How To Survive a Bear Attack

by Brett and Kate McKay on January 30, 2008 · 92 comments

in Manly Skills


According to Stephen Colbert, bears are the number one threat to America today. Sure, bears look cute when they’re rummaging through a garbage can looking for food, but don’t let their cuteness lull you into carnal security. Bears are “godless killing machines.”

While bear attacks are rare, a man should always be prepared for a bear attack. You never know when you’ll need this information.

How you handle a bear attack depends on the type of bear you encounter- grizzly or black bear. So the first step in surviving a bear attack is to know what kind you’re up against.

Grizzly Bear Dossier


Color: Medium to dark brown
Body Shape: The Grizzly bears has distinct shoulder hump. This is a muscle used for digging roots and slashing prey with their massive bear paw.
Height: The grizzly bear average around 6.5 ft in height
Claws: Grizzly claws are long. They can usually be seen from a distance
Location: Grizzlies are mostly found in Canada. However, populations exist from Alaska and into portions of the northwest United States including Washington, Idaho, the Dakotas, and Montana.

How to Survive A Grizzly Attack

1. Carry bear pepper spray. Experts recommend that hikers in bear country carry with them bear pepper spray. UDAP bear pepper spray is a highly concentrated capsaicin spray that creates a large cloud. This stuff will usually stop a bear in it’s tracks.
2. Don’t run. When you run, the bear thinks you’re prey and will continue chasing you, so stand your ground. And don’t think you can out run a bear. Bears are fast. They can reach speeds of 30 mph. Unless you’re an Olympic sprinter, don’t bother running.
3. Drop to the ground in the fetal position and cover the back of your neck with your hands. If you don’t have pepper spray or the bear continues to charge even after the spray, this is your next best defense. Hit the ground immediately and curl into the fetal position.
4. Play dead. Grizzlies will stop attacking when they feel there’s no longer a threat. If they think you’re dead, they won’t think you’re threatening. Once the bear is done tossing you around and leaves, continue to play dead. Grizzlies are known for waiting around to see if their victim will get back up.

Black Bear Dossier

blackbear.pngColor: Black bears exhibit a variety of colors ranging from black to light blond.
Body shape: Black bears don’t have the hump that Grizzlies have
Height: Black bears are slightly smaller than Grizzlies
Claws: Black bear claws are shorter than Grizzly claws.
Location: Black bears are the most common bear in North America. They live in all the providences of Canada and 41 and of the 50 American states.

How to Survive a Black Bear Attack

1. Carry bear pepper spray. As with the grizzly bear, bear pepper spray should be your first line of defense in a bear attack.
2. Stand your ground and make lots of noise. Black bears often bluff when attacking. If you show them you mean business, they may just lose interest.
3. Don’t climb a tree. Black bears are excellent climbers. Climbing up a tree won’t help you out here.
4. Fight back. If the black bear actually attacks, fight back. Use anything and everything as a weapon- rocks, sticks, fists, and your teeth. Aim your blows on the bears face- particularly the eyes and snout. When a black bear sees that their victim is willing to fight to the death, they’ll usually just give up.


The Art of Manliness does not encourage people to go out and find a bear to practice these skills with. Practicing on your significant other will not do either.



Run The Planet

National Parks Service

{ 90 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Heywood Kenobi January 31, 2008 at 3:09 am

The most obvious manly way to defeat a bear was left off you list. Shoot them. Pepper spray is for girls.

2 Matt January 31, 2008 at 7:55 am

Guns are for sissies. The truly manly way to kill a bear is with your bare hands. Or at least a spear to the jugular.

3 Jones January 31, 2008 at 9:06 am

A real man would lull the bear with his manliness, and tame it, turning it into the real man’s best friend

4 mark January 31, 2008 at 2:49 pm

black bears are found in all 10 PROVINCES in canada. we don’t have providences up here…providence is in rhode island.
johnny canuck

5 Kyle February 11, 2008 at 3:45 pm

Good info. Once I survive the attack, straight to the store for new underwear.

6 Brett McKay February 11, 2008 at 8:51 pm



7 Vash March 3, 2008 at 7:57 pm

Yeah good luck lulling a bear; you’re better off shooting it, or using a rock if you have one.

Grizzlies.. don’t.. try

8 Jaime March 8, 2008 at 8:03 am

Fortunately, Smith and Wesson make just the thing for protection against bears, a snub nose revolver in .500 S&W. Sure, it’ll break some of the smalled bones in your hand when fired, but it’ll do the trick. Better than carrying around some bear spray in your hello kitty handbag.

