Bear Encounters: Ways To Avoid, How To Respond (2024)

There are lots of simple steps you can take to discourage bears from getting into your stuff and avoid bear encounters. Teaching bears to associate cars, trails, campsites and people with food doesn’t just put a damper on your outdoor fun. It also creates unnecessary risk for you and your family and can have deadly consequences for bears. Doing your homework and taking some simple BearWise precautions now can help keep people safe and bears wild.

  • Lock It, Hide It Or Lose It
  • Earn The Clean Camp Award
  • Backcountry Camping
  • Let Bears Know You’re There
  • What Should You Do If You See A Black Bear?
  • Carry Bear Spray And Know How To Use It

Lock It, Hide It Or Lose It

Back to Top of List

Stash anything you’re leaving behind securely out of sight in your locked vehicle or food storage locker. A glimpse of a cooler or a sack full of snacks or the scent of fruit-flavored chewing gum or an empty bottle of energy drink could tempt a bear to explore your vehicle while you’re out exploring its home turf.Black bears are very strong with nimble claws and can easily open most unlocked car doors or peel down a partially open window.Leaving a window cracked open or an unlocked door is an invitation to come on in and see if there’s anything good to eat. But once inside, bears often have to chew and claw their way out. Why take chances? Stash, roll up and lock up before you leave.

Earn The Clean Camp Award

Back to Top of List

Odors of all sorts attract bears, whether you are camping in the backcountry or frontcountry:

  • Don’t store food, trash, the clothes you cooked or cleaned fish in or scented products, including toiletries, in your tent. Store these items in an approved bear-resistant locker or canister or properly hung according to local guidelines. BearWise recommendsat least10 feet from the ground and 10 feet from any part of the tree because black bears are great climbers and can really stretch out if they think they can snag some food.
  • If you’re in a drive-in campsite, store anything that could attract a bear out of sight in a locked vehicle with the windows rolled completely up.
  • Cook downwind and as far from your tent as practical. The gold standard is a 70-big-steps triangle between your sleeping, cooking and eating areas. Your fire ring or grill isn’t an incinerator; don’t burn food scraps or trash.
  • Don’t store or eat food or spray or slather on anything scented (including lip balm) in your tent. Resist the urge to go to sleep with a midnight snack tucked under your pillow. Keep a flashlight, whistle and bear spray in easy reach instead.

Backcountry Camping

Back to Top of List

Set up backcountry camps away from dense vegetation and sources of natural foods. If you’re camping in a backcountry site that shows evidence of a recent bear visit (scattered trash, torn up fire pit, piles of bear scat), leave the area, find another place to spend the night and alert the local authorities when you get back into cell phone reception.TIP:Don’t camp along a wildlife trail that goes through a big patch of berries.

Let Bears Know You’re There

Back to Top of List

Make noise periodically and most wildlife, including bears, will avoid you. Don’t rely on bear bells to alert bears to your presence. Your own voice is more effective. No need to continuously blast your air horn or whistle. Just use your outdoor voice to carry on a conversation, even if you’re only talking to yourself. Or burst into song now and then, especially when you’re hiking, jogging or cycling through dense vegetation, around blind curves or by a noisy stream where it might be easy to surprise a bear. Or vice versa.

What Should You Do If You See A Black Bear?

Back to Top of List

Seeing a black bear in the wild is an unforgettable experience. While bear attacks are very uncommon and black bears rarely become aggressive when encountered, knowing how to respond if you do see a bear will help you relax and appreciate these special moments.

  • If you see a bear before it notices you, stand still, observe and enjoy, then quietly move away.Never approach bearsor try to creep in closer for a close-up photo or better look.
  • If a bear sees you, stay calm, stay with your group and back away slowly.Never run; running can trigger a chase response and you can’t outrun a bear.
  • If a bear approaches, stand still, hold your ground, wave your arms and yell until it leaves. “Hey Bear” is a popular choice. If a bear continues to approach, use your bear spray.
  • In the unlikely event a black bear makes physical contact with you, fight back aggressively with anything at hand. Never play dead. People have successfully deterred bears with hiking poles, rocks, water bottles, binoculars and even their bare hands.

For more information,download the BearWise Outdoor Safety Tipsand order ourBearWise Outdoor Safety cards and whistlesthat are small enough to pack.

Carry Bear Spray And Know How To Use It

Back to Top of List

Bear spray has been proven to be the easiest and most effective way to deter a bear that threatens you. Bear spray is a deterrent; it doesn’t work like bug repellent.NEVERspray yourself or your tent, campsite or belongings.

Bear spray can’t help you if it’s buried in the bottom of your pack. Carry it in a handy holster or somewhere it’s quickly accessible. Check the expiration date before you leave home. And brush up on the bear spray basics so you understand how to use it effectively. Local regulations on using bear spray may vary, so know before you go. Visit ourbear spray pagefor more information.

Bears everywhere thank you for reading up on how to be BearWise outdoors. Have fun, stay safe and thanks for helping to keep bears wild.

