Travel Tip of the Day: Staying Safe around Bears

GrizzlyStaying Safe around Bears
On Friday, a hiker was killed by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park. The authorities believe he came between an adult female grizzly and her cub, which is a big no-no. According to CNN, “deadly encounters between bears and humans are rare in national parks and national forests. Four fatalities were reported from 2010 to 2014. This is the only bear encounter for the year.”

I’m not a huge hiker but I am going to be visiting Yellowstone next month, so I’ve begun researching tips on staying safe around bears. Here’s what I found on The National Park Service’s website:

1. Bear encounters
“Once a bear has noticed you and is paying attention to you, additional strategies can help prevent the situation from escalating:

  • Identify yourself by talking calmly so the bear knows you are a human and not a prey animal. Remain still; stand your ground but slowly wave your arms. Help the bear recognize you as a human. It may come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better look or smell. A standing bear is usually curious, not threatening.
  • Stay calm and remember that most bears do not want to attack you; they usually just want to be left alone. Bears may bluff their way out of an encounter by charging and then turning away at the last second. Bears may also react defensively by woofing, yawning, salivating, growling, snapping their jaws, and laying their ears back. Continue to talk to the bear in low tones; this will help you stay calmer, and it won’t be threatening to the bear. A scream or sudden movement may trigger an attack. Never imitate bear sounds or make a high-pitched squeal.
  • Pick up small children immediately.
  • Hike and travel in groups. Groups of people are usually noisier and smellier than a single person. Therefore, bears often become aware of groups of people at greater distances, and because of their cumulative size, groups are also intimidating to bears.
  • Make yourselves look as large as possible (for example, move to higher ground).
  • Do NOT allow the bear access to your food. Getting your food will only encourage the bear and make the problem worse for others.
    Do NOT drop your pack as it can provide protection for your back and prevent a bear from accessing your food. If the bear is stationary, move away slowly and sideways; this allows you to keep an eye on the bear and avoid tripping. Moving sideways is also non-threatening to bears. Do NOT run, but if the bear follows, stop and hold your ground. Bears can run as fast as a racehorse both uphill and down. Like dogs, they will chase fleeing animals. Do NOT climb a tree. Both grizzlies and black bears can climb trees.
  • Leave the area or take a detour. If this is impossible, wait until the bear moves away. Always leave the bear an escape route.
  • Be especially cautious if you see a female with cubs; never place yourself between a mother and her cub, and never attempt to approach them. The chances of an attack escalate greatly if she perceives you as a danger to her cubs.

 

2. Bear attacks
Bear attacks are rare; most bears are only interested in protecting food, cubs, or their space. However, being mentally prepared can help you have the most effective reaction. Every situation is different, but below are guidelines on how brown bear attacks can differ from black bear attacks. Help protect others by reporting all bear incidents to a park ranger immediately. Above all, keep your distance from bears!

  • Brown/Grizzly Bears: If you are attacked by a brown/grizzly bear, leave your pack on and PLAY DEAD. Lay flat on your stomach with your hands clasped behind your neck. Spread your legs to make it harder for the bear to turn you over. Remain still until the bear leaves the area. Fighting back usually increases the intensity of such attacks. However, if the attack persists, fight back vigorously. Use whatever you have at hand to hit the bear in the face.
  • Black Bears: If you are attacked by a black bear, DO NOT PLAY DEAD. Try to escape to a secure place such as a car or building. If escape is not possible, try to fight back using any object available. Concentrate your kicks and blows on the bear’s face and muzzle.”

 

FYI: The photo of the grizzly above was taken by my sister on her trip up to Canada’s Jasper National Park a few year’s back.

 

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Johnny Jet

I used to be afraid to fly and at times even leave the house! I conquered my fear (long story) and now I travel to 20+ countries a year sharing my firsthand knowledge, tips and deals with friends, family and readers. Please sign up to our free newsletters and tell your friends!

5 Comments on "Travel Tip of the Day: Staying Safe around Bears"

  1. Charles Bingham | August 10, 2015 at 12:14 pm | Reply

    Bear spray is effective for black bears and many think for Grizzly bears as well.
    Many wear bells on their ankles to let the bears know they are in the area and to keep from surprising them.
    Alaska Fish and Game has this to say
    http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=livingwithbears.bearcountry
    I also carry a pistol when I am in Grizzly country.

  2. Your advice is very good, and it is too bad that the man who was killed didn’t follow any of it, actually it is very upsetting because he was an an experienced hiker who knew he was hiking in an area frequented by bears. But you forgot to mention to carry bear spray! Bear spray is the most effective “weapon” against a grizzly bear attack, it will stop them in their tracks long enough for you to get away. A gun is much less effective, unless you are a VERY experienced marksman who is good under pressure you are very unlikely to hit a bear in a spot that will kill them before they serious injury you. The bear spray should be used as a last resort and can only be used once the bear is actually charging you, but since it goes out over a small area the bear will run into it. The best advice is to hike in groups and to be talking, there is no need to be yelling, but the bear will then know you are there and 99% of the time they will leave the area.

    Hope you have a great trip to Yellowstone! Glad to know you’ll be in my area!

  3. Couple of quick comments. Bears exist in places other than National Parks, e.g. there are black bears in both the San Bernardino Mountains of So CA and in the Lake Tahoe area of No CA area. With the major drought in CA they are coming down more frequently to “populated” areas where both food and water are more readily available. Second and just as important. DO NOT LEAVE ANY FOOD ITEMS in your cars including incidental items, e.g. a piece of chewing gum, potato chips, food wrappers especially where you might be parking your car over night. They are more than capable and ready to break through a locked window to access the food item. I assure you they are not gentle about getting it and the car interior is not made to stand up to a bears claws. Having said that, yes they do try to avoid human contact and bear spray is a good idea.

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