9 Dan March 8, 2008 at 9:56 am

The REAL manly thing to do would be to let it live in fear. The next time it comes back, stare it down until it runs away from you and commits suicide so it doesn’t have to live knowing that your out there… at least, thats the Chuck Norris thing to do

10 Mungo March 8, 2008 at 12:30 pm

Great article. By the way, it’s ‘provinces’, not ‘providences’ of Canada.



11 Dov March 8, 2008 at 1:49 pm

My Grandfather always said he could out run a bear. His contention was he would have a clear path the bear would have to run knee deep in poop.

12 Dennis March 8, 2008 at 2:19 pm

Best way is to avoid them. Also most bears will run away if they see you, as long you do not come between them and, food source, or their cubs. Sometimes you also get lucking and they will do nothing. Been there and done that.

13 Dav March 8, 2008 at 2:20 pm

Never mind this girly stuff with pepper spray or guns; grow your nails to a proper manly length and scratch his eyes out!

14 Winter Thea Bear March 8, 2008 at 6:32 pm

I lived in Alaska for 2 years and I have had 1200 pound
Kodiak Bear’s walk right under my fishing pole.
And IF the Bear want’s your fishing spot. Just calmely walk away.
Loosing your pole is cheaper than a funeral.
“NEVER EVER EVER” make EYE contact with a Bear.
The “MAIN REASON” for a bear’s attack, is because
you got your Dumb Ass between A Mother and her Cubs.
Bear’s are basically vegetarian, Except in Alaska.
“There they eat BERRIE”S, Fish AND Mac Donald’s Burgers.”
“If all fails” Smith & Wesson makes a 500 Mag Hand Gun.
Wait untill the Bear stands and shoot it in the mouth ” ALL 5 Times.”
Just don’t go walking around smelling like a BIG BOY’s BURGER.

And Bear’s can scent “SMELL” FEAR.” and Taco Bell Burrito’s..
If you just take a “STAND” against a Bear and SHOW NO FEAR..
It will let you walk away. If not, 500 Mag S & W time…
If your STUPID enough to go into Bear country without a BIG GUN,
then you are right. “PLAY DEAD UNTIL THE BEAR LEAVES”
Or just become the victim of a Bear Attack…

The 500 Mag. Smith & Wesson Hand Cannon -
With its “8-3/8-in. barrel,” “SORRY NO SNUB BARRELS EXIST”
the overall length of the Model 500 is “15 inches”. and the empty weight is 4.5 pounds. The cylinder alone is almost 2 in. in diameter and approaches 2.25 in. in length. Thumb the cylinder open and “five charge holes await”. Each is 1/2 in. in diameter, and the .50-cal. cartridges they hold are almost 2 in. long. Load five of them and the total weight of the handgun climbs to 5 pounds. And the Bear goes BACWARDS… And the HAND GUN “WILL NOT BREAK A HAND BONE.”
But it will blow a bear’s head off…

From A Remote Sheep Rancher since 1956…
In A “FREE STATE” where we “can and
do carry gun’s “AND ALWAY”S WILL.” “NRA.”

Amendment Two
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a
“FREE STATE”. The right of the people to keep and bear Arms,
shall not be infringed.
Not even by a coward like Clinton. “Draft Dodger and Coward. Antie NRA..”

USAF 82nd Tactical Air Command – 1971 -1974.
4449th Special Forces Combat Squad
Jungle and Desert – Survival Expert…
Medically Retired since 1974

———– Walk’s With The Wind – Winter Thea Bear ——-

15 Anonymous Coward March 9, 2008 at 10:39 am

I agree with many others. A large caliber handgun (at least .41 mag, preferably larger) is the only way to guarantee survival. You can do your best to not cross a bear and do things that will keep the bear from attacking, but bears are somewhat unpredictable. Even after doing your best, a bear may decide to attack you anyway. At that point, you just need to start firing and keep shooting until it’s dead or running away.

Of course, to do this, you must be fairly well versed with the firearm you’re using. In a high stress situation, it’s even harder to hit a moving target with a handgun.

Furthermore, in today’s political climate, you need to remember the three “S’s”–Shoot, Shovel, and Shut up. People have been and are still being sent to prison for killing the “endangered” grizzly in self defense or in defense of their livestock.

