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Tips on surviving a bear encounter

September 22, 2009 by  

Tips on surviving a bear encounter With the beginning of the fall season bears are becoming more active in some parts of the country, and those who plan to spend time outdoors may want to keep in mind a few tips on how to behave if they encounter the large animal.

Mark Ternent, a black bear biologist, says the likelihood can be reduced if people refrain from feeding wildlife, such as birds or deer, while on a trip or storing food or garbage in places such as backyard. Even squash, pumpkins, corn stalks or other Halloween or holiday decorations outside may attract bears.

"Once bears become habituated to an area where they find food, they will continue to return, which is when the bear can become a real problem for homeowners and neighbors," says Ternent.

He advises to stay calm if a bear has wondered onto your property. Often shouting at it from a safe distance can persuade the animal to leave. If not, it is a good idea to slowly retreat and call for assistance.

When coming into contact with a bear in the wild, it is best to slowly back away while quietly talking. While withdrawing, it is important to face the animal, but avoid direct eye contact. Turning and running can spur the bear to chase, and humans cannot outrun bears.

It is also important not to block the bear’s escape route, to move away from cubs and to avoid climbing a tree.

Some bears may bluff charge, and if this occurs the best approach is to wave your arms wildly, and shout at the bear.

Finally, the expert says in the event of an attack, fight back as you continue to leave the area as bears have been driven away with rocks, sticks, binoculars, car keys or even bare hands.


Bob Livingston

is an ultra-conservative American and author of The Bob Livingston Letter™, founded in 1969. Bob has devoted much of his life to research and the quest for truth on a variety of subjects. Bob specializes in health issues such as nutritional supplements and alternatives to drugs, as well as issues of privacy (both personal and financial), asset protection and the preservation of freedom.

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  • Lebo

    Somehow, Mark forgot a large calibre rifle and/or handgun will also sort out the problem rather quickly with regard to black bears and/or grizzly’s.

    Amazing how that solution was missed. Guess it’s more exciting to suggest you fight off one of the most powerful beasts in the food chain with a set of car keys.

  • Roger Daines

    I agree with Lebo. It is best to always stay in the yellow zone (being fully aware of your surroundings) but to be prepared is to be safe. Do follow the retreating instructions, but don’t leave your life to fate. Carry a gun!

  • Kenneth Griffin

    The best thing is to always hike with someone ‘slower’ than you.

    • Dav

      Don’t bears & dogs love a good fast chase followed by a meal?

    • libertytrain

      Interesting solution to the bear problem, however, probably unkind to the “slower” hiker -

      • Scott Brown

        Libertytrain: He didn’t say “Take a friend.”

        You could, you know, take your congressperson or state senator, or any one of the lobbyists they do lunch with. (Hmm…this puts the idea of “taking someone to lunch” in a whole new perspective.)

        • libertytrain

          Perhaps, Ms. Pelosi?


    Best tip: You see a bear don’t say “boo just RUN!

  • DaveH
  • Myron J. Poltroonian

    As Strothr Martin once so famously noted (in “Cool Hand Luke), “What we have here, is a failure to communicate”. the increase of bear/human incidents, at least in the eastern half of this nation, is due primarily to two things. A lessening of the general awareness of proper outdoor behavior and the reduction and/or outright banning of bear hunting. The “Animal Rights” crowd, teaming up with the “Bambist’s”, howl, rant and rave about “Trophy Hunters”, animal cruelty, et cetera, ad nauseam, while a’busilly blaming humans for being fruitful and multiplying. Necessitating, of course, new places for them to live. While the above chance encounter defense admonitions will go a long way to somewhat lessening the number of encounters, a population of any big game animal that is well managed by wildlife biologists, will include hunting as one of their “tools”. Unless, of course, the “anti’s” are put in charge. Where do you think most of the money for wildlife management comes from in the first place? First clue: It’s not Bird watchers or Hikers.

  • Edwin A. Halderman, SSgt. USMC (retired)

    BEARS, are good if you follow the rules. Most where already there, so all I can say is follow those rules. Some of us are different, I know (since age 16) that I could go up to a bear, pett him, enjoy his company, an leave. This is not recommended for you to TRY!!! My name in “APACHE” is “STANDING BEAR”(LOOKING AROUND HIS MOUNTIAN TO SEE WHAT NEEDS DONE!), I was given this name as I sit in a clear area of the READOSA,NM APACHEE RESERVATION. I do not recomend this for people as I am the only one how has tried and done this.

    • ole hunter

      i think the artical was about real bears not bear head trophies on a hunting lodge or bar wall.
      if a bear was to find something to eat on the rez, only the spirits could save its life after it ate what it found.

      bears love the taste and smell of tuna fish, peanut butter and scented skin lotions, baby wipes some wines and apple juice.
      if you smell like whats in a trash can, you may become a play toy or a chewy toy for a young bear.
      also, watch what you step in, one bears scat can be another bears calling card .

