Hiking in Bear Country?

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You may be able to come out on top with these tips from the experts.

Noise and bear spray may be your best defense against a bear that is defending food or young, or a bear that is startled. But NPS says fight like your life depends on it (it does!) when attacked by a predatory bear.

grizzly-bear Credit: Nagel Photography

Hiking in Bear Country? How to Prevent an Attack

The experts have tips for how to come out on top after a face to face with a towering bear.


The NPS offered several ways to prevent bear attacks. First off, be aware of signs that bears may be nearby. Hikers can look for fresh tracks or scat, as well as feeding sites, which include diggings, torn-up logs and ripped-open anthills. Avoid carcasses and don’t leave lunchboxes unattended, as a bear may find the food first.

During the summer, bears are most active during the cooler hours during dawn, dusk and nighttime. Try to avoid hiking during these times when going into bear country, the NPS said.

Once the hike is underway, periodically yell, “Hey bear” to alert animals that there are humans nearby, which will give them time to leave the area. A feeding bear might not notice people right away, and it’s best not to startle them.

If a bear doesn’t notice a hiker, the person still has time to get away. “Keep out of sight and detour as far as possible behind and downwind of the bear,” the NPS said. “If the bear sees you, retreat slowly and leave the area.”

Under no circumstances should a person run away or try to climb a tree. Both can provoke a bear to give chase, and they’re fast animals and expert tree climbers, according to the NPS.

Safety in loudness and numbers can also help, according to the NPS. Since 1970, 91 percent of people injured by bears were hiking alone or with one partner, and just 9 percent of those hurt by bears were in groups of three or more people, the NPS reported.

Charging bears

If a bear sees and charges at a hiker, it’s best to stay still and “stand your ground,” the NPS said.

“Most of the time, if you do this, the bear is likely to break off the charge or veer away,” the NPS said.

If the bear gets within 40 feet (12 meters), start spraying pepper or bear spray.  But, if the bear continues to charge, it’s time to play dead, the NPS said.

Timing is incredibly important. A bear can still veer off at the last moment, so a person should play dead only within a nanosecond of making contact with the bear.

“Drop to the ground; keep your pack on to protect your back,” the NPS said. “Lie on your stomach, face down, and clasp your hands over the back of your neck with your elbows protecting the sides of your face. Remain still and stay silent to convince the bear that you are not a threat to it or its cubs.”

Once the bear leaves, wait several minutes to make sure the bear and its cubs are no longer nearby. Then, cautiously get up and walk (don’t run) away.

If a bear does attack, don’t fight back. Fighting will only prolong the attack, and will likely result in more severe injuries, the NPS said. Since 1970, people who encountered bears in Yellowstone and played dead received minor injuries 75 percent of the time. People who fought back received very serious injuries 80 percent of the time, the park reported.

Predatory bears

The only time to pull a Rambo move is if a predatory bear — instead of a defensive bear protecting itself, its food or its cubs — is attacking. Predatory bear attacks are rare but usually aren’t preceded by warning signals, such as huffing or ground slapping, and the bear “will keep bearing in on you,” the NPS said.

“During a predatory attack, you should be aggressive and fight back using any available weapon (bear spray, rocks, sticks) to stop the aggression by the bear,” the NPS said. “Fight back as if your life depends on it, because it does. Predatory attacks usually persist until the bear is scared away, overpowered, injured or killed.”

So, what’s the take-away message?

“Play dead if a defensive bear makes contact,” the NPS said. “Always fight back against a predatory bear.”

By Laura Geggel , Read the full article: http://www.livescience.com/51821-grizzly-bear-attack-yellowstone.html
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