Spring means there are protective mother bears and cubs in the woods. Do you know how to avoid a black bear attack?
Imagine this scenario: you’re out on a solitary woodland stroll on a beautiful spring day. The weather is perfect, there aren’t any annoying mosquitoes yet, and the woods are teeming with life. As you come around a corner, suddenly a black bear sow and her cubs are 40 yards away. What do you do to avoid a black bear attack?
Given a recent opportunity to test these methods out, I can attest to their effectiveness.
Very few encounters actually result in a black bear attack. But getting between a mother and her cubs is one way to trigger aggressive behavior.
Check out the slideshow to see how to avoid a black bear attack:
First, the best tip is prevention. When walking through the woods, make noise. Talk out loud, give a shout once in a while, clap your hands – do whatever you can to announce your presence.
Though it’s unlikely you’ll surprise a bear, I learned that this theory isn’t bulletproof last weekend when I managed to surprise a mother and two cubs.
If you still stumble across a black bear, stay calm and quickly assess the situation. Are there cubs nearby? Is the bear feeding? In either case, raise your hands to appear larger, and calmly say something to let the bear know you see them.
I defaulted to, “Whoa bear,” but it obviously doesn’t matter what you say.
Walk – Don’t run
Consider slowly backing up to give the bear more room. As you likely heard growing up, walk – do not run. Running can trigger a predatory response. Plus, you can’t outrun or out-maneuver a bear in the woods anyway. In most cases, the bear will retreat by this point. If they do not, consider another route.
If the bear charges you, it may just be a bluff intended to scare you away and give them more room. If they charge at you more seriously, stare it back in the eyes, stand up tall and make yourself look as big as you can, and yell at the bear in a strong voice.
You may want to consider carrying a can of bear pepper spray if you routinely visit bear country. Wait until it is within 20 feet and aim the pepper spray slightly above the bear’s head. It will make its way into the eyes and nose and generally stall most black bear attacks.
If the bear is persistent, remember one thing: fight against black bears – do not “play dead” as you would with a brown bear.
Because if a black bear persists through all of the above, they are likely to try to kill. Punch, kick and use whatever you can (e.g., sticks, rocks, etc.) to fight the bear. Focus your blows on the nose and eyes, as these are the most vulnerable spots and no animal will risk losing an eye for a meal.
That all being said, black bear attacks are extremely unlikely. You’re much more likely to get attacked in the city than in the woods. Just keep these tips in the back of your mind, because you never know when you might need them.
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