While bear attacks are rare, a man should always be prepared for a bear encounter. You never know when you’ll need this information. How you handle a bear attack depends on the type of bear you come across: grizzly or black. So the first step in surviving a bear encounter is to know what kind you’re up against.
Grizzly Bear Dossier
- Color: Medium to dark brown.
- Body Shape: Has distinct shoulder hump. This is a muscle used for digging roots and slashing prey with their massive bear paw.
- Height: The grizzly bear averages around 6.5 feet in height.
- Claws: Grizzly claws are long — up to 4″. 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 Bear Attack
1. Carry bear spray. Experts recommend that hikers in bear country carry with them bear pepper spray. UDAP bear spray is a highly concentrated capsaicin spray that creates a large cloud. This stuff will usually stop a bear in its tracks.
2. Don’t run. When you run, the bear thinks you’re prey and will continue chasing you. Don’t think you can outrun a bear; they can reach speeds of 30 mph. So stand your ground.
3. Drop to the ground in the fetal position and cover the back of your neck with your hands. If you don’t have bear 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
- Color: Exhibits a variety of colors ranging from black to light blond.
- Body shape: Don’t have the shoulder hump that grizzlies have.
- Height: Slightly smaller than grizzlies, 3-4 feet tall when on all fours.
- Claws: Claws are shorter than grizzly claws.
- Location: Black bears are the most common bear in North America. They live in all the provinces of Canada and 41 and of the 50 American states.
How to Survive a Black Bear Attack
1. Carry bear spray. As with the grizzly bear, bear 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 bear actually attacks, fight back. Use anything and everything as a weapon — rocks, sticks, fists, and your teeth. Aim your blows on the bear’s 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will a gunshot kill a bear? A pistol, like a 9mm, may kill a black bear if it’s within a few feet and strikes the head or heart. It won’t be immediate though, so don’t rely on it. A 12-gauge may be more effective, but again, it’s no guarantee. Against a grizzly, it’s quite possible you’ll just piss it off. With either type of bear, don’t rely on a gun to save your life in the event of an attack. Bear spray is actually going to be more effective.
How can you tell if a bear is stalking you? Bears don’t actually stalk their prey very well. They’re large, lumbering animals that aren’t able to keep quiet very well. That said, if a bear continues to look at you and follows you with its eyes, rather than walking off, stay alert.
Which bear is more aggressive? Grizzly bears are by far the more aggressive bear; black bears are actually known for being one of the more tolerant bear species and will almost always back away from the prospect of a fight.
How do you avoid bear attacks/encounters in the first place? Hike in groups, stay on trails, and talk/sing loudly if you’re in an area that has seen high bear activity. Bells hung on your pack also work, but are less effective than other loud noises.
Can a bear outrun a human? Absolutely! Bears can run 20-30 mph. Definitely do not try to outrun a black bear or a grizzly bear.
Bear Attack Survival Tactics in Illustrated Form
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