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Hiking In Bear Country - OutdoorPlaces.Com

 Hiking In Bear Country - Page Two


  Black Bear
OK, so you followed all the rules.  Your traveling with a partner, the rangers told you no bears have been spotted on the trails in a couple of days, you didn't wear deodorant, and your walking through the woods clapping, laughing and blowing your whistle from time to time.  Your gorp and jerky are in double sealed plastic bags and you signed the trailhead register.  As you turn the corner on the trail you spot a bear, one-hundred and fifty feet up that seems unaware of your presence.  Maybe she has cubs, maybe it is a grizzly bear eating some late winter kill, the choices you make over the next 60 seconds can make the different between a chance encounter and disaster.

You first need to size up what kind of bear it is.  Is it a black bear with it's longer snout and smaller size, or is a brown bear with it's distinctive hump and large size.  Is it a sow with cubs, or a lone male foraging for something to eat.  Does the bear even acknowledge your presence?

The first thing you need to do is stay calm, because animals can sense fear.  A sow with cubs can construe your yelling as a threat.  The first thing you need to realize is that every bear is as different as every human, so there are no fast and hard rules for a bear encounter.  Below is a guide on how you should behave when you encounter a bear. 

Do not make any sudden moves or loud noise on the immediate encounter.  If you are hiking in a group you should grab on to each others hands to make yourselves look larger and slowly move backwards.  If the bear does not seem to be aware or care about your presence continue to move backwards NEVER turning your back on the bear.  You should return from the direction you can from after moving at least three-hundred feet away.  Do not attempt to navigate backcountry around the bear and after moving a safe distance you should also start making a lot of noise.  Never attempt to navigate around cubs.  A sow is never far from her cubs so moving away in the direction you came from is very important.
Do not run or let anyone run in your group when you spot a bear.  Running is a basic, "fight or flight" instinct ingrained in all animals including humans.  Running from a bear can trigger a hunting instinct.  You will never, ever, even on your best day outrun a bear.
Do not climb a tree to get away from a bear.  Black bears in particular are superb climbers.  Brown bears can reach up over ten feet and will simply swat you out of a tree.  There have been documented cases of brown bears pushing over trees to knock a hiker down.  Remember, a bear can cover about two-hundred feet of ground in as little as six seconds.  You simply can not climb fast enough to get away.
Do not attempt to wade across a stream or into a lake to avoid a bear.  Bears are excellent swimmers and with four paws on the ground and four-hundred plus pounds of bulk, have a much better chance of crossing fast moving water then you do.

If all has gone well, your encounter with the bear should be over.  For the most part, this is what happens in most bear encounters.  However, sometimes things take another turn, and you need to be prepared for the event that this happens.  If the bear you encounter stands on it's hind legs, turns to expose it's size (allowing you to see how big it is) and/or lets out a low, gruff sound similar to a Tim Allen, Home Improvement grunt, the bear has done several things.  It has noted your presence and has made a threat.  It is saying, "I don't like you here and I could hurt you if I want to."

If you are hiking in a group raise your arms up as you hold hands, and spread out, make yourselves look even larger.  Make noise as a group as you slowly back away,  If you are wearing a pack slowly get it off of one shoulder, you may need it if things turn nastier.  If you have bear spray slowly get it into your hand.
If the bear charges you (runs at you) stay calm.  Continue to make noise as a group, hold hands, arms raised, and hold your ground.  Most bears will do a false charge stopping around twenty to thirty feet away as a show of force.  Now is the time to drop the pack off of the other shoulder and throw it on the ground toward the bear.  The pack on the ground can make a wonderful diversion.  You should NOT use your bear spray at this point.  You need to be very firm with a bear that makes a false charge.  The only exception to this false charge rule is a sow with cubs.  A sow with cubs that feels threatened has a higher chance of issuing a real charge with an intent to attack.  You should keep this in mind if you see cubs.

Surviving a bear attack...

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