While you’re out hiking in the mountains, there are low chances that you will run into a bear. There are many misconceptions about an encounter with a bear. Perhaps the most common question that you will ask is, “Will a bear attack a human unprovoked?” While it may be worrying at first, what is important is that you are well-equipped with knowledge on what to do if you ever find yourself in the vicinity of a bear on your trip.
Together, we will clear up these misconceptions about bear encounters. I’ll share with you what you should do to prepare yourself for an encounter with a bear.
Will a bear attack a human unprovoked?
A bear will attack any human it believes is provoking it. Otherwise, they may just peacefully go on their way even if they spot you. The common misconception is that a bear will automatically attack you when they see you. However, they won’t attack unless you do something that provokes them. They tend to shy away from humans if they see, hear, or smell them in the vicinity.
A bear has a high center of gravity and has large, powerful hind legs. If the bear decides to attack, it will strike with its front paws, which are twice as powerful as its hind legs.
However, do keep in mind that a bear will not attack you unless you are doing something that will provoke them. It is best that you equip yourself with the knowledge on what to do in case a bear seems like it feels threatened by you.
Later on, I will share with you what you should do when you see a bear. Additionally, I will also share the proper actions you should take in order to avoid an encounter with a bear. Lastly, I will also discuss the common misconceptions about bears that are often portrayed by the media. Believing these misconceptions has the potential to endanger yourself in the presence of a bear.
What do I do when I see a bear?
If you have caught the attention and interest of a bear, it will start to approach you. It is important to know what to do in these kinds of situations so that you can make your outdoor experience safer. Here are the things you should and shouldn’t do if you ever come across a bear.
- Wave your Arms
Make yourself known as a human. To do this, wave both of your arms up and down. Do it slowly so that you won’t provoke the bear! Your body should stay still but your arms should wave up and down. This will let the bear know that you are a human being and not a threat.
If the bear comes closer to you, it usually means that they are trying to get a closer look at you. They may also try to get a whiff of your scent. The bear may also do these by standing on its legs. If they are standing on their legs, they do not feel threatened. Thus, you should not panic. They are usually just curious about you.
When they are done investigating, they will usually walk away peacefully. Waving your arms will tell them that you are human. They are not usually aggressive, so do not do anything that will put them on alert.
- Don’t Panic
Hiking or camping is one of the most beautiful and adventurous experiences in nature. Yet many people have seen bears in their natural environment and have had a bad feeling in their stomachs when it has happened. In general, people should not worry too much about seeing a bear near them or around their campsite as things usually go smoothly. If you do see a bear during your next hiking/camping trip or have come across one while out walking your dog, then simply leave the area.
Panicking is the worst thing to do when you come across a bear. When you see a bear in the wild, you are a lot more likely to panic if you are not aware of what to do. Many people who have been hiking or camping while traveling are afraid of wild animals and will run away if they think they cannot handle an animal encounter safely.
When you do see a bear, the animal will probably try to take a look at you but will not actually hurt you so it is better to leave them alone. But if you are hiking or camping on a trail where bears can be present, panicking and making noise can draw more bears toward you and make the situation worse.
There are some things you can do to help encourage a hiker or camper who is panicking without physically pushing them away from the animal. One useful tactic is to stand up and wave your arms in front of them slightly so they know that you are a human being. Another is to wave your arms behind you while slowly moving away so that you appear smaller and farther away.
- Make yourself Look Bigger
When you see a bear, you naturally assume it is a big animal with great intelligence and strength. But the truth is that most bears are quite shy until they sense prey. So how do you deal with the situation? Although it is tempting to try and fight off the bear with everything you have, this can only make things worse for you. Instead, concentrate on making yourself look bigger than the bear so that they will leave you alone instead. This may help persuade the bear to leave you alone and not come back.
If you find yourself hiking or camping in bear country and come across a bear, the first thing to do is to make yourself look bigger than the bear so that it will leave you alone. You can do this by taking your jacket and holding it up with your arms stretched over your head. They will think that you are a bigger contender than them and will thus leave you alone.
If you are hiking, take it easy and don’t engage in any kind of negative confrontation. If you are camping — don’t go chasing them away with aggressive actions (like throwing something at them, kicking out a rock in their path, etc.).The bear will gauge your powerlessness – they are much stronger than you and know exactly what they are doing. Be calm, stand still, and walk away slowly.
It takes a lot of courage to face dangerous situations. If the bear passes by and you want to scare it off of you then you should stand strong, hold your ground, and make yourself look larger by extending your arms out wide.
