Bear Safety When Hiking
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I grew up in Montana. This means I was told from a young age how to avoid ending up face to face with a bear. I can say in all my years of doing outdoor activities, I never have. Just in case I ever do, though, I also know some ways to protect myself if it should it happen. But, as everyone knows, prevention is the key to avoiding most issues in life so here are some of my best tips for bear safety when hiking.
Bear Safety When Hiking
Know the seasons bears are the most likely to be ready to defend themselves– In the Spring, bears will most likely feel the need to defend themselves because of their young and they are just waking up from hibernation. It is especially important to be on the lookout in the Spring for bears for this reason.
Always go in groups if possible-In groups, you will appear more threatening to a single bear (bears rarely travel in groups unless they are with young) Also, should something happen to one of you, you will have someone to fetch help. A group of people will also make more noise than a single person and scare off bears before you even see them. If you will be alone, wear bear bells or make a lot of noise.
Know that most bear encounters don’t end in injury– There are many encounters with bears each year and most of the time they don’t end in injury or attack. Bears want to escape as bad as you do when they encounter you.
If you encounter a bear, pick up small kids right away and don’t allow them to run– Do not allow kids to run towards or away from the bear. Instead, pick them up.
Never run from a bear or climb a tree– Bears can climb trees so you won’t be safe in one. Instead, stand your ground, and slowly wave your arms to let the bear know you are a human and you will not harm them, but are bigger than they are (even if you aren’t). They may stand on thier hind legs if curious. This doesn’t necessarily mean they will attack. To move away, step sideways slowly. If the bear continues to follow you, stop, stand your ground again and then began to move sideways until the bear retreats.
Bring bear spray with you- If you should encounter a bear that won’t retreat, this is something that will really come in handy. Bear spray is different than hornet spray and it needs to be made specifically for bears to work correctly. It is enough to disorient them so you can get away.
Playing dead is not always advisable– According to the National Park Service, here is what you should do with different species of 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.
Never get between a mother and her cubs– There is a reason the saying ‘mama bear’ means a ferocious mom who will protect her kids at all costs. Mother bears will attack if you get between her and her cubs so it is best to move away if you see a cub as you can bet his mother is nearby and may be watching you.