Surviving a bear attack


Regulations and conservation acts have led to a boom in the number of black and brown bears inhabiting the United States. Along with the growth of the bear population comes an increase in human-bear interactions. Luckily, bear attacks within the U.S. are not common, but with rising numbers comes the rising chance of an attack.


The best defense against a bear is prevention. Most bear attacks would not happen if people would stop attempting to approach bears. If a bear is spotted in the vicinity, the best course of action is to quietly leave the area as quickly as possible. If a mama bear has cubs with her, try to remain as inconspicuous as possible when leaving. Perceived threats to her cubs are a guaranteed way to enrage a bear.


Bears are equipped with a powerful sense of smell. This means that food, or anything that used to contain food, are going to be easily detected by a hungry bear. When camping, it is strongly advised that all food, trash, cooking utensils, clothing worn when the food was cooked, and scented items (such as soaps and toothpaste) be double bagged and kept at least 100 yards away. It’s also a good idea to suspend the bagged items from a tree if any rope is on hand.


When exploring an area that could be possible inhabited by bears, it is smart to travel in a group. Most bears attack over territory or perceived threats, and they usually tend to only attack a threat that they feel they can successfully take on. Traveling in a group tends to discourage many solitary predators; bears are not an exception.


Bear spray, a type of pepper spray, has proven to be more efficient at discouraging away bears than handguns. Bear-whistles are also an acceptable alternative. Because bears are a protected species, slaying one will result in a federal investigation, so do not attempt to kill one unless the situation is life-threatening.


If charged by a bear, take the opportunity to unleash bear spray in its face, or when the bear is within 40 feet, shoot it under the chin or just behind its front legs if presented with its side. If spray or a rifle is not an option, playing dead holds a 75-percent success rate.