Bear Country 101; What To Do If You See A Bear

 Photo via

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The heart of the Pacific Northwest knows no shortage of bears. It does however, seem to know a shortage of those who know what to do and how to act in bear country. While bears generally want nothing to do with you, we can guarantee no one wants to push the buttons of a 1000-pound Grizzly.

Things to keep in mind:

Invest in some bear spray before entering bear country. Know how and when to use it. 

Put your iPhone away and pay attention to your surroundings.

Feel the wind. If you are hiking into the wind, your scent will not reach bears ahead of you and the chances of encounter are higher. Be aware and consider making more warning noise.

Feel the land. Hiking across open meadows, ridges, or hillsides provides the opportunity for spotting bears at a distance. Hiking in gullies, thick forests, or along streams masks noise and scent and increases possibility of encounters.

If camping, cook at least 100m away from your tent and leave your campsite spotless before calling it a night. Remove all reasons for a bear to visit your location looking for food.

If you see a bear:

If you notice a bear at a distance, stay calm and assess your situation. Give the bear a wide privacy space - make a very wide detour or go back the way you came and take a different route.

If the bear is close, it will require more immediate action and evaluation of the situation:

Get your bear spray out if you have it. Talk in a calm, but loud voice, for the bear to hear you.

Have you or your group slowly back away, the same direction from which you came if possible. But, don't run away. Turning your back and fleeing will initiate the bears predator response. 

Be ready for a 'bluff' charge where the bear lunges at you, but then stops. The bear is trying to scare you off. Continue to back away calmly without losing your cool and turning to run.

A bear that is initially curious or testing you may become predatory if you do not stand up to it. 

Occasionally a bear may approach you in a non-defensive manner, and very rarely may see you as potential prey. Ensure you know the difference, judge the bears actions. If it is a young bear, it may simply be curious. Stand your ground, talking or yelling loudly (firm and calm, not panic). If the bear attacks:

Act aggressively. Look it straight in the eyes and let it know you will fight if attacked. Shout! Make yourself look as big as possible. Stamp your feet and take a step or two toward the bear.

If you are in a group, stay close together. You will appear more menacing this way. Threaten the bear with whatever is handy (stick, pole, bear spray). The more the bear persists, the more aggressive your response should be.

If the bear attacks, use your deterrent and fight for your life. Under the rare chances you may be victim to such an attack, us your deterrent and if needed, concentrate your attack on the face, eyes and nose. 

What To Do If You See A Bear