SAFETY IN BEAR
|...Sometimes in spite of our
good intentions we have unwanted encounters with bears.
...BE PREPARED. Plan how you are going to react when you meet
an inquisitive, intelligent, and potentially dangerous animal in the
backcountry--or in your neighborhood.
...BE PREDICTABLE. Many bears in Alaska have had interactions
with people. As our population increases this number will grow. What
a bear learns in one encounter influences what it does in the next.
Try to make every encounter positive-for you and the bear. If we want
bears to be non-threatening and predictable, it is important that we
reciprocate. BE CAREFUL. Bears don't like to be surprised. If
you are hiking in a place where you can't see, make your presence known
by talking or clapping your hands. If you are hunting you will probably
be walking very quietly. Move slowly and be especially alert.
...TRAVEL WITH A GROUP. While this isn't always practical, the
larger the group the smaller the risk of attack. Groups of people seem
to intimidate bears. Bears are more likely to approach one or two people
than larger groups. Keep close together. Being strung out along a trail
creates many groups of one.
...DON'T APPROACH BEARS . Moving towards a bear is aggressive
behavior-it forces the bear to react. If you inadvertently approach
a bear and feel the bear is not aware of your presence, take advantage
of the situation and slowly move away. Carefully watch to make sure
the bear is not following.
...A BEAR MAY APPROACH YOU FOR DIFFERENT REASONS. It might be
habituated or used to people and simply walking by at a distance it
is comfortable with. The bear may be curious. You may be on its trail.
You may be in the bear's personal space, and it feels threatened. It
may want your food. A female bear may perceive you as a threat to her
cubs. A bear may want to dominate you and, in extremely rare circumstances,
investigate you as potential prey.
MAKING EYE CONTACT WITH A BEAR IS UNLIKELY TO INFLUENCE THE BEAR
OR TO AFFECT THE OUTCOME OF AN ENCOUNTER. It is important to keep
the bear in sight so that you give yourself the opportunity to detect
important visual clues to the bears behavior.
...KEEP CALM. If a bear approaches, keep calm. It is assessing
the situation as it moves towards you. It's picking up clues as fast
as you are giving them. If you get excited, the bear could too. It may
change from being curious to being frightened. A mother with cubs may
change from defensively keeping you away, to becoming highly stressed
and going on the offensive-attacking in a punishing display.
...IDENTIFY YOURSELF AS HUMAN AND DON'T RUN. If a bear becomes
increasingly stressed and aggressive, talk to it in a low voice.
DON'T RUN. Bears can go about 35 mph--even the fat ones! INCREASE
YOUR DISTANCE. Bears avoid antagonistic encounters by moving away
from one another. If the bear is not moving towards you, very cautiously
try to move away. If your movement causes the bear to move towards you,
stop and hold your ground. When you do this you are using body language
to say, "don't mess with me."
...BEARS MAY COME QUITE CLOSE. Bears may come close as they threaten
and decide what to do. If we behave correctly, identifying ourselves,
standing our ground, or giving the bear room, the bear will make the
right decision-sometimes not as quickly as we would like--and move off.
IF A BEAR PERSISTS... and continues towards you--hold your ground.
The bear is interested in you or something you have, and may cause you
bodily harm. Yell and wave your arms or anything handy. You are trying
to tell the bear you are not intimidated. Groups of people should stand
shoulder to shoulder to project a larger presence.
...MOST CHARGES STOP SHORT OF CONTACT IF YOU REACT APPROPRIATELY.
A head down, open-mouthed, running charge is a bear's trump card. It
is a defensive reaction to a perceived threat. The bear is telling you
that it is highly stressed and you are in the wrong place. Charges happen
so quickly there isn't much time for reaction. A charge almost always
ends short of contact.
IF A BEAR ATTACKS... If, and only if, a bear makes physical contact,
fall to the ground on your stomach and protect your face and neck. If
the bear rolls you over, try to get back into this position. The bear
is almost certainly making a defensive attack and will stop when it
feels it has eliminated any threat. When the bear stops, keep as still
and quiet as possible. Stay that way until you believe the bear has
left the area. Movement and sound can initiate new attacks. If the attack
persists and the bear continues to bite long after you assume a defensive
posture, it is likely making a predatory attack. Fight back vigorously.
...IF YOU CAN POSITIVELY IDENTIFY THE BEAR AS A BLACK BEAR...
Do not drop to the ground. Fight back as if your life depends on it-at
this point it may. You are almost certainly involved in a predatory
attack and the bear is trying to kill you. Try to focus your attack
on the bear's eyes and nose.
IF A BEAR OF EITHER SPECIES ATTACKS YOU IN YOUR TENT FIGHT BACK!
Taken from the book
Living In Harmony With Bears
A project of the Alaska Audubon Society
Author Derek Stonorov