What to Do When a Bear Attacks

Out of all of the things that can go wrong in the backcountry, one of most serious is a face to face encounter with an angry bear. Although most outdoor enthusiasts have wondered what they would do in case of a bear attack, there is so much misinformation and contrary advice that many campers and hikers many people are not exactly sure which tips to follow. Some people advise that you should slowly back away, while others claim that you should try to scare it off. Before you go off and try to sock a bear in the nose, be sure that you know what you are doing. Here is some solid advice on what a person needs to do when a bear attacks.

The vast majority of bear encounters are uneventful. If you happen to make visual contact with a bear, talk to the bear in a loud, stern voice to show that you are not afraid, and raise you arms above your head to make you seem as large as possible. The more noise that you make, the faster the bear will leave the vicinity. The only times that a bear will become is if you have come between a mother bear and its cubs or it is physically distress. Just make as much noise as you can and continue along once it is clear that the bear is not going to approach you.

If it comes down to a physical confrontation with a bear, many wildlife experts suggest carrying some form of nonlethal protection. The best physical defense mechanism on the market is known as bear mace. Bear mace is concentrated capsaicin in a container of compressed gas. In the event that a bear actually approaches you, a quick spray of bear mace to the face will stun the bear long enough for you to get away. While some individuals consider carrying a firearm to protect themselves in the wild, bear attacks are so rare that a handgun is more likely to cause an accident or land you in legal trouble than it is to be used in self defense.

In the event that you are attacked by a bear and have no means of defense, it is time to do everything that you can to ensure that you make it through the attack alive. Despite the folk wisdom about punching a bear in the nose, a human being is simply no match for a bear in a physical encounter. When it becomes clear that the bear intends on attacking you, collapse to the forest floor and assume the fetal position with your legs and arms providing as much protection to your head and abdomen as possible. Remain completely still and do not make a sound. When the bear approaches, he is unlikely to actually attack you once you have proven that you pose no threat. However, it may paw at your body for a moment to determine whether you are dead or alive. Even if its claws cut you while it is pawing at you, it is important that you remain still and silent. The bear will soon lose interest in you and leave you alone. Only fight back as a last resort, and then give it everything that you got.

Like most dangers in the wilderness, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Generally speaking, interacting with humans is one of the last things that most bears want to do, and nearly all bear encounters are accidents that were caused by mistakes on the part of campers and hikers. When you are hiking in the forest, the best way to avoid stumbling upon a bear is to make a fair amount of noise as you go. This can be as simple as keeping up a conversation with your hiking partners or whistling a tune. So long as a bear can hear you approaching, it will nearly always do everything it can to get out of your path and remain unseen.

However, the most important steps to avoiding bears are taken when you decide to strike camp for the night. As much as bears may want to stay away from humans, their desire for food is even stronger, and having food in your camp is an invitation for trouble in bear trouble. In order to keep bears clear of your camp, simply gather all of your food into a bag while you are setting up camp. Find a spot a good distance away from your camp to hang your food bag from a tree. Throw a rope over the highest limb you can find and hoist the bag up to a height of at least twelve feet. The bag should also hang far enough from the trunk of the tree so that a bear cannot climb up and reach it. Known as a bear bag, this method will keep bears away from your camp and your food safe from all animals until morning.