You see a bear, what do you do? Short answer: DON'T run. And for the love of God, DON'T take a selfie with it either.
Let’s say it as it is, nature is wild. Bears are not something to fear on the trail but understanding some quick dos/donts go a long way for you and the bear’s safety!
First, although Grizzly bears are where are mind often goes when we think of bears in the woods, they are restricted to only a few sparse areas in the United States, mostly dwelling in western and northern Canada and Alaska. Black bears are much more likely to be encountered, which is good and bad!
Black bears rarely attack humans but cases have been reported. Per the California Wildlife Department: “There is no singe safety strategy applicable to every encounter and bear behavior is not always predictable” although basic precautions include:
- Bears may react defensively if your presence is not known – make noise!
- Avoid wearing scents (cosmetics, deodorants, lotions
- Avoid thick brush/off trail
- Watch for the signs of a bear: scat (droppings), stripped bark off trees, broken branches
- Avoid areas were you have seen dead animals or carcasses
- Leash dogs if in an area with bears – barking and surprise can provoke a bear
If you encounter a bear on the trail (per the CA Wildlife Department) and it:
Does NOT see you: Back away slowly, increase your distance. Clap hands or make noise so the bear knows you are there and will move on.
- DOES see you: Do not make eye contact. Slowly back away. Do NOT run. Let the bear know you are not a threat. Give it a way out.
- If a bear approaches you: Make yourself look bigger by lifting and waving arms. Use noisemakers, or yell at the bear. If small children are present, keep them close to you.
- Carry and know how to use bear spray as a deterrent. In the event of a black bear attack, it is usually recommended to fight back. However, each situation is different. Prevention is the key.
- Black bear attacks are rare in California and typically are defensive in nature because the bear is surprised or defending cubs; however, bears accustomed to people may become too bold and act aggressively
- Female black bears will often send cubs up a tree and leave the area in response to a perceived threat. Do not remain in the area – when you leave, she will come back for her cubs.