How to Survive a Bear Attack

August 12, 2014 by | Be the first to comment »

While humans enjoy our position at the top of the food chain, it’s largely thanks to our intellect and ability to use tools that go bang. That makes an unarmed encounter with a true apex predator like a bear less than optimal. Here in Florida we don’t need to worry too much about bears because they are relatively small and non-aggressive. I once ran into one in the woods at night and it took off like it owed me money. Folks in areas with larger, more aggressive bears like grizzly, brown, or black bears might not be so lucky.

Avoid them

The surest way to survive a bear attack is not to be attacked in the first place. Most attacks occur when people stumble upon a bear and startle them, which triggers their natural fight or flight reaction. You can avoid this by making plenty of noise; try talking loudly, walking heavily, or even hang bells or pots from your pack.

Pay attention to your surroundings

Despite their size, bears are surprisingly quiet and can easily sneak up on you. Stop occasionally to look around and listen, and keep your eyes open for tracks and droppings on the ground, claw marks on trees, and fur stuck on the bark.

Stay calm

Most of the time, a bear will bluff an attack by charging, just to see how you’ll react. If you run, you will trigger their predatory instinct to devour your ass.

Be the biggest guy on the mountain

Most of use aren’t close to the size of even the smallest bears, but the bears don’t know that. Stand tall and wave your arms high and wide. You won’t be as large as them, but you may be able to convince them otherwise—remember, they aren’t that bright. Screaming at them or banging pots can sometimes scare them away, too.

Fight back (brown, black, and polar bears)

Once a bear has attacked, fight as aggressively as you can. You can’t compete with his strength so you’ll only have a brief opportunity change his mind. A gun is your best bet, but anything can be used as a weapon to strike the mouth, nose, and eyes. (I’m a big fan of gouging out the eyes—a bear that can’t see you can’t kill you!) Most brown and black bears will retreat if you fight back. Polar bears can go either way.

Play dead (grizzly bears)

Grizzly bears will not retreat, so play dead if attacked by one.

When all else fails…

Make sure someone in your group runs slower than you. 🙂

Melanie Swick (a.k.a. Survival Chick) grew up wanting to be a rocket scientist, but when she realized she that required way too much math, she took to her second dream—spending time in the wilderness. Today, when she's not hiking, camping, or hunting, she's blogging about it. You can connect with Melanie on Facebook.

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