Everything you need to know about bear attacks especially when you’re in bear country.
With an average weight of 454 kg. (1,000 lbs.), and sharp claws, it’s obvious that bears can do some serious damage to the human body.
But the operative word here is ‘can’ not ‘will.’ They won’t just attack you out of nowhere.
In fact, human encounters with bears happen quite often yet aggressive behavior is rare and full-on bear attacks are even rarer.
Most bears would rather avoid you anyway as they are as frightened and as startled as you are to see them.
However, people are going deeper and deeper into bear territory, especially in the warm months for camping, fishing, hiking, etc. This means one thing: a higher probability of crossing paths with a bear. Knowing what to do in such situations can make the difference between life and possible death/severe injury.
For instance, in a worrisome development reported by National Geographic News, there were two back-to-back bear maulings in the US state of Alaska in a two-day period in June 2017. This is clearly an anomaly. A freak incident that has never happened with such frequency before.
Bear Attacks: The Usual Culprits
There are three main types of bears that have been implicated in the most number of bear attacks over the years: the polar bear, the grizzly bear, and the black bear.
- Grizzly bears have an identifiable hump on their shoulder right behind their head, while black bears have a smoother shoulder. Also, they have very large paws.
- The black bear has smaller claws, larger ears, and no visible shoulder hump. They tend to stay in forested areas.
- Polar bears live in Arctic areas. You won’t find them in the Interior. Their entire body (except the nose) is almost completely covered in transparent fur that appears white or light-colored. They are the largest bear species on Earth today.
A Few Tips For Preventing/Surviving Bear Attacks
Don’t Startle Or Surprise Them
- Don’t move through bear territory alone or silently. Try to travel in a large group and make some noise so any bears around are aware of your approach. A startled bear especially a mother with cubs may rush to attack you.
- While moving, pay attention to what’s happening around you: put away your phone and headphones so you’re alert always.
- Don’t forget your bear spray. This is a kind of industrial strength mace that is specifically designed to deter bear attacks. Bears have a very strong sense of smell. Users report that it is very effective.
Almost all recorded bear attacks in the wild have resulted from humans surprising the bear: Wikipedia.
When The Bear Is Already Approaching You:
- If it’s still some distance away, don’t look small. Stand up straight and try to look big. If you have on a jacket, take it off and wave it. This will encourage the bear to move along. It may just not be interested in you anyway.
- If it keeps coming at you, in the case of a black bear, do NOT turn your back on it and run because it can outrun you. It can run up to 40 miles per hour. Rather, back away slowly and keep your eyes on it always. Also, if you’re on a slope, better for you: bears have short stubby legs and cannot balance properly on a slope. This will give you an advantage.
- For a grizzly or polar bear: these bears are not to be messed with because of their sheer size. These are big and very powerful creatures. If you have bear spray use it and use it quickly. If not your best strategy is to curl up in a ball and play dead. Make sure that your hands are clasped behind/around your neck in case it tries to scratch your neck.
At this point, it may knock you around a bit, just remain still and don’t make any sound. It will eventually lose interest and move off. Make sure it has gone away before you try to stand up.
Using Weapons Or Not?
We DO NOT advocate killing wild animals so what you want to do is scare it off not kill it. So, if push comes to shove you can engage weapons.
If you have a gun, fire it into the air to make the bear run away. Other things that you could use as weapons are throwing dirt in its eyes, throwing large rocks and tree branches, or even your backpack.
Try your best to distract it and get it to move along. As best as possible, try to get out of its reach.
Hopefully, you won’t have to fight a bear and remember that they have as much right to be on this planet as we do. In most incidents of bear attacks, humans are the ones that stray or encroach into bear country.