What To Do If You See A Bear While Hiking

Last updated and verified on February 24th, 2023

The sightings of bears in the wild typically turn out fine. Like all wild animals, they remain away from humans and are frequently scared away.

However, bears can be unpredictable and unpredictable. Knowing the right thing to do could make a difference in your life. Here’s an overview of what to do if you encounter a bear while hiking and the best way to avoid encountering a bear.

Are Bears Dangerous To Humans?

Bears are large and heavy, and they could easily take down a person. Since bears are wild, they can be unpredictable. Also, all bears pose a danger to humans.

However, they’re not all equally dangerous. The level of danger will depend on the kind of bear (black-brown, brown, or polar) and how hungry it is, and how scared it is.

Whether camping or hiking, if you are outdoors, think that all bears are risky and could injure you.

Use every precaution you can and, more important, be prepared to respond if you spot an animal.

Being cautious isn’t only essential for your security. It also helps protect the bear. Bears who assault humans are at risk of being killed by park authorities.

Which Is The Most Dangerous Kind Of Bear?

There are three kinds of bears found in North America: black bears, brown bears (which comprise the subspecies of grizzly), and polar bears.

  • Black bears are considered to be the safest. They’ll avoid humans and are often intimidated away. It is easy to identify the black bear from straight shoulders (no hump), pointed ears, and straight sloping faces.
  • Brown bears/grizzlies are larger and more robust than black bears and, therefore, more dangerous. It is easy to identify brown bears by their shoulder hump and rounded ears, curving faces, and larger body.
  • Polar bears typically appear as white. Except for Alaska or a small portion of Canada, there is no chance of seeing Polar bears in the continental US. Polar bears are among the most deadly types of bears and aren’t easily spooked away.

What Should You Do If You See Bears While Hiking?

If you hike in bear territory, you might see a bear. They’re challenging to find because they’re active most in the morning and later at night.

You don’t need to be worried about coming across bears.

However, even if you happen to encounter a bear, you aren’t required to take action even if it’s far away. You can stop and look at the bear but keep about 200-300 feet from the bear.

However, if the bear is nearby and has noticed your presence, you must be cautious about what you do the next time. Try to appear as calm and friendly as you can. If that doesn’t work, your only option is to try to intimidate the bear.

Here are some suggestions for what to do if you spot bears when hiking:

If it’s in a remote location and hasn’t seen you, don’t stop, but keep a close watch on it if it changes behavior.

Stand and gaze at it straight on if the bear is nearby and has spotted your presence. Move your arms slowly to ensure the bear can recognize you as a human (bears generally don’t view human beings as their prey/dinner).

Do not crouch or bend because the bear may consider you an animal and threaten you. If you own a pet or children, you should pick them up immediately. Dogs should be on a leash.

Calmly talk to the bear. If the bear is still, you should not yell or shout, as the bear might perceive this as a sign of danger and confrontation in the wrong manner.

When keeping your eyes open while keeping eye contact, slowly walk either sideways or backward away from the bear. The more you walk sideways, the better because you’re less likely to fall.

Don’t cross paths with the mama bear with her children. Bears who protect their cubs will swiftly attack any threat she perceives to be.

Keep bear spray on your person, and be prepared to apply when a bear gets close.

No matter what you do, don’t try to escape a bear when it’s threatening you. This triggers the natural hunt instinct in bears, which means there’s no chance you can outrun the bear.

One of the most crucial things you can do when encountering a bear is to remain calm. Bears generally need to be left alone and will not attack unless they feel threatened.

What Should You Do If A Black Bear Approaches You

Black bears are among the most peaceful kind of bears. If a black bear begins moving toward you, it’s likely simply curious and examining whether you pose an enemy.

Keep your distance and remain relaxed while speaking to it using a regular human tone. Don’t shout, yell, or imitate an animal sound.

Keep your bear spray on hand, and ready to deploy it if the bear is within 30 feet of your location.

If the bear continues to approach, move to intimidation strategies. You should make yourself appear big and be as loud as you can.

