Part 1: Bear’s Characteristics, Behaviour and Society
MIND OF BEARS
Bears are intelligent
A lot more predictable than most think
Amazing noses, and ears and eyes are good
Strong, fast, good swimmers
Black bears great at tree climbing, but grizzlies not bad
BLACK VS GRIZZLY BEARS
Grizzly distribution more limited but locally can be the most abundant
Grizzlies more likely to attack when threatened
Black bears rarely attack defensively
Grizzlies more dangerous than blacks, but risks from either much less than people tend to fear
Humans more tolerant of black bears
Flexible social structure that allows them to function at low densities or at concentrated food sources with reduced chance of injury
They do fight but more often use avoidance, restraint and posturing to prevent injury
THREE MAJOR ASPECTS OF BEAR SOCIETY
Body language and vocalizations to communicate with each other
Dominance hierarchy or pecking order
Bears have varying motivations for what they do
Food and the search for it dominate a bear’s life
Mating and raising offspring
Investigating novel stimuli; curiosity
Establishing and asserting dominance
From a safety standpoint it’s important to understand the difference between “defensive” and other motivations, especially ones that might lead to “predatory” attack
Also critical is understanding the psychology of bears as they grow up. There’s a big difference in the mentality of a recently weaned 2 to 4 year old bear versus an adult female with cubs or an adult male
Part 2: Bear-Human Interactions
Most bears have previous experience around people and learn from each interaction
Humans usually don’t even know they came close to a bear, BEARS USUALLY AVOID PEOPLE
Two major categories of Bear-Human interactions where bears don’t avoid or even approach people: Defensive and Non-defensive
Bear thinks you are a threat to itself, its cubs or its food cache
Usually you approached it, and entered into its personal space, surprising or crowding it
Most likely will appear agitated and stressed
Closer you are too it before it becomes aware of you, more likely it is to react defensively
Almost always stop short of contact, fight/flight is triggered
Defensive response that results in an attack (physical contact) almost always involve grizzly bears surprised at close range, on a carcass or protecting young. The few defensive attacks by black bears have been females protecting cubs (but these are very rare).
A number of different non-defensive motivations that may appear similar to each other
AVOIDING BEAR ENCOUNTERS OR REACTING DURING ONE
AVOID BEARS WHENEVER POSSIBLE
LET BEAR YOU CANNOT AVOID KNOW YOU’RE HUMAN by talking and slowly waving your arms. Try to give the bear your scent
AVOID BEARS THAT ARE AWARE OF YOU AND UNCONCERNED
NEVER APPROACH A BEAR
LEAVE AREA YOU ENCOUNTERED A BEAR
IF YOU HEAR VOCALIZATIONS OR SEE UNATTENDED CUBS…
be extremely cautious and leave the area silently the way you came.
Review of your response during bear encounters:
- Identify yourself as human to bears you cannot avoid by talking and slowly waving your arms. Try to give the bear your scent.
- Increase your distance from the bear, even if it appears unconcerned.
- Do not run, it could invite pursuit.
If a bear approaches you:
- Stand your ground!
- Quickly assess the situation. Is the bear behaving defensively or in some other way?
- Remain calm, attacks are rare.
- Do not run unless you’re absolutely sure of reaching safety.
- Group together. Prepare your deterrent
If the bear is approaching in a defensive manner:
- Stand your ground. Try to appear non-threatening.
- Don’t shout at the bear. Talk to the bear in a calm voice.
- If the bear stops its approach, increase your distance.
- If the bear resumes its approach, stand your ground, keep talking calmly, and prepare to use your deterrent.
- If the bear cannot be deterred and is intent on attack, fall to the ground as close to contact as possible and play dead.
- When the attack stops, remain still and wait for the bear to leave. If an attack is prolonged or the bear starts eating you, it is no longer being defensive.
If the bear approaches in a non-defensive manner:
- Talk to the bear in a firm voice.
- Try to move away from the bear’s travel path, that may be all it wants you to do.
- If the bear follows you with it’s attention directed at you. Stop! Stand your ground and prepare to use your deterrent.
- Act aggressively toward the bear. Let the bear know you will fight if attacked. Shout! Make yourself look as big as possible. Stamp your feet as you take a step or two toward the bear. Threaten the bear with whatever is at hand. A bear that is initially curious or testing you may become predatory if you do not stand up to it. The more the bear persists, the more aggressive your response should be.
- If the bear attacks, use your deterrent and fight for your life. Kick, punch or hit the bear with whatever weapon is available. Concentrate your attack on the face, eyes and nose. Fight any bear that attacks you in your building or tent.
- If an attack (physical contact is made) is defensive… Play dead. (Don’t play dead before you have used all possible means, such as deterrents to prevent an attack)
- If the attack is predatory… Fight back.
HELPING SOMEONE BEING ATTACKED
You may be able to drive away an attacking bear from someone else but if you do this you risk drawing the attack to yourself.
Part 3: Deterrents and Preventing Problems
Used to deter bears at close range.
Not 100% effective or a substitute for avoiding an encounter.
Use only approved bear sprays
Carry it ready to use and keep it handy in your tent at night.
Make sure it’s adequate
Mentally rehearse the situations where you would use it
DETERRENTS IN GENERAL
Know their capabilities and limitations
Can be useful but should not give you a false sense of security.
Training and practice are essential.
Observe regulations governing their transport and use.
Consult with local authorities
PREVENTING BEAR PROBLEMS
Most of bear safety is prevention.
LEARN ABOUT BEARS
Move away undetected from bears that are unaware of you or distant.
Be aware of your surroundings.
Look for signs of recent bear activity.
DON’T SURPRISE BEARS
Warn bears of your presence.
TRAVEL IN GROUP
Groups are noisier and easier to detect and several people are more intimidating to a bear .
KEEP CHILDREN CLOSE
Keep it on a leash or leave it at home. Exception is a specially trained dog. Most are not.
CHOOSE CAMPSITES CAREFULLY
Don’t camp on bear travel routes
Use local knowledge of bears and recommended camping practices.
DON’T ATTRACT BEARS OR REWARD THEM WITH FOOD
Keep a clean camp free of attractants.
OTHER DETECTION/DETERRENT OPTIONS
Trip wires, motion detectors and compact electric fences can be useful
Be proficient in first aid
Carry sufficient medical supplies.
Inform others of your plans
Communication can save lives.
Prepared by members of the Safety in Bear Country Society
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