16 damien s March 10, 2008 at 12:55 am

let me tell you guys my bear attack defense strategy:

yes, a big grizzly bear can outrun you, but can a grizzly bear out-strafe you?

the answer is no. bipedals have an enormous advantage when it comes to strafing, or strafe-running.

the advantage is that a bipedal can quickly reverse strafing directions, from side to side, or with a center of attention, clockwise to counter-clockwise, or v-v. a bear, or four-legger(quadriped? or something), does not possess the same maneuverability.

so here is what you do: put a tree or similar object between you and the bear. if it goes clockwise, you do too. always keep the object in the middle, and naturally, stay out of a bear’s claw swiping range around the tree.

with this circle chase, a bear’s speed reduces from 30mph to below your own. be patient, and the bear will lose interest. i’d draw up a diagram if i could.

if it helps you picture it, let me make the example a little more extreme. if a car is trying to run you over, but there is an immobile, indestructible pole between you and the car, it’s easily dodged. a car’s turning radius is way too big to make tight enough circles around the pole to get you. it has to swing out wide and come back in or continually reverse and re-align. by then, you will have moved to the opposite side of the pole. this is the exact same principle for a bear although on a smaller scale with a bear having more maneuverability.

i’ve not tested this theory, but i’m pretty damn sure my chance of survival will be much higher than if i let the bear toss my fetally-positioned body.

17 damien s March 10, 2008 at 12:59 am

one of my friends tried to call me out by saying bears can walk on two legs and hence gain a bipedal’s strafing abilities.

OBVIOUSLY a bear walking around on 2 legs does not possess the coordination to move like a well experienced bipedal human!

he refuted: how about a circus bear?!

he got me: you die.

18 Andy March 10, 2008 at 2:27 am

Would a swift kick in the balls stop a bear attack? It’d certainly slow me down! If it’s female, a punch in the tits perhaps?

19 Mr. No March 10, 2008 at 3:15 pm

“If it’s female, a punch in the tits perhaps?”

If you punch a bear in the tits, I’ll lick your balls.

20 david March 12, 2008 at 2:33 am

How to survive a bear attack: STAY HOME!

21 poo poo April 3, 2008 at 11:40 am

bears are harmless i came face to face with one in the wild i left it alkone and it left me alone but if not play dead do not run !

22 maday April 15, 2008 at 5:13 pm

Why should you never look a bear in the eyes??

23 ars April 22, 2008 at 9:48 am

sickos check your work on bears fight them off

24 chvnx April 27, 2008 at 8:28 am

“…and 41 and of the 50 American states.”

25 That guy with nothing useful to say May 3, 2008 at 4:35 pm

Have you seen the movie Blazing Saddles? Grizzly Bears are pretty much like Mongo: don’t shoot them, that’ll only make them angry.

Or, if you really wanna be a man, watch the ending to Legend of the Falls. Let out a comanche like war cry and charge wildly, trusty knife in hand, straight towards the Grizzly.

26 Kapitalists June 18, 2008 at 4:43 am

Chuck Norris once killed a bear with his beard.

27 anthomt August 7, 2008 at 9:54 am

you guys al, are sux use a paintbal gun more specific an etek 2

28 anthomt August 7, 2008 at 9:56 am

damian s ur an idiot wat if u have no time ya ckity yodeller

29 dracula August 25, 2008 at 11:35 pm

Here in Romania we have many wild bears (the largest comunity in Europe). it is most likely to see one in a town a the base of the mountains, searching trough your garbage, than in a natural environment.
A funny thing is that when they attack a tourist, it is always a foreign tourist , most likely from germany.

30 Baniz September 9, 2008 at 10:10 pm

If you have a car use it!

31 gabrielle October 6, 2008 at 8:58 am

i think its weird to bite a bear


32 Dave October 16, 2008 at 11:08 pm

I’ve always thought about what I’d do if I was to get attacked by a bear, and I’d like to think that could dodge em around a tree and get away, or take em out with one shot from the hip without even flinching, or simply take em out with my bare hands!!!!

But in all actuality, I’ve never been placed in such a situation. I run into black bears all the time out huntin, but they always run away when I yell at them. Except for one time when I was bowhuntin and heard some ruckus just around the bend through some trees. It was in the Yolla Bolla wilderness area in Northern California if anyone has been there. Anyway I went to check it out and found a bear cub climbing up a tree….that was all it took for me! I didn’t see the mama anywhere so I turned around and booked it down the face of the mountain making huge jumps like you see Bear Grylls do on the discovery channel.

The whole reason I ran was because all I had was a bow, I was fairly young then, and I’ve only heard stories of angry mama bears!! So at the ravine about 100 yards down the hill from where the cub was, I ran into my brother. We started to side hill in the other direction then looked up to see the mama about 65 yards up the hill side hilling the same direction we were. We knocked a couple broadheads just in case things got hairy, not that two arrows would stop an angry bear. They might kill it eventually when it bleeds out, but by that time he might have already mauled you.

