How To Handle a Bear Encounter

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One of the biggest fears many campers have is coming face-to-face with a bear. Although bears are frequent guests in many campgrounds, they are rarely aggressive toward humans.

One of the biggest fears many campers have is coming face-to-face with a bear.  Although bears are frequent guests in many campgrounds, they are rarely aggressive toward humans.  In fact, annually, there are only 1-2 fatal bear attacks reported.  

Regardless of how minimal the risks are, it's still important to be prepared for the possibility that a bear crosses your path while you're camping. Here are some tips for keeping yourself safe and preventing a possible bear attack.

brown bear
A Brown Bear

Don't Panic and Remain Calm

Just because you've run into a bear doesn't mean it has any interest in you.  The best thing you can do is remain calm.  Stand still and wave your hand at the bear.  Speak to it to let it know you're human.  

Don't Run and Don't Attempt to Climb a Tree

The worst thing you can do when facing a bear attack is to run.  Bears can reach speeds of up to 30 miles-per-hour, so you have little chance in winning in a foot race.  Many bears are also able to climb trees, so don't think you'll find safety by scaling one.

Slowly walk away from the bear

Take a detour if need by.  Keep your eye on the bear and don't quicken you pace unnaturally.   Always avoid cubs.  A mother bear will defend her cubs at almost any cost, so you should never come to close to them.

What if the bear charges?

Stand your ground.  Yes, it's easier said than done, but according to About.com trail guide Lauren Himiak, many bears charge as a bluff.  Once again, don't ever run. Once the bear stalls its charge, then slowly walk away.

What about if you're attacked by a bear?

The best thing to do is to go limp and play dead.  Most bears will stop biting once they believe they have subdued the perceived threat.  If you go limp and a bear continues to bite you--it's likely a predatory attack.  At that point, your only option is to flail and fight as violently as possible