What You Should Never Do If You Meet a Bear

Don't run; and the type of bear matters in important ways
By Brownie Marie,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 19, 2015 6:00 PM CDT
FILE - In this Monday, Aug. 31, 2015, file photo, a grizzly bear looks up from foraging, in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska. The summer travel season is winding down at Denali National Park...   (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File)

(Newser) – Bear populations are rising, though attacks remain rare, with your chances of being injured by one somewhere around 1 in 2 million. Still, with encounters growing more likely in North America, scientists took a look at nearly 700 bear attacks to figure out possible patterns and advice, reports National Geographic. For starters, the hands-down best protection was a can of bear spray. Also, do a little research about the type of bear in your neck of the woods—black or brown, with the latter including grizzlies—because it affects how you should respond. Some highlights:

  • Never run: You'll lose that race, and you might provoke an attack. Try to walk away slowly if a bear spots you, keeping an eye on the bear. "Some experts suggest speaking out loud in a calm voice." If a black bear is approaching, you could yell, stand tall, even throw things and maybe scare it off, but be aware "that strategy isn't foolproof." Don't even try that with brown bears; start walking away immediately.

  • Play dead? It depends. For one thing, do so only after a bear makes contact. If it's a black bear, you can try to fight back, but if that's not working, "lay on your stomach (protecting your vital organs), clasp your hands on the back of your neck, and pull up your knees." If it's a grizzly, don't fight back, period. Play dead and hope for the best.
  • The attacks: Bears typically charge only if the first encounter happens at close range, within 10 yards. Even then, it might end OK. In the study, more than half the attacks didn't result in physical injuries. In the 313 that did, 36% resulted in injuries to legs and feet, 18% to arms, 18% to the back, and 9% to the head or neck.
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