It can be easy to feel hopeless when you encounter a bear. It’s not uncommon to see numerous bears sightings in any given region, and while they might seem harmless when seen from a distance, once you get too close their temper can change fast. Bears are apex predators, and as such are extremely intolerant of anything that poses competition for food or space.
Their predatory instincts will come out in force the moment they’re threatened – and that threat could come from any direction. In other words: run at your own risk. If you happen to be in an isolated area with no access to a proper rescue team and limited access to emergency services, well… don’t say we didn’t warn you beforehand.
How to Survive a Bear Attack
If you happen to run into a bear, you’ll have a better chance of survival if you do one thing above all else: stay calm. The best way to avoid a bear attack is to avoid them in the first place, so if you see a bear and know that it’s likely to be aggressive towards humans, you’ll want to calmly walk away or, better yet, find a safe place to hide until it loses interest.
There are a few reasons why bears become aggressive when humans are nearby: Homing instinct: Bears are intelligent animals and will often sniff out food if they are not able to find it themselves. For this reason, you may encounter a bear that is looking for a human-given reason to attack.
If your instinct is to run, then don’t. If your instinct is to scream, then don’t. Regardless of how tough you are, chances are you’re not up to a physical confrontation with a bear. They’re strong animals, and they haven’t been brainwashed as some humans have been through the media. If you manage to stay calm and avoid engaging in a physical fight, you’ll have a much better chance of surviving a bear attack.
If an attack occurs, the first thing you should do is stop breathing. This will trigger the bear’s natural fear response, which will make it less likely to attack you. If you have the opportunity to run, do so. If running isn’t an option due to your location and the terrain, then hiding is your next best option. Hiding will trigger the bear’s natural fear response and make it less aggressive. Once the bear loses interest and moves on, then you can emerge from hiding and slowly make your way back to civilization.
If the bear doesn’t see you as a threat when you’re standing still, then it’s likely to become aggressive when you try to run away. The bear will view running as a sign of aggression, which is exactly what the bear was waiting for. The bear will quickly catch up to you, and even if you are much faster on foot than the bear, you’ll be putting yourself in a vulnerable position.
If you have to run, then run in a zigzag pattern and try to make as much noise as possible while doing so. What you should do instead is make yourself a large and threatening object. This could be a car, a house, a piece of machinery, or anything else that will make the bear think twice before attacking you.
Use bear spray or your fists
Bear spray is a great tool to have in case you encounter a bear that is too close for comfort. Bear spray is a powerful and long-lasting crowd-control agent that will stop a bear in its tracks and let you get away safely if you’ve used it properly.
Even if you don’t have bear spray with you, bear attacks are rare. If a bear is attacking you, you’re probably in enough danger as it is and should try to escape as quickly as possible. If the bear spray isn’t an option, you should still try to fight back with your bare hands if the bear is close enough for you to do so. Don’t hesitate. Keep your distance and fight back until the bear backs off.
Avoid hiking at dawn and dusk
Both dawn and dusk are periods when bears are more likely to be out foraging for food. While dawn and dusk are the optimal times for people to hike in bear-prone regions, you should still try to avoid hiking during these times if possible.
Whenever you’re hiking in an area that has been recently disturbed by humans (think logging, mining, oil drilling, etc.), it’s best to avoid hiking during dawn and dusk. These times are especially dangerous, as the bear will view hiking people as a particularly tasty source of food.
Tell someone you trust where you’re going and when you expect to be back
When hiking in bear-prone areas, it’s also a good idea to let someone know your location and when you expect to return. Even if you have the best of intentions, there is a possibility that you will get into trouble and get yourself into a dangerous situation.
If anything does happen to go wrong, someone who knows where you’re going and when you expect to return will be able to help you get back to safety. Having someone to call in case of an emergency like this is a good habit to get into, even if you don’t expect to use it very often.
Stay indoors as much as possible
If you do venture out into bear territory, then you should try to avoid hiking or other outdoor activities. Instead, try to stay close to a building at all times. The fewer situations where you have to potentially encounter a bear, the better. If you have to go outside, try to do so during the middle of the day when it’s unlikely that there will be many bears around.
The harshness of nature is one thing, but add on the additional factor of human impact on wilderness areas. That takes things up to a whole new level. Once you start making it harder for the bears to survive and make themselves a nuisance to humans, well… that’s when things might get really nasty.
If you happen to encounter a bear while backpacking in a bear-prone region, then the best thing you can do is run away from it as quickly as possible and find a way to get back to safety. If you can make it to a building or car, the best thing to do would be to find a safe place to hide until the bear goes away on its own.