OUTDOOR BASICS

How to Scare a Bear: Insightful Tips During Bear Encounter

How to Scare a Bear
Mark Foster
Written by Mark Foster

Are you a fan of hiking or camping in bear occupied areas? If you fall into this fold, there is a lot you should know about. For instance, you will certainly come across bears during your natural escapades. This is why you must learn how to scare a bear away if such situations arise.

To begin, bears are perhaps one of the nature’s majestic creatures and seeing one in the wild is definitely an unforgettable experience. Whereas most bears are interested in avoiding the human encounter and attacking them, the seemingly large and powerful animals can sometimes be very dangerous, especially if threatened.

Getting too close to a bear can be terrifying than awe-inspiring. Bears are immensely powerful, and a meeting between bears and humans can potentially turn deadly. Fortunately, despite the recent human continued encroachment into “bear territory,” attacks and fatalities resulting from bear-human conflict are still rare. This can be attributed to the better understanding of how to scare off a bear.

Bear in Wild

Due to increased bear prevalence and reduced control measures, you shouldn’t be shocked finding a bear across the street. Therefore, it is of immense importance that we highlight the essential things to do when you encounter a bear.

Dealing with Bear Encounters

Nature lovers need to have some tips on how to act when a bear appears. Perhaps, what we have outlined below will come in handy. Have a look!

Situation 1 – Bear Hasn’t Detected Your Presence and Is More Than 100 M Distant

Luck will be on your side if you detect the bear before it detects you. You will be luckier if you are more than 350 ft or 100 m away from the bear. In this situation, don’t announce your presence. Play low as much as you can.

Bear

There are two possible options, depending on what your activity in the area was. The first case being retreating slowly if possible as you give the bear plenty of space. Retreat and leave the trail to the bear. The second situation arises where you must continue with the trail. Here, back off some distance and give the bear time to leave the area before proceeding.

Situation 2 – Bear Has Detected Your Presence but More Than 100 m

With this situation, the main goal is to act in a way that allows the bear to identify you as well as let it know that you don’t pose any threat. Begin by speaking calmly so that the bear knows you are human. Speaking is overly important as bears have poor eyesight.

Black Bear

If the bear identifies you as human, it will quickly give ground. When such occurs, walk back slowly as you keep a close eye on the bear. You can detour around the bear upwind so that it gets your scent. Remember to keep talking calmly as you wave hands to help it identify you are human.

Situation 3 – Scaring Off the Bear

As mentioned before, most bears are interested in avoiding human contact rather than attacking them. However, they can be very dangerous if they feel threatened. This is where you will have to scare them off.

Bear Walking Away

Scaring a bear can be done in two main bear-encounter situations. The first being to prevent a close encounter and the other being preventing escalation or aggression by the bear. If both fail, you will need to know how to handle a charge or attack. Worry not as we will discuss all of these situations below.

Preventing Close Encounters

As the name suggests, this basically implies that you prevent coming into contact with the bear. You can do this in many ways, as outlined below.

Ward off bears

Make regular noise either by using a bear bell or traveling as a group to ward off the bear. Note that if you can prevent an encounter with the bear, you wouldn’t need to know any other bear encounter ideas. Just to mention, bears are generally reclusive creatures who prefer to steer clear any human presence. Help them achieve this by promptly announcing your presence.

Group of People Hiking

That said, how can you announce your prompt presence? Well, talk loudly, sing, carry bear bells or walk in groups when exploring your escapades. So to say, there have been few records, if any, of bears attacking a group of people, therefore, stick together. If you find yourself alone, making noise and having a bear bell comes in handy.

Be watchful for signs of bears

Immediately make a detour or leave the area if you see bear tracks. This will help you avoid surprising bears. Nonetheless, if you see one at any given distance, keep your ground and stay away. Apply the measures outlined in situations one and two outlined above.

Bear Tracks

When you see the bear, reduce your noise, maintain calm and quiet and let it go about its business. Let it move on before proceeding with your schedule. Note that this is overly important especially when dealing with young and harmless bears. A mother could be nearby, and any threatening move could spell big trouble. Stay clear and call a ranger even if the bear seems sick or hurt.