Luckily the bear turned around figuring we weren’t much of a threat. Another experience I had was tracking a bear at night down this steep mountainside. The bear had apparently been “nailed with a .308!! then shot 10 times with a .22 as it ran away!!” Actually, the bear had been barely hit in the leg by the .308 and the .22 bullets did hit him several times but didn’t penetrate well enough to do any damage, other than tick him off. We had a good group of guys tracking him but couldn’t seem to find an adequate blood trail. Finally one of our buds called a friend with dogs to get some help. His answer was “Heck no!! You guys better be careful! Wounded bears get angry and will sometimes circle their trackers if its at night!” My dad and I took off after that being that we had nothing to defend ourselves with besides the crappy shot dude with the .308 and the big ol .22.

But now that I’m a little older and tougher, own a .357 mag (I know this isn’t really an adequate gun against a bear) a 12 gauge, and carry a knife at my side, I should be a little better off. Remember, we can always imagine ourselves kickn the crud out of some weaksause bear, but it takes real man to step up when the real time arises and its you or the bear!!!

33 Jim R October 18, 2008 at 7:05 am

Along with peper spray its a good idea to carry little bells to aleart the bears your approaching. Also be aware of bear droppings. Black bear droppings have berrys and squirel fur, Grizzly droppings ofter contain little bells and smell like peper spray!

34 abby @ buy bear pepper spray October 22, 2008 at 11:42 am

I sell bear pepper spray because where I live is very common that while jogging you’ll encounter a bear. Bear pepper spray can only do so much and if the bear is onto you..good luck to ya!!. Although, the bears around here are sort of use to humans there’s at least one attack per year and usually the human looses the battle.

Good job on the content!! By the way I love the disclaimer.. I wonder how many idiots tried to go out and wrestle a bear?!

pepper spray for bears

35 tyler November 10, 2008 at 4:43 pm

@Heywood Kenobi – i would just bring chuck norris with me

36 Brandon December 30, 2008 at 1:58 pm

@ All those who advise scratching or biting the bear

May i remind you of the razor sharp claws the bears possses that could take you out in one good swipe before you even enter into biting or scratching range? Spears though would be nice should they attack (assuming you can use a spear effectively).

37 Brandon December 30, 2008 at 2:02 pm

@abby “Good job on the content!! By the way I love the disclaimer.. I wonder how many idiots tried to go out and wrestle a bear?!”

All the dead ones of course!

38 earl nickles January 3, 2009 at 7:47 pm

It amazes me how many people talk about what they wold do in an actual attack.
I am a gunsmth by trade, I think a .308, or .7mm mag would do nicely; Some handguns, such as the S&W .500 or the Magnum Research Desert Eagle .50 may also work. However if it were me, I would use a remington 870 express super mag with 3 1/2 inch rifled slugs.

Granted it can only hold 4, or 5 shots, but guaranteed they would do the trick if you were within 20-50 ft. I know that sounds awful close, but that would be your average danger zone if it were to charge. Furthermore you don’t have to worry about aiming for the head, or neck, center mass would do just fine!

I recently recieved an email about the largest Grizzly ever recorded in the world. It stood 14 ft. tall from head to toe, weighed 1,680lbs. It took 12 shots from a .7mm mag to KILL it. Apparently it had killed 2 hikers just 3 days before before its own death. One of the hikers remains shows a .38 revolver. The bears autopsy shows t had 4 .38 shells in its mid-section.

I honestly hope I am never in that situation! However if I were, I would hope to do well and live to talk about it.

I absolutely enjoyed readng everyones comment, and I hope someone says the same for mine.

39 emily January 6, 2009 at 11:53 am

what are you thinking

40 zak January 8, 2009 at 8:51 pm

half these comments made me laugh my butt off mostly the ones mocking bear pepper spray.

I don’t know about most of you but there is no way I could play dead with a grizzly knocking me around also if I did muster up the courage and got lucky enough to live threw it I would need a change of pants. A gun would be handy but I was looking for an answer that didn’t envolve me carrying a bazuooka around where ever I went.

I like the dancing around a tree idea but it reminded me of a warning I got when I was younger, “Never climb a tree when faced against a bear the black ones will chase you, the Grizzlys will push the tree over.”

I think a knife would be about as good as a tooth pick try carrying a katana around with you instead :P

41 zak January 8, 2009 at 8:54 pm

as for the 14ft bear o dear god I was always told monsters weren’t real

42 Laura January 14, 2009 at 4:45 pm

Hey Earl… nice comment. I -did- enjoy reading it. Very interesting information!

