. Make noise

If the grizzly bear is aware of your presence, you should talk to it in a quiet yet loud and steady tone. While doing this, wave your arms above your head. Try to appear as big as possible without making any sudden movements. This will help you appear more intimidating.

3. Avoid eye contact

Avoid making direct eye contact with the grizzly bears since this could incite them to attack, but keep an eye on them to see what behavior it displays next.

The grizzly bear may quickly flee, but it is also possible to stare at you and then continue with whatever it was doing before. Alternately, it might come up to you.

4. Make sure the kids and the pets are safe

Gather any little children you see into your arms so you can prevent the possibility of them running, screaming, or crying out loud. Make sure that every dog is kept on a leash at all times.

5. Back away slowly

You should back away gently while keeping your eyes on the grizzly bears, but you should make every effort to avoid making direct eye contact with them.

You should never turn your back on the bear for two reasons: one so that you don’t lose track of what it’s doing, and second, you don’t set off its pursue reflex.

If the bear gets scared and flies away, you should follow a perpendicular path to the one it traveled. Get out of there if you don’t want to run into more trouble.

Stop moving and maintain your position if the bear moves closer to you. Maintain your composure and watch the bear closely for any hints about its state of mind or intentions.

6. Put up a fight

Fight back if a bear attacks you inside your tent or if it sneaks up on you while you’re hiking and then attacks you.

This type of attack occurs relatively infrequently. Still, it can have significant consequences because it almost always indicates that the bear is searching for food and views you as potential prey.

Suppose you are out hiking and come across grizzly bears. In that case, you must contact a park ranger or another official working for a land agency as quickly as possible to assist in the prevention of other hikers coming into contact with bears.

7. Bear Spray (Pepper Spray)

When venturing into the backcountry, it’s good to bring along some bear pepper spray just in case. It is a defensive weapon that can stop an aggressive bear that is charging toward or attacking the user.

Bear spray and human pepper spray are not the same things, even though they are used on an aggressor in the same way that mace is used on a person attacking you.

Be sure to go with a product bear country that has been given the go-light by the EPA and is intended to put an end to bears being aggressive. Because it is not a repellent, you should not apply it to any part of your body or your gear.

Check with the visitor center of the national park you intend to visit to see whether or not the use of bear pepper spray is recommended or permitted for the activities you have in mind.

What Measures do People Take if they get involved in Bear Encounters?

bear
photo by Janko Ferlic / pexels

A trip to a national park rarely fails to be complete without at least one unforgettable bear sighting. Even while it is a thrilling experience, it is essential to keep in mind that the bears that live in national parks are wild and have the potential to cause harm.

Attacks on people are extremely uncommon, but they often result in serious injuries or even fatalities when they do happen. Their actions might often be difficult to predict. Because every bear and every encounter is different, no one approach can be applied universally to ensure one’s safety and work in all circumstances.

Your safety may be contingent on whether or not you successfully calm the bear. The vast majority of run-ins with bears result in no injuries. By adhering to some fundamental standards, the risk of potential harm can be reduced.

Always make sure to check with the nearest visitor center or backcountry office as soon as you reach a national park to obtain the most recent information on how to stay safe around bears.

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