Travel Trivia

Lions Tigers & Bears . . . Oh My!

[aka] what to do if you come across a bear while hiking or camping

Winter of 2013 I had my first (and to this date only) in person bear sighting.

I was just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina in one of my favorite spots and as I came around the corner I had to swerve to avoid hitting a fluffy bundle of black fur . . . it was bounding across the street in a playful waddle of cuteness that made me pull over to avert any oncoming traffic . . . just as it had safely reached the other side and I was gearing up to go,  mama bear came tearing into the road and showed me that body language is truly universal . . .  that baby was being scolded irate-grandma-style, but all the while she was looking around and glaring with an unequivocal stare of don’t-you-dare-mess-with-us look that made me glad to be clear of their path in the road . . . it left me wondering . . .

”  what would I do I if I came across a bear during a hike ?

um . . . yes . . . I have a visual of me running, kicking and screaming and flailing my arms wildly . . . but it turns out this would be the worst possible thing I could do  . . .

apparently, the most important thing to remember is . . .

DO NOT RUN . . . seriously . . .

this could trigger their predatory instinct and that would be bad very very bad – did you know that a bear can cover 100 yards in 7 seconds . . .  yup . . . so you have to

REMAIN CALM . . . and assess! . . .

  • if the bear is not aware of you, quietly and calmly leave the area to avoid detection – do not – under any circumstance stop for a selfie
  • if the bear is aware of you let them know you are human . . . no really . . . talk in a calm voice and put your arms to the side and slowly move them up and down . . . you want them to know you are not another bear . . . but you also want to AVOID EYE CONTACT . . . no direct staring
  • if you’re lucky, the bear will just walk away, allowing you to walk away in THE OPPOSITE direction
  • if he looks at you but doesn’t approach, then back away – slowly – best not to turn your back on them until you can’t see them anymore
  • if the bear approaches you, stop and stand your ground calmly – look for clues as to his intentions . . .
  • a defensive bear feels threatened – it may woof, chomp, growl, weave head, charge suddenly or smack its lips and salivate – chances are it is protecting something, so as you back away his human alarm may dissipate and you can both go on your merry way
  • worse case scenario . . . and quite frankly, in my opinion, REQUIRES NERVES OF STEEL and I hope that no-one reading this is ever faced with this situation  . . .

but . . . if you are attacked by a bear then . . .

PLAY DEAD . . . really . . . possum pose . . .

it is your best defense to lay flat on the ground FACE DOWN and cover your face and neck with your arms . . . if the bear rolls you over keep rolling until you are face down again . . . don’t make any noise and don’t move until the bear is well away . . .

Honestly, I hope to NEVER EVER have to put this to the test . . .

but I will say that my research on this subject led me to add BEAR SPRAY to my Betty stash . . . and if you’re going to be in bear country it would be wise to do the same . . . just make sure you know how to use it and that it has an EPA registration number to identify that it is certified as being effective . . .

 * it should be noted that this guidance is based on Grizzly bear knowledge and according to  some bear experts now recommend that anybody attacked by a black bear should fight as the bear is probably not acting defensively.

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