Surviving Bear Encounters, 3 Dangerous Misconceptions


What’s not to love about bears? They look extremely cuddly, their ears are simply adorable, theirs cubs are just the cutest, they could maul you to death… On second thought, that’s definitely something not to love. You know what would be even worse, though? Being mauled to death by a bear because you listened to some offhand remark that turned out to be blatantly wrong about what you should do in such a situation. Here are 3 dangerously common misconceptions about bear encounters that could get you killed.

Bears will leave you alone if you play dead

“If you run into a bear, play dead until it gets bored and leaves you alone.” This is perhaps one of, if not the most, widespread misconceptions out there and I’m willing to wagger that you too have heard it at least once in your life. You don’t want to provoke a dangerous wild animal, that’s true, but this? This is synonymous with offering yourself to them on a silver platter. If a predatory bear has decided it wants to have you for dinner then you’d better believe it won’t care whether it killed you itself or you were already dead when it got to you.

That being said, there is one situation where playing dead is actually a good idea and may save your life. If you’re attacked by a mother grizzly bear protecting its cubs, playing dead is one of the ways you can show her that you’re not a threat. She will be more concerned with getting her cubs to safety than engaging you, so she’ll just leave you be. This is the one and only situation where playing dead won’t immediately get you killed.

Bears can’t run downhill

This piece of advice came from the belief that a bear’s short forelegs will impede it from giving chase downhill, and if they do try to do so they will end up a tumbling mess. Despite this impression, they don’t actually have any such issues and can run downhill just as well as they can run uphill.

In fact, running away from a bear in general is a bad idea, and there are two reasons for that. The first one is that, despite their impressive size, they are actually quite fast; they don’t have good endurance, but they can reach 60 km/h when sprinting over short distances. The second one is that seeing you run will activate their chase response and they will only stop pursuing you if something blocks their way. So, unless you can run faster than a bear, which I doubt, or there is someplace you can take shelter really close to you, don’t even think about running away.

Bears can’t climb trees

Having the high ground works in your favour in most scenarios, but when it comes to bears you may want to rethink this strategy. They are more athletic than you might think, and you’d be wrong to assume that you’ll be safe if you climb the nearest tree. They are very likely to follow you and once they do you’ll have nowhere else to go. You might have as well have run into a dead end, but even that would have been comparatively better, because it wouldn’t have involved inevitably plummeting to your death.

Hopefully you won’t come face to face with any bears in the foreseeable future, but if you do you now know what actions you should definitely not take. What’s that, you’d like to know the best course of action for surviving being mistaken for salmon? Be on the lookout for my next article, where I’ll tell you about what you should actually do if you want to leave the forest in one piece!


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