How to Survive a Bear Attack
Being attacked by a bear is a very imposing thing to consider. The size, strength and power of a black, brown or polar bear can literally take us apart in seconds. The good news is, the vast majority of bears want absolutely nothing to do with us. Bears usually attack us when they are either scared, starving, sick or feeling territorial with cubs or territory. There are many factors that affect what to do in a bear attack, but here are some solid general rules to follow to deal with bears in the wild. Polar bears are omitted because they are extremely rare and are found in habitats that get little human traffic:
Note: These tips apply to the brown bear (grizzly) and the black bears of North America unless otherwise noted.
Come prepared with bear spray
When you head out into bear country, make absolutely certain you carry this spray. It can and will save your life in a bear attack. When you use bear spray, you should let it fly before the bear is upon you so that the bear has to cross into it before it gets to you.
Know the species in your area
There are some differences in how you deal with grizzlies as opposed to black bears so knowing what kind of bear you might run into is important. This also is true about identification. Study up on the two species and know what you might encounter when in bear country.
Don’t surprise a bear
Don’t go looking for an encounter, but don’t be creeping through the woods either. Bumping into a bear in the woods and spooking it could very easily trigger an attack. Coming up on a mother bear with her cubs will almost certainly cause an attack. Cubs are an instant sign to get away. If you see cubs, slowly back away and get out of the area. Otherwise, make noise as you go though the woods and hike. If you see a bear but it does not see you, slowly back out of the area.
Know how to react if you come upon a bear
Assuming the bear sees you, how you react will likely determine what happens next. Bears are generally not going to view you as a food source unless you act like food. Turning and running is the worst thing you can do. Food runs away and bears react instinctively on this movement. The bear will outrun you anyway as they are incredibly fast and agile. This is where the species begin to differ.
With a grizzly – Stand tall but do not make noises or appear threatening. Often the bear will vacate the area. If not, the bear will either be charging for hunger or to stop what they perceive as a threat. When the bear charges and it is clear it is attacking, the best thing you can do is drop to the ground. Don’t fight back. Go to the fetal position and pull your knees tightly to your neck. Cover the back of your neck with your hands and arms and wait out the attack. Once the bear feels you are no longer a threat they will often leave you alone.
Make sure the bear is gone for a full fifteen to twenty minutes before you get up as they often linger in hiding to make sure you are dead. If the grizzly doesn’t stop attacking, they may be attempting to feed on you. At this point you should try to gouge the bear’s eyes and hit them in the snout. This is your best shot.
With a black bear – When a black bear sees you, make loud noises and make yourself seem as large as possible. Black bears are much more likely to simply go away and that increases if they see you as big and scary. If a black bear attacks, you should fight back with all that is in you. You are much better off trying to fend off a black bear than laying down.
These are the basics of surviving a bear attack and it really boils down to common sense. Bears are wonderful animals that are generally going to leave us alone if we do the same. It is a good idea to always be prepared and to consider what is around us in nature. That is exactly what the bears are doing, after all….simply protecting their territory and food sources. Respect that and be aware and you will be just fine.