What to Do if A Bear Attacks
Bear attacks are not all that common in the United States but they happen often enough for us to take notice. When a bear does attack, it is usually a big story… at least in the area that the attack occurs. The reason for this is because bear attacks are often gruesome and tragic. When you put an animal that has the size and weapons of a bear in close proximity with a human being, the results can be catastrophic. Most of us will never even see a bear in the wild. Still, we should certainly know what to do when and if a bear ever attacks.
Here are some tips for the two primary bears found in North America….the grizzly and the black bear. The polar bear is ommitted simply because of it’s rarity.
The Black Bear
The black bear is not one to attack humans as a rule. They are not nearly as defensive of their bear cubs as the larger grizzly bear and will most often move away quickly if they come into contact with a human. There are, however, exceptions. Black bears pretty much only attack when they are doing so on purpose. Either they feel threatened, or they are extremely rarely attacking you for food. Because the motivation is to attack, the common advice is to fight with all of your might when a black bear attacks.
The best way to fight is to go after the few areas that are weakest on a bear. These include the eyes, ears and snout. Keep in mind that you will need to protect your neck, head and scalp when possible so this is no easy task. Using bear spray, a gun or in a pinch a good sized rock or stick is advisable whenever possible. Whatever you have to do, fight like mad. The bear is not likely to stop if it is attacking.
The Grizzly Bear
The grizzly is a different animal altogether. They are far more likely to attack you as a food source and they are extremely defensive of their cubs and food sources. If you come upon a grizzly and she has her cubs nearby, you are probably going to have a very bad day. The same holds true to a lesser degree for a food source such as a fresh kill. Grizzlies attack in two ways. One is predatory and the other is defensive. You have to quickly assess the situation to know how to react in an attack.
If the bear has her cubs with her and attacks, she is trying to simply neutralize the threat. For this reason, bear experts say to play dead rather than fight back. This is because the bear generally will stop fighting and move on if it thinks you are no longer a threat. Her concern is to get her cubs or food to safety. If a grizzly bear is attacking you as a food source, however, the decision to play dead could be deadly. It only takes one well placed paw swipe or bite for a grizzly to kill you. For this reason, you should fight the grizzly if you have any doubt about it’s intentions. If you saw no cub and no food source, odds are you need to fight for your life.
There are a few things that apply to both bears. One, you should try to make yourself large and intimidating when you can. Be loud as you go through the woods. Bears will generally not attack you unless you surprise them. They will often move away long before you know they are there if you make noise.
If you do come face to face with a bear, make yourself large and never….ever…..run. Bears are faster and more agile than you even though they may not look it. If you run, you will trigger them to attack. You are acting like food…so they will treat you like food. Also, never climb a tree. This is another situation where the bear is much better than you. The last thing you want is to be knocked out of a tree by a bear.