Bear Encounters: Ways To Avoid, How To Respond (2024)


Bear Encounters: Ways To Avoid, How To Respond? ›

If a bear sees you, stay calm, stay with your group and back away slowly. Never run; running can trigger a chase response and you can't outrun a bear. If a bear approaches, stand still, hold your ground, wave your arms and yell until it leaves. “Hey Bear” is a popular choice.

How do you respond to a bear encounter? ›

Slowly wave your arms above your head and tell the bear to back off. Do NOT run or make any sudden movements. Do not make any loud noises or screams—the bear may think it's the sound of a prey animal. Hike and travel in groups.

What scares bears away? ›

Recommended methods to “Scare the Bear” are to make loud noises (such as yelling, blowing a whistle, using an air horn), or use motion-activated devices like visual and audio alarms or water sprinklers, which can deter bears without anyone being present.

What do you do if you encounter a black bear? ›

Never run away from or approach them. Make yourself look as big as possible by spreading your arms or, better yet, a coat. Make as much noise as possible by yelling, banging pots and pans or using other noisemaking devices. If the bear approaches and you have bear spray, spray the bear as they approach.

What do you do if a bear cub approaches you? ›

Stand your ground. Try to appear large by holding up your arms and jacket, and/or standing on a rock or stump. Back away only when the bear stops its approach.

How can I be friendly with bears? ›

Go on, approach it! Toss any human food you might have nearby towards the bear as a friendly offering. He's probably never tasted anything this good! Bears are naturally curious and empathetic, and hate to feel left out — so if you see a bear running, you should start running, too.

What is a bear most scared of? ›

Humans, very often. When bears and humans meet, usually the bear is just as frightened as the person. Most bear attacks happen when the person accidentally gets close to the cubs, or even more rarely when a very large bear is very hungry and very desperate.

What triggers bear attacks? ›

Most bear attacks result from hunters suddenly appearing in front of them, startling a bear into an instinctive act of aggression. A bear's first reaction upon detecting a human is to run away.

What attracts a bear the most? ›

Fruit, nuts, honey and other plant parts are favorites of bear. They also eat insects and sometimes fish, but most of their food comes from plants. Bears have an excel- lent sense of smell, and can easily find food using their noses. Bears are attracted by smells, and almost everything smells like food to a bear!

What smell do bears hate? ›

Some people place cups of household ammonia around their site. Apparently the odor irritates a bear sufficiently to keep it out of your site.

How do you defend yourself against a bear? ›

If a black bear charges and attacks you, FIGHT BACK WITH EVERYTHING YOU HAVE! Do not play dead. Direct punches and kicks at the bear's face, and use any weapon like rocks, branches, or bear spray to defend yourself. If a grizzly/brown bear charges and attacks you, PLAY DEAD.

What is the best bear deterrent? ›

The 2 most effective bear deterrents are bear spray and noisemakers. Carry both when in bear country. Noisemakers are best used to deter a bear that is at a distance – one that sees you and continues to approach or one that is heading to your camp or settlement.

What to do if a bear charges at you? ›

Standing Your Ground: Never run away! Running may trigger an instinctive reaction to chase you. If the bear charges, stand your ground. Playing Dead: Playing dead should only be used if you are sure the bear will make contact.

What if a black bear is chasing you? ›

Alter your route or back away slowly, preferably in the direction you came. Walk, do not run, and keep your eye on the bear so you can see how it reacts. In most cases, the bear will flee. If the bear walks toward you, act boldly, yelling and throwing something at it.

What are your chances of surviving a bear encounter? ›

Thankfully, you only have a one in a 2.1 million chance of being attacked by a bear. Not so thankfully, your odds of dying after being attacked by a grizzly bear is 11%. Playing dead is the best way to avoid a grizzly attack. But you might have to stand your ground and fight back if it doesn't back off.

What are you supposed to say to a bear? ›

Although you may feel silly at first, walking down a trail (especially when you have low visibility) and shouting “Hey Bear!” is extremely effective. Most of the time, the bear will move to get out of your way because they are just as scared of you as you are of them.

What do you yell when you see a bear? ›

Here are some examples of things you can yell: HEY BEAR!! GO BEAR!!! GET OUT OF HERE BEAR!!

What to do if you see a bear saying? ›

Although the bear safety rhyme “If it's brown, lay down. If it's black, fight back. If it's white, goodnight” sounds like good advice, you have to know why a bear is attacking you before you can decide the best way to respond.

How do you react if you encounter a polar bear? ›

If a bear does not know you are there: t Quietly back away and leave the area either in the direction you came, or make a wide detour around the bear. Do not run, move quickly or make motions that might attract the bear's attention. t Stay downwind, so the bear cannot smell you and detect your presence.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Catherine Tremblay

Last Updated:

Views: 6282

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (67 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Catherine Tremblay

Birthday: 1999-09-23

Address: Suite 461 73643 Sherril Loaf, Dickinsonland, AZ 47941-2379

Phone: +2678139151039

Job: International Administration Supervisor

Hobby: Dowsing, Snowboarding, Rowing, Beekeeping, Calligraphy, Shooting, Air sports

Introduction: My name is Catherine Tremblay, I am a precious, perfect, tasty, enthusiastic, inexpensive, vast, kind person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.