It is also possible to throw stones and sticks at it. If the cubs are not in danger, bears are more likely to walk away from an argument.

If the bear is too close to you or threatens you, you can use the spray for bears to attempt to deter it.

If you don’t have any bear spray, or it’s not working for the bear you need, you must fight to save your own life. Protect your head and neck from injury as you strike the bear in its nose, eyes, and other sensitive areas.

Be loud and as aggressive as you can.

Don’t try climbing the tree to escape from a bear. They’re excellent climbers.

What Should You Do If A Brown Bear Approaches You

Stay calm, and don’t panic when a bear with grizzly fur starts coming toward you. Speak to the bear and keep eye contact.

If the bear stops, move towards it, either sideways or backward. It. If the bear is moving toward you, stand your ground and have a can of bear spray ready.

If the bear comes too close, you can use the spray on the bear. This is the best defense against an attack by a grizzly.

If you do not have bear spray, or it’s not effective against the bear, your next ideal option is to play dead. Relax on your stomach, and put your hands on your neck to shield your spine.

Keep calm, pray that the bear does not see your presence as an imminent threat, and then walk away. Be still for 20 minutes until you’re confident that the grizzly has gone.

Do not try to fight a grizzly bear physically. You’ll likely be defeated. A male adult grizzly could weigh more than 700 pounds and quickly kill you.

What Should You Do If A Polar Bear Approaches You

The positive is that most Americans won’t ever meet a polar bear in the US since they can only be located in Alaska. Why did we have to buy Alaska from Russia?

Contrary to popular belief, polar bears are not known to pursue humans. The attacks of polar bears happen typically by hungry and young bears or mother bears who protect their cubs.

The same ‘be calm, be calm, speak to the bear and keep eye contact’ techniques that work for grizzlies and black bears may also be effective for polar bears.

However, if you’re unlucky and find yourself in the path of hungry polar bears, there aren’t many options.

An arctic hare that is hungry can be extremely dangerous and will instantly consider you prey. The fear of being intimidated isn’t effective on polar bears; neither is playing dead.

If a bear in the polar region attacks you, the best defense is spraying the bear. If this fails, you must fight for your life.

How To Avoid A Bear Attack?

The best way to protect yourself when hiking in bear-friendly areas is to stay clear of an encounter with bears at all costs.

Here are some easy ways to avoid encountering a bear on your trip:

A group hike is a great way to go. The bears will be less likely to confront or attack an entire large group. The increased volume and smell of a larger group warn bears of humans from a distance, giving them the chance to move away.

In areas where there are known bear sightings, or in areas where the bears could be found, create noise by speaking, singing, or even wearing bells for bears. This will stop you from attracting a bear’s attention and triggering an attack. If a bear is aware you’re coming, it will be less likely to attack you.

Beware of hiking in the bear territory with dogs in particular, as they could cause the bear to attack.

Bring any food items and scent-laden items in an odor-proof bag to ensure that they do not attract bears. If you’re using a bear canister, put food items in odor-proof bags first, as the bear canister by itself does not stop a bear from scenting food.

Be sure to stick to trails marked and paths, especially ones used frequently. Bears are generally not far from places where people tend to be.

Can I Use A Firearm To Prevent A Bear Attack?

Parks do not permit the use of guns within their limits. According to the National Park Service, in any event, guns are not the most effective defense against a bear attack.

A firearm is more likely to cause injury instead of killing a bear. A wounded bear is riskier as it will become more desperate to survive.

If you kill a bear, it’s not the best as it could be detrimental to bears. Bear spray is the ideal weapon. It’s incredibly effective, anybody can benefit from it, and it safeguards both the bear and you.

A bear doesn’t know what it is doing is wrong. You are likely invading its territory, or it thinks you are a threat to its cubs.

Written by Den Kyle and edited by David Myer.

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David Boyd
David Boyd

I love travelling, experiencing other cultures, eating copious amounts of food and checking out the nearest surf spot.

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