Great article btw :)

43 Chris January 23, 2009 at 2:11 am

It is a common myth that bears can’t run downhill.
And it is also a myth that we could out maneuver a Bear.
If you have ever seen a bear run down darting Deer you would notice this fact.
If you look into the story of the 14 foot Grizzly Bear you will
find out it is a hoax. There was a real bear killed it was 10 ft and around 1200
pounds and did not kill any hikers. You want to check out the real story look up
Theodore Winnen and Giant Bear story. Real photos, inaccurate captions.

44 Chris January 23, 2009 at 2:12 am

It is a common myth that bears can’t run downhill.
And it is also a myth that we could out-maneuver a Bear.
If you have ever seen a bear run down a darting Deer you would notice this fact.
If you look into the story of the 14 foot Grizzly Bear you will
find out it is a hoax. There was a real bear killed it was 10 ft and around 1200
pounds and did not kill any hikers. You want to check out the real story look up
Theodore Winnen and Giant Bear story. Real photos, inaccurate captions.

45 Chris January 23, 2009 at 2:13 am

Sorry for the double post.

46 DaGoomba January 29, 2009 at 6:45 am

wow anyone want to go 10 rounds with grizley adams come one im not no mohomad ali but i could probly hit it a few time b4 it backs off

47 Airborne Ranger February 16, 2009 at 11:15 am

Airborne,Airassault,Pathfinder,Ranger,desert,mountain,artic trained. Wrestle the bear thats the manly way. Fought in Iraq with my snubbie 500 smith. Shot desert bear.

48 Sav March 8, 2009 at 8:41 pm

The comments seem to be more interesting than the guide itself, haha. As for throwing a couple blows to the bear… Don’t you know thats like Gary Coleman fighting the Hulk?

49 Shelly Justman March 23, 2009 at 10:59 am

Heywood Kenobi-

I am sure if you did not have a gun, and a girl friend of yours had some pepper spray you would definately use it during a grizzly attack! Along with you crapping your pants! lol

50 Chrys April 3, 2009 at 12:02 pm

A real man would wait for the bear to growl loudly (open its mouth) and then grab its jaws and rip them apart! And then he would wear the lower jaw (attached to a rope, of course) proudly on his chest.
And he would get laid in immense numbers. And would have much progeny.
And he would have a massive army fiercely loyal to him and willing to kill any man that wishes to harm him. And if he were not king, he would be the mighty general/bodyguard loyal to only one other: the king.
THAT is a real man. The rest of us are just trying to get somewhere close or close enough…. Except for Winter Thea Bear. That’s a serious badass. I have found veterans to be the realest people I have ever known. Nothing shows the good qualities of a man like living a life of kill or be killed at every second, for years. They are the closest I have ever known to gods. And I mean Vietnam War, Korean War, Iraq I, and the Crip-ed out streets of Southern California back in the late ’60s, early ’70s, when it meant something (according to them. I was not in any of these places so I have no way to determine the truth of any of it except for the very presence of the man himself). And these people I knew were gentlemen. (I do not know anyone in Iraq II or Afghanistan).

@Damien S. Yeah, I’m not cool with being tossed either. Unless I was unconscious. Otherwise I’d have to *do* something. If there was this massive chunk of pure muscle ready to take a bite out of me, I’d rather it was my head than my heal and then the rest from there. In the bargain, I have a *damn* good chance of getting lucky. Sounds better than getting tossed around like a leaf.

@David: At home?! That sounds like existing, I’d rather live!

Pretty much, it’s a safer bet to never run when a wild animal confronts you, either a bear nor a snarling dog. With a dog, you can just sit down and hold out your hands, it confuses them. (You HAVE to be prepared to smack it on the jaw, or even grab it’s jaws). Simple: prey run, predators eat. It’s all fast food, man. All fast food.

51 Corey April 9, 2009 at 9:15 am

I’m suprised you’ve all missed out on this little bit of old wisdom… “You don’t have to run faster than the bear, you just have to run faster than your friend.”

Running fast is manly, right?

52 Adam April 15, 2009 at 8:47 pm

ya me and my firend got attack by a brown bear in alaska so we had to shoot it with our guns we shot 5 times before it run off

53 Ray May 12, 2009 at 6:29 pm

What scares me more than any Bear is the fact the some of the people on this blog go out in the wilderness and come within 50 miles of me. Some of the comments I know are done in humor and they are funny but some have me wondering if half the population isn’t retarded. I think the Bears should be the frightened ones!

54 Ben August 14, 2009 at 9:10 am

The only way to travel in bear country is with a machine gun, bazooka and hand gernades.

55 Tom Feliciano October 22, 2009 at 3:27 pm

There is at least one thing that you never want to find out about a bear first hand, they have very bad breath!