  • Keith H

    I don’t believe in killing animals unjustly, but if i follow the experts advice and the bear still comes after me, i would shoot it.
    I wouldn’t play with my life,because once the bear decides he’s going to attack, i don’t think you can reason with it, a bear doesn’t understand English.

  • dan m


  • Dr Robert Blease

    IUn Northern New Jersey we are heading for a real disaster. This being the Garden State we have the highest number of cubs being born. 3-4 cubs is not uncommon and some she bears have been seen with 5 cubs. One day last month, there were three different sightings of bears by one person within a half hour and bear and two cubs were in my pond at the same time within 100 feet of my house.

    Fish and Game know how to control the bear population and how to put the fear of man back into bears. Hunting controls the population and the aggresive bears are the first to be hunted. Bears are now rountinely being sighted in congested areas. Govenor Corzine has given way to the animal rightist and stopped hunting. Bears are cute and cuddley but they must be controlled. We need to listen to the wildlife people before someone gets hurt by overpopulation of bears.

  • BJ

    I have spent thousands of hours in the woods in Alaska in some very dense bear populations and they have always steered clear of me. I have watched a bear with cubs walk about 150′ from me while cooking a BBQ roast over an open fire… and only have known of one actually walking through my campsite.

    I have taken firearms with me, and gone solo with almost no gear… and only have seen bears a dozen times in the wild. From what I hear, the bears are getting closer and bolder even up there… learning that where people are, there is food.

    If you don’t carry a firearm, stick with group hiking, camping, etc… In larger groups of 10 or more people, you have enough to ward off just about any bear without cubs where they are separated.

    I have been planning to buy a nice weapon for years but can’t afford one… mainly for bears… there is a company in alaska that makes a .375 lever action into a break-down weapon that comes apart in the middle. Made for pilots to put under a seat, etc.

    They also make it in a few bigger calibers like .444 mag.

    I have 4 boys, and I suspect that I will be armed when going into the back woods…

    Keep it real….

    • Dan Kapa

      try the 450 marlin “guide gun”. it will take down ANY animal in all of n. america. i think they might have a stainless knock down model now.

  • Loren

    What kind of Libs are we in this country? Don’t you know that it is common knowledge that the bears have the right to the wilderness and you are intruding on their turf? Just remember if you think you have a right your wrong. Better yet it would be just great if we all killed our selves to get the population down so that someone else could enjoy the earth more fully.

    • American Libertarian

      … what?

  • George Plyler

    I never go into the forests.

  • Jim

    Oh good grief! Of course the bears have a right to the wilderness. No more and no less than we do who enjoy the outdoors. My dog and I hike throughout the south almost daily and yes, we have encountered bears. They are without exception afraid of us and run the other direction. I give them a wide berth when possible and I don’t travel armed with anything more lethal than my camera (usually). Those that don’t want to hunt bears, don’t, but leave those that do alone to help us all in the proper population control for these magnificent beasts.

  • Joe H.

    Unfortunately too many animal rights groups have never seen a starved deer or other animals. It’s just heartbreaking to see a doe that once stood proudly and majestically in the woods down to skin and bones and too weak to lift a leg to walk when it used to be able to clear a 6 ft fence like it wasn’t there. When the population of deer gets higher than what it’s area can feed then nature takes over with starvation and disease. I wish they could get that into their head. Putting out bales of hay won’t work either as the deer stomach won’t digest it.

  • American Libertarian

    How to survive a bear encounter? Hmm, maybe… stop poking them when they’re trying to sleep. I believe that having a non-lethal but strong tranquilizer gun would come in quite handy.

  • billibob

    Okay kids, the best plan is to use pepper spray, then “bangers” or fire crackers, and then if still being attacked or pursued, then the mighty gun to kill the bear. Question?? If you kill the bear, do you get to keep the bear skin for a rug or fashion coat?? They sure cost a lot of money in stores if you can find them….

  • John Kramer

    Isn’t there anyone here who has done some research on this subject?

    All the suggestions in this article are fine IF YOU’RE CAUGHT OFF GUARD! The solution, however, is NOT to arm yourself with the biggest cannon you can find!!! The average bear attack is by surprise and takes less than five seconds (check with the experts). They are extremely fast and ferocious. Only someone very quick, with ice in his or her veins, will even have the presence of mind to pull a gun, let alone aim it steadily and fire it accurately. Add to this the fact that a bear’s heart only beats 8 times a minute, and you could literally blow a bears heart out of its chest and still be killed by it before it died!