- Don’t Run Away
Do not run away from the bear because it might feel threatened and chase you. Any bear will do that when someone approaches it – whether they are a big dog or an adult human. If it approaches very closely and starts grunting and growling, back off. If it speeds up and grows more confident, do not run toward it. The moment you do so, it becomes more likely that it will attack.
It is not uncommon for hikers to encounter a bear in their travels. When you see the bear, it can be hard to run away as the bear may feel threatened and will not let go of your scent. If the bear chases you, it could lead to a fight scenario. The best thing to do in such a situation is to not fight back and slowly move away from the bear. Now, the bear might still attack you even though you have been moving away from it, but this will only lead to injury to yourself if you are not prepared.
In this case, it is best to have some bear spray handy. Later on, I’ll share when and how to use bear spray. Alternatively, you can make loud noise to alert all nearby animals of your presence (this may trick the bear into thinking that you’re a bigger animal). It may be possible for you to scurry up a tree or two before it gets close enough to attack.
Running away from a bear is not advisable. Running away will only make the bear angry. It will become even angrier and more serious about capturing you. When the bear is agitated, it will assume that you are a threat to it and it will act accordingly.
- Don’t Give it Food
No matter what you do, don’t feed the bear. It will only make things worse for you and it may become more aggressive towards you. Many hikers and campers carry bear spray with them in case they are attacked while outdoors. But even if you do have spray with you, do not spray it directly into the bear’s face. Instead, spray it towards its legs to distract it for a few minutes and get back home before it finds you.
Do not try to scare the bear away by yelling at it or throwing rocks at it. It may refuse to leave your area or will simply see you as an easy snack. If you find yourself hiking or camping with Bears, listen to your intuition. If something feels wrong, leave the area and find somewhere else where there are fewer woods and bigger mountains. Leave the bear alone. The bear will leave you alone and return to its natural habitat.
When you see a bear on your hiking or camping trip you have to act fast. Don’t give the bear any food, and don’t try to scare it away. If it becomes aggressive, then leave the area and report the incident to the authorities.
If you give the bear any food or water it will associate the treat with your status and may become more aggressive toward you. It could also get angry at you for visiting its territory, which is dangerous for your health and safety.
- Move Slow and Sideways
A good rule to follow when you’re hiking or camping and you come across a bear is that you should always move slowly and sideways. This is so to make you look as small and as non-threatening as possible. Any sudden movements might trigger a negative reaction from the bear. This will be very bad for you if they will feel threatened as they may attack you.
Bear accidents do happen—hiking with bears in Alaska is a particularly popular example, with multiple fatalities—but it’s typically because people aren’t paying attention to these creatures and they run into something that they were not prepared for.
When encountering a bear in the wild, it is best to move slowly and sideways off the trail as opposed to running from it. As you approach it, make sure to raise your arms above your head as much as possible without raising your upper body too high. This will discourage the animal from charging at you as quickly as possible.
Most importantly, if the bear is agitated then move as slowly and sideways as possible. It may not be wise to run straight towards the bear, as it might inadvertently cause injury or harm to your leg. Most hikers will move around their campsite once in a while to let things chill out, get some fresh air and get away from any danger.
Move as slowly as you can, with both feet going along the ground, and try to sidestep the bear. This will help you get away from it faster and also make it easier for others to help if needed. If you startle it, it will most likely react with surprise, which will only encourage the bear to chase you down.
- Leave Immediately
What are the best things to do if you’ve just seen a bear? I think it’s important to be prepared for whatever situation might arise. In other words, if you’re hiking in the woods and see a big hairy beast lumbering through the underbrush, you don’t want to take your chances of triggering any bad reaction from the bear. Usually, the bear will go about its business and not mind you at all. Still, you should leave the premises immediately as soon as you see one.
People are often scared of bigger things – animals or other humans. Often not realizing it consciously, we do everything in our power to avoid these bigger creatures. If you are hiking or camping in a place where there are always bears, it would be advisable not to go near them and cause any sort of confrontation. As soon as you see the bear, leave immediately and contact the local authorities.
What do I do to avoid an encounter with a bear?
I have been hiking, camping, and skiing most of my life. Recently, I have hiked alone several times (one time hiked with friends) and experienced several close encounters with bears. Although it was unpleasant, there are some things you can do to avoid confrontations with bears. During your adventure, you might see a bear. Depending upon the size of the bear, you can hope that it would stay away from you or even you could go after it if you wish.