56 michael jennette February 7, 2010 at 11:30 am

very good servival skills, if i ever get attacted by a bear i will be sure to use these survival skills and see how they work ,i have been told all of these survival skills are very good, by a bunch of people and now its a bunch and 1

57 Daetan Huck February 23, 2010 at 9:44 am

Ya’ll are forgetting the basics. It’s called rope-a-dope! Let ‘im getcha up against the ropes and then, when you see that opening, give ‘im the what-for with your Might Fist from the West. KO and the crowd goes WILD!

58 Joe February 23, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Isn’t there a story about Davey Crocket grinning down a grizzley? That’s the manly way to do it: grin him into submission

59 crentist March 19, 2010 at 1:34 pm

i hate bears, they’re assholes…

60 fighting bears with bare hands? March 24, 2010 at 5:13 pm

I think those who consider attempting to wrestle a bear are really dim-witted. Idiot people perform such an act. Idiot people do not think right. Assuming something immoral would be thinking possible to fight a “BLACK” bear off. Black bears are precarious but an idiot would not comprehend the situation they are being put into. So I repeat…please don’t attempt to fight a bear off unless your perpetrating suicide or your life is finished without your choosing.

61 Choogernaut March 29, 2010 at 1:35 pm

If a bear trys to get you, punch him square in the fuckin n00ts. He’ll go straight down kissing your toes. Like i always say ” back in 1970 i shot a bears nose straight off with a god dang mosin nagant, it was pretty beasty.” but really. dont ever eat pudding when your hunting for bears. why? you ask. because it will fucking kill you in the most maticulous way in the world. biatch

62 Mark March 30, 2010 at 10:42 am

Carry a flashlight. if you encounter a bear, the master plan is hold it underneath your chin and make it flicker to make yourself look scary. Carry a dummy hand grenade. They’re easy to get and completely safe to keep around. The bear will have no idea that it’s not real or is disarmed when you brandish it and pull that fake pin. Now that i’ve added to the existing humor here…here’s my suggestion from rual northern NJ

If you’re out sight-seeing or hiking…Don’t carry unwrapped food. Bears have excellent smell senses and will be attracted to you like a magnet to steel. if for some strange reason this occurs, let the bear have the damn sandwich and get away while they’re amused with it. Don’t fight them for your precious $5 foot-long. The aftermath trip to the ER could cost you alot more. Try to announce your presence well in advance when you are in bear country by making noises foreign to them. Carry a bell, radio and/or periodically talk/whistle. They’ll generally hear you comming well ahead of time and avoid you. If you live in bear country keep them away from your house by keeping your trash sealed in metal cans and away from the house or outbuildings. I wipe my trash cans with a little diesel fuel occasionally or put smelly shop rags inside…they avoid them like the plague. Keep your outdoor bar-b-que clean. Bears LOVE sweet smokey grease and food remnants. When you’re finished cooking let it “burn off” on the highest setting until all food residue is burned up then remove and clean the catch pan if equipped. Carry and use a flashlight or coleman lantern at night and if you are sitting outside on a dark summer night, enjoy a nice campfire. Bears and other wild critters are afraid of fire.

63 Joe April 3, 2010 at 3:43 pm

If ever I were confronted by a bear I would use my bear spray in the most advantageous means at my disposable. I would spray my girl friend in the face and afterwords run like the devil.

64 Ben May 5, 2010 at 11:01 am

@ damien s
Please, try your theory. You will be dead. And good luck finding that tree to put between you and the bear as it’s about to kill you.

I think this article would benefit from some information on how to prevent bear attacks, not just how to survive them. Once a bear has decided it wants you for lunch, there’s really only so much you can do and your odds are only so good. But you have a lot more control over preventing attacks than you do over surviving them. There are some simple things you can do to ensure that you never get close enough to a bear to have to use your pepper spray, your bear gun, or your hand-to-hand fighting skills.

The first thing to remember is that bears don’t actually want to mess with people, and they will avoid you if they can. When you’re camping or hiking, make noise. Talk loudly to your friends. Wear a bear bell. The worst thing you can do is silently stumble on a bear that is surprised to see you. If you surprise it, it will assume you are a threat. If it knows you’re coming, it can keep a wide berth between you, and you might very well never know the bear was even in the area.

The next thing is intelligent storage and carriage of food. Bears aren’t interested in you, but they are interested in the tasty-smelling food you carry. There are plenty of places online where you can find a how-to on strapping your food in a bag high between trees so that it’s out of reach from bears. Store your food in plastic and, if you can, avoid cooking close to your campsite.

