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Bear Encounters 101: Essential Steps for Safety and Survival

Hiking is one of the most fun and adventurous activities. But it can prove to be dangerous if you encounter a bear as the US is quite a bear country. Even by hearing the word, we feel afraid and anxious. Bears usually do not attack humans, and they try to keep a distance as well. But safety is important for unexpected encounters. Carrying bear spray is always necessary. 


Is It A Grizzly Or A Black Bear?

The most important thing is to figure out if it is a black bear or a grizzly bear. It isn’t easy to differentiate them based on the color of their fur or shape. The best way to identify them is by looking at their shoulders. If you look at a grizzly bear, you will notice a large clear bump of muscles on the shoulders, a concave shape of the face, and a dip down from the forehead to the nose. In comparison, the black bear’s face is in a straight line. 

If The Bear Hasn’t Seen You

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    • Try to be patient.
    • Let the bear move far away.
    • Never approach the bear.
    • Keep a safe distance. 
    • Change your track if possible.

If The Bear Has Seen You

    • Stay calm and do not run because you do want him to think of you as prey.
    • Talk in an appeasing tone to it and wave your hand to identify yourself as human.
    • Keep small children near.
    • Do not make any sudden movement.
    • Move slowly and remember not to turn your back on him. 

If A Bear Is Very Close

    • Spray pepper spray or bear spray aimed at the face
    • Look directly into its eyes and stand tall.
    • Command him to leave firmly.

If A Bear Defensively Attacks

Sometimes a bear would attack if he felt threatened, like a bear with cubs or protecting food. It would blow, snort, swat the ground, or pop its jaws to scare you. This is called a bluff charge. You should:

    • Appear non-threatening. 
    • Be ready with your bear spray detaching safety lock. 
    • Increase distance and leave the area. 
    • If the bear tries to make contact, lay on the ground and act dead until the bear goes far away. 
    • Lay down on your stomach, covering your neck with your hands. 
    • Keep your elbows and legs open so that the bear does not turn you over.  

If The Bear Aggressively Attacks

It rarely happens that you come across a bear that attacks you. It may be a young bear testing its dominance. If the bear approaches you as prey and comes after you, then:

    • Act aggressive 
    • Look directly in their eyes 
    • Shout and appear as big as possible
    • Firmly take a few steps toward the bear
    • Threaten the bear with pepper spray or a stick
    • Hit the bear if it attacks
    • Aim at the face, nose, and eyes


While going on trekking, you should avoid places with the bear altogether. The best way to ensure that you do not have unpleasant encounters with bears is by not moving alone in the bear’s habitat. Travel in groups (the bigger, the better), and make a lot of noise. Do not tease or irritate the bear and remain calm by keeping a safe distance.