How to Scare a Bear?

Grizly Bear at Katmai National Park

Last Updated on September 7, 2021

While spending time in the outdoors, you can potentially face some perilous situations. One example of this is encountering a bear. These are fast and powerful animals that can cause you significant harm or even kill you, especially if they see you as a threat or they are protecting their young. Therefore, you should plan what you would do if you came face-to-face with a bear while enjoying an outdoor expedition. Here is some advice on how to scare a bear.

Coping With Bear Situations

Where Might You Encounter a Bear?

There are different species of bear across the globe. While some pose very little threat to humans and prefer to keep out of sight, there are others that you are more likely to see while enjoying outdoor activities.

There are more American black bears in the world than all the other species added together. American black bears live in Mexico, the United States, and Canada. Brown bears are also common, especially the subspecies grizzly bear. They too are found across the United States and are also common in many European countries.

You are most likely to encounter a bear in a forested mountainous region as these are the natural habitats of bears. This means that many national parks in Canada and the United States are home to either American black bears or brown bears. These are also the areas that are popular with those who enjoy outdoor pursuits.

Why Do Bears Attack?

Although there are lots of scare stories about bear attacks, these are relatively rare as bears prefer to keep away from humans. However, there are some situations that make a bear attack more likely. These include:

  • Hyperphagia- This is a period in late summer and early fall when bears have a feeding frenzy. This is because they need to bulk up ready for hibernation during winter. Bear attacks are more common during this period.
  • Mothers with cubs- It is a natural instinct for a mother with cubs to protect her young. If she perceives you as a threat to her young, then she may attack.

Should You Try to Outrun a Bear?

The natural instinct of many people who meet a bear is to try to outrun the bear, but this is a bad idea. A brown bear can reach a top speed of 30 miles per hour and black bears are even faster as they can reach 40 miles per hour (here's how fast bears run). The fastest living human, Usain Bolt, can only reach a speed of 28 miles per hour. Therefore, the average human is much slower and could not outrun a bear, especially over challenging terrain. Furthermore, bears have excellent endurance and most humans cannot compete with this endurance.

How to Scare a Bear

So, if you cannot outrun them, how can you scare a bear? Bears are naturally frightened of humans. Therefore, they will usually retreat and run back into the hills rather than attack. However, there are some situations when they will attack, so it is important to scare them away before this happens.

The first thing to do is to try to stay calm while dealing with the situation and always face the bear directly. Turning away or running will instigate their natural hunting instinct and they will see you as prey.

Next, make yourself look as big as possible by spreading your arms and legs. If there are several of you, stand together as this will make you look more of a threat. However, you should not surround the bear as this can make it attempt to fight its way out of the group.

When you have made yourself look big, you should then make as much noise as possible. If you have pots and pans, start banging them loudly. This is usually enough to scare away a bear.

Other Ways to Face a Bear Encounter

This is not the only way that you can deal with a bear encounter. If you are alone in an area away from a campsite and a bear rears up or advances towards you as though it will attack, then you could use bear repellent spray. This spray will cause irritation to the bear’s eyes and respiratory tract but will not cause it any long-term harm. Many camper, hikers, and backpackers carry bear repellent spray with them when they make trips in the outdoors. Although it is unlikely you will encounter a bear, this is a good item to take as a precaution.

Final Verdict

Bear attacks are rare as these animals are usually frightened of humans and prefer to keep away. However, there are some circumstances that can lead to a bear attacking a human. If you are visiting an area that is the natural habitat of bears, it is important to have a plan in place to prepare yourself for the unlikely event that you are attacked by a bear. Making yourself look big and making lots of noise are the best ways to scare away a bear. However, carrying bear repellent spray as a precautionary measure also makes sense.

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