You're walking in the woods, perhaps returning from or heading to the stream or lake.
Then you see it in the distance: the dark blotch of fur, the lumbering body.
It's a black bear.
In your space.
What do you do?
Every summer, a rash of reports such as these chronicle black bear sightings by unsuspecting bystanders. And every summer, tens of thousands of these encounters end peacefully, with no one getting hurt.
Still, it’s important to exercise caution in a human-bear encounter. Check out Bear Smart website for great information about bears and safety. If you ever find yourself in a such a situation, here are six tips for keeping safe.
1. Don’t panic.
For starters, your chances of being attacked by a black bear are relatively low——especially compared to other kinds of bears. Each year, only 1 in 100,000 black bears and 1 in 35,000 grizzly bears kills a human, according to the Get Bear Smart Society, a Canadian charity that focuses on bear management policy across North America. (Your odds of dying in a car accident, by contrast, are 1 in 108).
2. Don’t mess with a mother and her cubs.
It may go without saying, but this is one of the most dangerous things you can do amid a bear encounter. Sometimes, this can happen inadvertently. But to prevent attacks, it's important to be as aware as possible of your surroundings.
In 1991, a black bear mauled a man who was bowhunting for deer in the Marble Mountain wilderness of California. The encounter began when the man began photographing the bears. The bear charged the hunter, who had turned to run. He escaped with only several bites on the shoulder.
3. Do speak loudly and back away.
Standing upright and making loud noises is a technique that’s been shown to diffuse bear-human encounters before they begin. In 2003, a hiker in Los Angeles County, California, was attacked from the back by a bear.
After being knocked to the ground and having his pack stolen by the bear, he began shouting at the creature until it retreated. The hiker escaped with minor injuries. "It's best to alert bears of your presence by talking loudly, singing songs or breaking sticks,” according to Get Bear Smart Society.
4. Don’t climb a tree.
The conventional wisdom about climbing a tree to escape a bear is actually more of a myth. You’re not any safer in a tree than on the land, experts say. After all, “bears sometimes kill each other by throwing their opponents out of trees,” according to Get Bear Smart Society.
5. Do carry—and use—bear deterrent spray.
Bear pepper spray might be your best chance for surviving a close-up encounter with a bear, statistics show. According to data tracked by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 1992, humans who discharge a firearm during bear-human encounters sustain injuries 50 percent of the time. If you use bear spray, however, those chances of getting injured in such a scenario drop by half.
How should you shop for and deploy bear deterrent spray? Check out this video.
6. Do relish a safe encounter.
Not everyone sees a bear in the wild. For many, a glimpse of this adaptable, intelligent and magnificent creature happens only once in a lifetime. Make sure to enjoy it safely by following these tips.