Bears are agile and can easily outrun you, so you should be careful at all times while hiking and camping outside in Canada or the United States (I recommend avoiding confrontations with bears). The best way to avoid an encounter is to follow all the safety precautions and rules stated on every trail sign. One of those safety precautions states you should always bring bear spray.
Keep your bear spray accessible. Purchase bear spray that has an expiration date that is a few months or years from the time that you are going to hike. Do not fire the bear spray if it looks like the wind is going to get into your eyes. As soon as the bear charges at you, spray the area in front of you or in the direction that the bear spray is charging. When the bear comes close enough, you may spray it on the bear’s face. When they are distracted, you can leave immediately.
Being aware of your surroundings can help you avoid encounters with bears. Being aware of your surroundings is one of the simplest ways you can avoid encounters with bears. These bears will usually leave telltale signs that they were previously in that area. These signs are footprints, bear droppings or scat, bear hair tangled in branches, or claw marks on trees.
What are the common misconceptions about bears?
There are only three species of bears in North America — the black bear, brown bears, and the polar bear. While their numbers have decreased significantly due to human development, bear behavior has remained largely the same throughout their evolutionary history in northern regions of North America.
For the most part, people don’t want to get very close to bears. They don’t want to make a mess out of things, and they certainly don’t want to get mauled by one. So what’s the big deal about seeing one? The big deal is that it’s very likely that you’ll hear some really, really nasty stories about grizzlies or other large predators from people who’ve had a close encounter with one.
The common misconceptions about bears mostly involve the most common myth about them; that they’re aggressive creatures that will attack humans unless they’re scared or helpless. Number one on that list of myths is the idea that a bear will aggressively attack a person unless they’re actively trying to defend themselves (unless they stand toe-to-toe with a large, charging bear whom they don’t know attack is coming).
Together, let’s discuss the other misconceptions about bears in the wild.
Bears are not highly aggressive animals and tend to be portrayed as vicious creatures. They are no more likely to attack humans than other animals that live in similar environments. A bear is not likely to attack unless it has come to realize that someone is a threat to its own safety and that of the people within its territory. Bears exhibit very different behaviors depending on the time of year, what diet it is feeding upon, and others. Regardless, the bears will not hurt humans in the wild unless provoked or cornered.
Bears are reported to be aggressive with people they perceive as a threat. Although there have been several accounts of black bears attacking people, these attacks have been relatively rare. The greatest myth about bears is that they are always ready to attack humans. In reality, most bears do not intimidate easily or aggressively but instead play along or play dead if approached. However, once they feel threatened, they will stand their ground and fight back aggressively if necessary to protect their territory and subdue their attacker and generally avoid any potential harm.
There is a myth that when you see a bear that is standing on its hind legs, they are preparing to attack you. That is actually quite the contrary! Bears stand on their hind legs in order to increase their visual area so they can see more clearly, possibly viewing a predator approaching or making social distinctions. So if you see a bear standing on its hind legs, they are probably just observing their area.
In the wild, bears do not attack people. They do, however, defend their territory and will stand up tall with their front legs slightly apart if a smaller animal approaches.
Huff and Puff
Have you ever seen a bear huffing, puffing, and grumbling? That noise is much more common than you may think. And, truth be told, a bear doesn’t do this simply because they feel like it. A bear will most likely start huffing when it is agitated or afraid.
You may or may not encounter a bear on your hiking or camping trip. The moment that you see one, try to observe its behavior before moving away slowly. Observing how they move and act will let you know what to do. Are they huffing, puffing, and stomping the ground with their front legs? That actually means that you have probably trespassed into their territory.
This huffing, puffing, and stomping is for them to warn you that you have crossed into their territory. They aren’t trying to signal that they will harm you, they’re just trying to intimidate you and scare you away. This a defense mechanism they do to ward off predators or trespassers like yourself.
When this happens, simply slowly back off until you are no longer in the bear’s line of sight. The most recent misconception about bears is that they will attack when they do this — despite the fact that they are very gentle and quiet creatures – and there are actually some myths about bears that have been around for centuries that are simply not true.
Safety should be a top priority in everything we do. The common misconception about bears is that they are fierce and protective. Some people think that the only way to deal with a bear is to run away. This does not work for a number of reasons but it’s noteworthy that you must always be aware of your surroundings during such encounters and be persistent whilst speaking to the bear.
People have a misconception that bears are dangerous. This is not true. They can be quiet and peaceful until startled. They do not have an aggressive nature. However, safety should still be a priority wherever you go, so always stay ready for any encounters on your hiking and camping trips.
Did you find this article useful? Let us know your bear encounters or any other safety tips you might think are useful!