Stay away from carcasses or “kill sites”

Bears are known to defend two things: their most recent meal and young ones. That said, if you come across any carcass, especially those seeming fresh, immediately leave the area as you give them a wide berth.

Leave pets at home

Walking your dog in the nature trail sounds cool, right? However, remember that bears know better than just messing with humans. Actually, they rarely see humans as a food source, but your dog may not be such fortunate, most importantly when they regard the bear as a threat.

Leave Pets at Home

That said, leave your dog at home no matter how well you think it is trained.

Have the necessary bear repellents

When taking on the trails, ensure that you have the necessary bear repellents such as pepper spray and bear-proof canisters. Armed with this, you will be taking the escapades prepared both to avoid and deal with the bear, in a rare case of agitation.

Bears are often attracted to garbage and human food. This makes them drawn to areas of human occupation. Therefore, remember that when camping, your food and food waste should be contained as the smell of wrappers and food remains may attract the animals.

Get to know the basics of bear behavior

There is a common myth that bears are quite unpredictable, which doesn’t hold much truth. Just like humans, they have varied maneuvers and body language ticks which can help you read their situations and react appropriately.

Bear Standing on Two Legs

Some of the basic bear behaviors you ought to know include:

  • Standing on its back two legs which indicate curiosity and not aggression.
  • They posture and feign aggression to avoid a fight as they plan to retreat. Always stay calm.
  • They easily get distracted and not always hyper-aware thus doubly important to announce your presence with noise.

Check to a park ranger station for latest news and updates – you should obtain the latest information on bear activity from an office or park ranger station. This includes identifying any recent bear sighting and increase in bear activity. This will help you know what has been going on in the park thus plan properly to avoid any confrontations. Heed to local bear advisories and practice proper food storage techniques as well when camping.

Preventing Aggression or Escalation

Once your presence has been picked up by the bear, it is important that you avoid escalating or developing signs of aggression. Otherwise, the bear will feel threatened and may attack.

Bear is Looking at People

Some of the measures of preventing aggression include:

Assess the situation

Here, try identifying what your situation is. Are you dealing with a grizzly or a black bear? Are there any cubs involved? Are there any climbable trees nearby? And if yes, do you have enough time to climb them?

Stay calm and don’t run

Running may signal the bear that you are a prey worth chasing. Note that bears are incredibly fast runners. Actually, you cannot outrun bears so don’t even try. Therefore, screaming or yelling may help to spook the bear that it is threatened. Though quite hard, keep cool, stay calm and collected.

Keep your distance

You will be lucky if the bear is more than 300 feet away as you can leave the area. However, if there is need to continue with your journey, detour around the bear cautiously. If the bear hasn’t noticed your presence, retreat calmly and quietly then make some noise when some distance away to prevent any other encounter.

Keep Distance

However, if you are close enough and the bear has noticed you, remember to stay calm, keep distance and shuffle sideways as you avoid tripping. Also, keep your eyes on the bear but avoid eye contact.

Announce you are human

Ensure that the bear identifies you as human as you retreat. It doesn’t matter what you do or say, but try all means to drive this into the bear. The main goal is to communicate to the bear that you are indeed human, with the capability of defending yourself and not frightened while also passing that you are non-threatening and leaving its territory.

Note that you shouldn’t yell, make high pitched noise or scream at the bear. Be prudent and pick one mantra or phrase and repeat it calmly. As much as it may seem difficult, try maintaining calmness.

Make yourself as big as possible

Standing tall is the other trick to prevent aggression by bears. Like other animals, bears are less likely to attack large and seemingly formidable animals. Take this advantage by raising your arms over your head, spread your coat with your arms or wave something in the air.

Person with Raised Arms

If you are in the company of others, clump together making an appearance of a large animal. This will not only intimidate the bear but also help avert the bear from charging towards one person in the group. Regardless of the action you take, note that you should do it slowly and calmly.