If you see an animal carcass in an area you know grizzlies inhabit, leave the area immediately. Bears have a sense of smell much keener than a bloodhound and carrion is one of their meals of choice. If they see you near the carcass, they will treat you like a rival bear… and while rival bears may survive getting slapped around by a 1200 lb opponent unscathed, you will not. If you spot cubs, Mom is undoubtedly close by, and mother bears protecting their cubs are the most vicious and most deadly. Leave the area immediately. Having your camp or your hike ruined by having to turn back or find an alternate route is far preferable to chancing a run-in with Mom.

If you do come across a bear, remain calm. Don’t make eye contact with it. Don’t move suddenly. Speak in a calm but audible voice. If the bear doesn’t perceives you to be calm, it has no reason to think you’re either a threat or prey. Take off your backpack, your jacket, anything you have with you and put it slowly on the ground in front of you, then start to back away, still facing the bear. If the bear does approach, it will buy you some time because it will probably want to check out your backpack first. Keep backing away until you’re out of sight… if the bear hasn’t come barreling after you, it’s likely that interested in attacking, so you can leave the area as quickly as possible.

If the bear is hostile and still approaching you, then you can follow the advice in the article. But with a little common sense, you can avoid nine out of ten face-to-face bear encounters and significantly lessen your chances of ever needing to defend yourself from attack.

65 Ben May 5, 2010 at 11:04 am

correction… that should be “If the bear perceives you to be calm,” not “If the bear doesn’t perceives you to be calm.”

66 Ben May 5, 2010 at 11:06 am

correction 2: “it’s likely NOT interested in attacking.”

Grr. Apparently I should read through my comments before posting.

67 Ben May 5, 2010 at 11:15 am

Ugh… sorry for writing so much, but I wanted to add another thing.

One thing to keep in mind is that a bear is capable of killing a human almost instantly. It can crush your skull or your spine with a bite, or a swipe of its paw. When bears maul people, they are almost never actually trying to kill them in the way that they would kill a prey species. They are reacting socially to you in a similar way that they would react to another bear… if they perceive you to be a threat, or if they interpret your actions (intruding upon their territory) as hostile or threatening, they are essentially trying to bully or dominate you into submission in order to protect themselves, their cubs, or a food source.

For an extensive and detailed article on bear safety, check out this:

68 Davy May 11, 2010 at 3:57 pm

All you nitwits who think it’s shoot or be killed because that’s what a tough guy would do take notice. My 70 year old, five foot nothing mother lived alone in the bush near Algonquin Park in Canada. One day I was there and I heard her yelling at someone. She was walking straight at an adult black bear that was sniffing around the compost, shouting “you get out of here bear! this is my place!”

It took one look, turned tail, and ran.

69 suzukibruce May 22, 2010 at 12:26 am

i’ll take my sks with a 30rd mag… i bet 30 rounds of 7.62×39 would stop his ass…

70 Pete June 15, 2010 at 2:17 am

Davy, that story about your grandma is a hoot – what a gal!

Folks, forget trying to outrun a bear. Up in the north woods of N. Minnesota and S. Ontario – Boundary Waters – some years ago, a black bear ran into my headlights on a logging road. I was doing 25-30 mph at the time. That bear stayed ahead of my truck for a good 100 metters before veering off into the woods again. Never saw something that big move that fast before or since. Up north at least, black bears are, thankfully, pretty shy around people most of the time. Came upon on in a blueberry patch once; I was on one side of the clearing and the bear was on the other, and both of us took off like greased lightning. Lucky for me, he ran the opposite direction. Otherwise, I’d have jumped into the nearby lake and taken my chances swimming. But, bears swim well, too…. glad it didn’t come to that. Can’t speak to bear habits in other areas or around garbage, etc. One thing for certain: never get food or anything that smells like food near your tent or sleeping bag. Store your food suspended between two trees high off the ground, well away from your camp and preferrably downwind. Do not frequent known bear feeding areas, and avoid camping or loitering near carion or other food sources, such as dumps or garbage. If you have to store food on the ground, build a shelter of pots and pans on it, to serve as a trip alarm – again, well away from your camp. Keep a large fire going – it not only dissuades bears, it keeps the bugs away. As others have commented, make noise on the trail, and if possible, go into bear country armed with a suitable caliber firearm. Spray is good, too, by all means. One other method I’ve heard is to go into the back country with one or more well-trained dogs. They’ll let you know when trouble is near. Your self-awareness and fieldcraft are your best tools against attack. That, and Davy’s gutsy granny!

