Spring has sprung, bears are coming out of hibernation—the first grizzly bear was spotted in Yellowstone in early March—, and hiking weather is right around the corner. Whether you’re going on a hike for a couple of hours or camping for a couple of days, it’s important to plan for a chance encounter with a newly awakened bear. After all, it is their natural habitat, and fatal bear attacks happen annually. Here are some tips to help avoid bear encounters and what to do if you encounter a bear.
1. Do Your Research
Know where you’re going and what trails you plan to follow, and research the local bear population. Is the area known for having bears? What kind of bears live there? You can also check the park website for wildlife information ahead of time and ask the park rangers when you arrive.
2. Always Carry Bear Spray*
Bears are top of the food chain in North America. They can run up to 40 mph and can cover 50 feet in 1 second, so it’s important to keep your distance if you encounter a bear. Frontiersman Bear Spray deploys a protective cloud of pepper spray up to 35 feet for the greatest distance between you and a charging bear. Bear spray will temporarily disorient an attacking bear but will not permanently injure the animal, helping you make a safe escape.
*National parks like Yosemite and Sequoia & Kings Canyon, prohibit the possession and use of bear spray. Always check with local park regulations. In parks where bear spray is prohibited, consider carrying a Bear Horn or Bear Bells instead.
Just as you prefer to avoid a bear encounter, bears prefer to avoid encountering humans. Making noise while you hike is important for alerting nearby bears that you are in the area, so they can steer clear of your path. If you're hiking solo, you can carry noise-making devices such as a Bear Horn or Bear Bells to make surrounding bears aware of your presence. Hiking in a group is always recommended since there is safety in numbers, but it is also a good way to make yourself noticeable to bears in the area. More people will also make more noise.
4. Protect Your Food
When you’re camping in bear country, keeping your food sealed is a must. Bears can smell food from miles away, and their hunger can suppress their instinct to avoid human interaction. Hanging bear bags is a common solution to keep bears out of your food, but these do not conceal the odor, which is what attracts bears in the first place. The Frontiersman Bear Safe does both: it helps keep food odors in and keeps bears out.
What To Do if You Encounter a Bear:
- Don’t Run Away: Running away is threatening to a bear and will cause them to attack. Stay still and calm, and walk away slowly.
- Don’t Approach a Bear: If the bear doesn’t see you, keep your distance. Do not try to approach the bear to take a photo—a selfie isn’t worth your life.
- Don’t Separate a Mama Bear from Its Cub: Bears become aggressive when they think humans are going to threaten their young. Avoid getting in between a bear and her cub on the trails.
- Brown, Lie Down: Brown bears (grizzly bears) will stop attacking if they think you are dead. Lie down on your stomach (this allows your backpack to protect your back) and play dead.
- Black, Fight Back: Although black bears attack less frequently than brown bears, you have to fight back if they do. Playing dead will not deter a black bear.
- Use Bear Spray: Having a way to protect yourself from up to 35 feet away from an attacking bear is far easier and safer than trying to play dead when being attacked by a brown bear or having to fight off an attacking black bear.
No one wants to run into a bear on their outdoor adventure, but with the warmer weather, those chances increase. We hope these tips help you stay safe and enjoy your next exploration in bear country.