Give the bear an escape route – if you find that you have cornered the animal, get out of its way quickly and calmly. Bears are most likely to initiate an attack when they feel cornered. Therefore, when trying to frighten them, always give them an easy way out. Perhaps this raises the importance of understanding your surrounding when hiking in any bear county.

Understand bear motivations

Understanding a little bear psychology may come in handy during these situations. Note that your response to the attack is often shaped by bear’s motivation. Among the basics include when the bear appears to be stacking you – disappearing and reappearing – it most likely sees you as food and its attack will be predatory.

Bear Near the Water

The other motivation to note is when you surprise the bear on the trail, and it has cubs or eating and protecting a carcass, it will most likely attack based on self-defense. Note that any bear attacking as a predator should be fought off, no matter the type of bear as they are desperate.

If the bear gets aggressive, get aggressive in response – get louder and bigger if you are sure the attack is meant to see you as prey. As they say, tit for tat is a fair game. The same applies here. Stamp your feet, if you have a walking stick, wave it menacingly and bang pans and pots. However, note that you shouldn’t hit it until the bear comes after you with intentions of making contact.

Handling an Attack/Charge

If scaring fails, what happens next? Well, outlined below are some of the tips on how to handle a bear attack.

Stand tall

Running cues always trigger the bear to chase you, and believe me, it is fast enough to catch up with you. Therefore, avoid being aggressive, do not crouch down, play dead or show signs of vulnerability. If the bear charges towards you, gather all the courage and stay where you are.

Person Against Bear

In some situations, the charge will most likely be a bluff, and if you stand your ground, the bear will most probably turn around.

Sidestep advances

This is essential if the bear closes into a relatively short distance, approximately less than 8 feet. Just like other four-legged animals, bears have a wide center of gravity thus can’t make sharp turns. Therefore, if you are engaged in an open area, avoid running directly away as they are generally faster. On the other hand, don’t run in circles but have sidesteps, move right and left to force the bear to change directions.

Only Play Dead With Grizzly Or Brown Bears After They Make Contact

If these bears are attacking you in self-defense, put it at ease by playing dead and lying completely flat on the ground. Lie flat on the ground protecting your vital organs and your arms covering the neck. If you miraculously happen to have a backpack, keep it on to protect your back.

Play Dead

The bear will calm down and leave the area. Wait for about 10 to 15 minutes before making a move. The bear may look back and return if it sees you moving. Remember, if you believe it is a predatory attack, fight back!

Use your pepper spray

This is perhaps the last resort. Pepper spray is good to be used at close range, between 5 m as wind may reduce the effectiveness due to increased range. It may also spray back the pepper into your face.

That said, once the bear approaches within this range, open, point and discharge the contents of the spray towards the bear. Hopefully, this will disorient it giving you time to escape or deter it from making the attack. Once you have partially discharged the spray, discard it as the smell of pepper can also attract bears.

Still Not Feeling Confident?

Bear attacks go without saying as being fatal. However, you can save yourself from such situations by practicing safe procedures and learning how to scare the bear away. If you plan to go on a hike in bear county, ensure that you have all the measures in place. Otherwise, you won’t enjoy your hike as it may be cut short by bears.

Brown Bears

That said, it is overly important that you avoid having an encounter with the bear. This will save you all tribulations associated with encounters. However, if you fail in avoiding the bear, consider scaring it away. If scaring fails, go for the last option, fighting it.

The write-up above explains all you need to win in all these situations. Following them to the later could be the receipt to your safety. Nonetheless, there are some basics you ought to know from your side. This includes inquiring about bear activities in your planned area of hike and practicing how to quickly and easily get the spray out of its holster.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Foster

Mark Foster

Mark Foster loves to push his limits when it comes to survival in the wilderness. He might go for a 30-days adventure without any food or equipment except for a survival kit and a knife. We should mention that his survival kit has 122 items in it, so he know what he is doing. Mark is working on his book to share with the world all his experience gained during those brave adventures.