What to do if you see a black bear?

Answered by Jarrod Smith

When encountering a black bear, it is important to remain calm and take appropriate actions to ensure your safety. Here are the steps you should follow:

1. Assess the situation: Take a moment to evaluate the bear’s behavior. Is it aware of your presence? Is it agitated or showing signs of aggression? Understanding the bear’s demeanor can help you determine the best course of action.

2. Alter your route: If possible, try to change your path or distance yourself from the bear. Slowly and quietly back away, preferably in the direction you came from. This allows you to maintain a safe distance and avoid escalating the situation.

3. Maintain eye contact: As you move away, it is crucial to keep your eye on the bear. This helps you monitor its behavior and react accordingly. Avoid turning your back on the bear, as this may trigger its predatory instincts.

4. Avoid sudden movements: While retreating, make sure to move slowly and deliberately. Sudden movements can startle the bear, potentially leading to a defensive or aggressive response. Stay calm and composed throughout the encounter.

5. Be prepared: Always carry bear spray or other deterrents when venturing into bear country. These tools can help deter a bear that is approaching too closely. Keep the deterrent readily accessible, but try not to make any sudden movements that could provoke the bear.

6. Assess the bear’s response: In most cases, black bears will choose to flee when they become aware of human presence. If the bear starts to move away, continue to back away slowly, ensuring you maintain a safe distance.

7. Act boldly if necessary: If the bear begins to approach you, it is important to act boldly. Make yourself appear larger by raising your arms and standing tall. Shout loudly and firmly, letting the bear know that you are not a threat. Throw objects such as rocks or sticks in the bear’s direction to deter it from coming closer.

8. Do not run: Running away from a bear can trigger its predatory instincts, as they are naturally inclined to chase fleeing prey. It is essential to resist the urge to run and instead focus on maintaining your ground and standing your ground.

9. Report the encounter: Once you are safely away from the bear, it is advisable to report the encounter to the appropriate authorities. This information can help wildlife officials track bear activity and take necessary steps to ensure public safety.

Remember, every bear encounter is different, and it is important to use your judgment and adapt to the situation accordingly. These guidelines provide a general framework for handling a black bear encounter, but it is always best to educate yourself about bear behavior and consult local wildlife experts for specific guidelines in your area.