You may remember seeing an article on misconceptions about bears a while ago, telling you about what not to do if you ever happen to bump into one. If you do, you may also remember my promise to also talk about things you should actually be doing if you wanted to survive such an encounter. As I am a man of my word, here are four things you could do to boost your chances of living to tell the tale, which I’d like to preface by saying that they are highly situational, and what you should do to get away safe heavily depends on the nature of the encounter.
Slowly and steadily back away
Whether it has already seen you or not, attract its attention. Definitely don’t start yelling like a caveman, but make a reasonable amount of noise in order to get the bear’s attention, as you really don’t want to end up spooking it while retreating. Then, start backing up slowly. We’ve already gone over why running away from a bear, unless you can get to cover real quick, is a bad idea, no matter how you look at it in the previous article. Just keep on walking backwards until you’re out of its sight.
Do not turn your back on it, do not stare and it and do not impede its access to an exist, food or its cubs while backing away, or you’ll end up provoking it.
Watch out for any and all signs
Most often than not, you will be able to deduce an approaching bear’s following actions based on its body language. It may be hard to concentrate in the heat of the moment, but it’s crucial that you pay attention to all the details if you want to accurately predict everything.
Is the bear slapping the ground with its paws? Is it huffing and popping its jaw? These are signs that it isn’t looking for a fight, but simply wants to intimidate you away. The bear might charge you, and you will also be able to tell whether it’s bluffing or not depending on its body language: a hopping or bouncing motion is indicative of a bluff charge, and it will also hold its head up.
If those motions are absent, its head held down, legs stiff and ears pointing forward, then its not playing any games and fully intends to pin you to the ground.
Keep calm and stand your ground if the bear approaches you
If you have bear spray on you, use it as a deterrent, and be particularly careful to spray it in its eyes and nose for maximum effect. If you do not have any, roll onto your stomach, cover the back of your neck with your hands, stay still, and play dead. The position is crucial, as it keeps your vital organs safe in case the bear messes with you a little in order to gauge how much of a threat you are. It will eventually lose interest and go on its merry way.
The best defence is a good offense (when all else fails)
The strategy above may work in most cases, but it can’t be guaranteed. Things are more likely to work out in your favour if you met a grizzly bear rather than a black one, for instance. If you happen to meet an especially aggressive specimen, then you should not only stand your ground, you should also be ready to fight back. Look around for objects you could use as weapons, such as stones or a particularly sharp and sturdy fallen branch. Worst case scenario, you’ll have to punch and kick your way out of it.
This would be the gist of what to do if you come across a bear. Though, if you plan to travel through an area known for bear sighting or simply wish to learn more about this, I strongly encourage you to check parks’ official sites, as well as those of organizations dedicated to spreading awareness and studies on bears’ behaviour published along the years. It never hurts to know more about something that could save your life.