    The only answer (promoted by DNRs across the country) is a special pepper spray made specifically for this problem. A number of companies sell this stuff on-line for about 50 bucks. You wear the canister in a holster on your belt. It looks like a small fire extinguisher that with a few minutes practice is easily drawn “aimed” and “fired”. It shoots a colored fog up to 30 feet so it’s easily directed and covers a wide area. This stuff is so strong there are literally hundreds of testimonials that speak of stopping a bear dead in its tracks. The bear screams in pain, is totally blinded and confused and takes any route possible away from the intended victim.

    Good things happen: The attack is stopped and the human saved; the bear is sent on its way unharmed, save for some momentary misery; and the bear is now trained to stay away from humans.

    Every time I’m in bear country I carry this stuff and so do all of my “mountain men” friends. Sure, we sometimes carry guns as well, but we wouldn’t think of trying to stop a bear with them.

    Do your research, talk to some experts, “arm” yourself before venturing into bear country, but DON’T think you’re protected just because you “carry” a gun. You’d better be awfully good with it – and lucky!

  • http://yahoo tom caldwell

    Mr. Kramer
    I see in your reply you mentioned having to be very good with a gun or lucky. How do you intend to get the pepper spray deployed,when the suprise attack happens? in 5 sec? just thought i would ask.

    • Dan Kapa

      yeah, i noticed that flaw too.

  • Dave

    Bears have no natural fear of people. They are scared to death of dogs for some reason. I have seen dogs tree bears more than once. One time a black bear was treed by my wifes aunts dogs and she phoned wanting me to come over and shoot it. In Alberta you can shoot bears on your property any time of year.

    I got there and this poor bear had climbed a poplar about 6″ in diameter, The dogs started going nuts when I showed up so the bear climbed higher but the tree bent over and he hit the ground. The bear outran the dogs! I didn’t shoot the bear as I hoped he would not come around again.

  • Jim S.

    I live in the inland North West where we cohabitate with bears on a regular basis. Out of the 20 years I’ve been in the woods here working I found that most of the time bears will avoid you if you make enough noise while out there. Also bears have fallen into the habit that if a human is around there is food. Just need to practice leave no trace and be a little smarter on how we handle ourselves while in the woods or just at home here! Anyway this is an article that came from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mountain-Prairie Region, P .O. Box 25486, Lakewood, Colorado 80225.

    Bear Spray vs. Bullets

    Which offers better protection? At first glance, this question may seem like a no-brainer. After all, aren’t guns made to kill, while pepper spray (so-called “ bear spray,” when it comes in big cans) does not? Unlike an attack by a human assailant, who may be able to use your own weapon against you, that safety/survival argument for using pepper spray doesn’t apply to a human-bear encounter… or does it?

    When it comes to self defense against grizzly bears, the answer is not as obvious as it may seem. In fact, experienced hunters are surprised to find that despite the use of firearms against a charging bear, they were attacked and badly hurt. Evidence of human-bear encounters even suggests that shooting a bear can escalate the seriousness of an attack, while encounters where firearms are not used are less likely to result in injury or death of the human or the bear. While firearms can kill a bear, can a bullet kill quickly enough — and can the shooter be accurate enough — to prevent a dangerous, even fatal, attack?

    The question is not one of marksmanship or clear thinking in the face of a growling bear, for even a skilled marksman with steady nerves may have a slim chance of deterring a bear attack with a gun. Law
    enforcement agents for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have experience that supports this reality — based on their investigations of human-bear encounters since 1992, persons encountering grizzlies and defending themselves with firearms suffer injury about 50% of the time. During the same period, persons
    defending themselves with pepper spray escaped injury most of the time, and those that were injured experienced shorter duration attacks and less severe injuries. Canadian bear biologist Dr. Stephen Herrero reached similar conclusions regarding the effectiveness of pepper spray..

    Awareness of bear behavior is the key to mitigating potential danger. Detecting signs of a bear and avoiding interaction, or understanding defensive bear behaviors, like bluff charges, are the best ways of escaping injury. The Service supports the pepper spray policy of the Inter-agency Grizzly Bear Committee, which states that bear spray is not a substitute for following proper bear avoidance safety techniques, and that bear spray should be used as a deterrent only in an aggressive or attacking confrontation with a bear. Like seat-belts, bear spray saves lives. But just as seat-belts don’t make driving off a bridge safe, bear spray is not a shield against deliberately seeking out or attracting a grizzly bear. No deterrent is 100% effective, but compared to all others, including firearms, proper use of bear spray has proven to be the best method for
    fending off threatening and attacking bears, and for preventing injury to the person and animal involved.

    Just remember Because the grizzly bear is federally protected in the Lower 48 States as a threatened species, it is a violation of the Endangered Species Act(ESA)to shoot one, except in self defense and defense of others during an imminent attack. Penalties under the ESA include up to 6 months in prison and a $100,000 fine. Additional penalties may also apply to violations of state law.


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