71 Bob McAlister July 12, 2010 at 1:21 pm

sks sucks it would jam 10 of the 30 rounds and when a bear is charging you, that 2 seconds you took to un-jam your gun would have you killed because BEARS ARE FAST where as if you had an AK-47 you would have dropped it because they rarely jam

72 PJH July 16, 2010 at 12:56 am

And what ever you do DO NOT put Deer Lure on your boots like my brother in law did. He also discovered that yes Black Bears can climb trees. He did hang on to his bow and managed to bang the bear on the nose repeatedly until the bear got tired of it and wandered off.

One wonders how mankind survived for as long as it has with some of our gene pool.

73 James July 16, 2010 at 11:04 am

Or you could grin it to death….

74 Bearmania August 15, 2010 at 9:31 am

With a little Liquid encouragement I wrestled a declawed, muzzled black bear in the smokies in the early 80′s. I am a big guy who played college football and was working a construction job at the time. While I know this is nothing like a wild bear it was very interesting. Bears are incredibly strong and nimble. I did punch him in the chest and it was similar to punching a tree. Your first defense should be S&W 500 mag.

75 Starn August 16, 2010 at 6:45 pm

I’ve actually bumped into a few black bears in my time as I live right in their territory. Never a Grizzly though. For Blacks, they are wusses, really. At the sight of a human they book it. However some will bluff charge you, and that’s where a lot of people get hurt as they instinctively run away. Stand your ground and make yourself as big as possible. Make noises and movement. Do not act like prey but like a fellow predator. If it does not stop the charge, fight it with everything you got because at that point it’s no longer about territory or it’s kids. All it thinks about is how it’ll kill you. The closest I’ve been to one in the wild was about 4ft away from a 300pound Black. Not huge, but a threat. He took a look at me and ran away. Since then I’ve only had a few close calls with Blacks and one very close call of a mother moose charging me. If a Black attacks you, he wants to kill you, never play dead. Grizzly’s are different but I have no experience with them.

76 Chapel August 18, 2010 at 4:01 am

I’d like to see a survival guide about those bears that kill diabetic people…

Gummi bears.

77 Sean October 21, 2012 at 11:39 am

what about like, polar bears?

78 daniel January 24, 2013 at 11:39 am

i think the proper way to kill a black bear, if you have a good knife which i always do but don’t feel bad if you don’t so get one, if your hunting. anyway once the bear charges leap out of the way climb on its back grab your knife and stab it in the throat as many times as you can.

79 ironman44203 January 27, 2013 at 10:17 am

Bears are omnivorous. they will eat whatever they can get, even a rotting carcass. keep your eyes and ears open…keep fire handy. fire worked for our primitive ancestors and it still works today.

80 FruityFag February 1, 2013 at 8:44 pm

The only manly way to fight a bear is with your bear hands.

81 h March 20, 2013 at 8:04 pm

The information in this article is incorrect.

The correct course of action when you meet any kind of bear on the trail is to throw a handful of poo at it. You will surely have some within reach when the time comes. :)

82 erick May 2, 2013 at 7:18 pm

what if there’s 2 bears?

83 Martin May 18, 2013 at 8:05 pm

We have black bears in New Jersey but bear pepper spray is illegal.

84 JR Hine May 25, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Was I the only one who laughed at the line below?
“They live in all the providences of Canada and 41 and of the 50 American states.”

Canada has PROVINCES. But it’s OK. I’ll just say the US has 50-ish staters. Same thing, right?

85 Jack June 2, 2013 at 3:52 am

I saw on a documentary that bears will probably never attack you without warning you, so if he see you the you just back away but aways facing the bear until he just loses interest

86 Michael June 5, 2013 at 6:00 am

make sure your pockets are full of Jerkey, Jam and peanut butter,! Then run directly at the bear !

87 Smackwater June 7, 2013 at 11:11 pm

Like many have said here, a mother with cubs is the most dangerous situation. I hike in the woods a lot (Wisconsin, so strictly black bears). The times I have been hiking and saw cubs and didn’t see the mama, I always turned back and retraced my steps. I assume the territory I just passed through was safe, so it had the highest likelihood of being the safest direction of travel. So far, so good – my nickname isn’t “Stumpy” yet!

88 Brick Tamland September 20, 2013 at 3:45 am

Guys just ride them into jousting battles with your friends. It’s like riding a furry tractor

89 Rohit Ramachandran September 30, 2013 at 3:13 am

Awesome. I want to go fight a black bear now.

90 Survivor March 11, 2014 at 6:58 pm

I have encountered many black bears while hunting deer and only once did one stand and assess me she had cubs and bluff charged but at a good distance it’s very attention getting bust most often , especially black bears, are just figuring out what you are so be calm and don’t move until they walk away, you cannot outrun of outfight even a small bear the power they have is simply too much for a man or woman to fend off.

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