The Bear Attack Survival Guide for Hiking in Bear Country

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Bear Bear Bear!

Bear encounters are very rare. Bears are a very intelligent animal. Normally making some noises and hiking with a group of people can help you avoid a surprise encounter with bears. Usually, these huge animals are shy and elusive. The smell of the food and garbage attracts these bears near to human trails and campsites.

They defend their food resource very aggressively and when a mate is present. Mainly adult male bears are most likely to act very aggressively.

They can swim in water like an expert in search of food. The hearing capacity is double that of a human being. The strongest and powerful sense organ is their nose to sense smell. Trying to outrun a bear when encountered is a bad idea.

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How fast a Bear can run?

The fastest human running speed recorded was 44.739 kilometer per hour and this was scored by the Usain bolt at Berlin on 16-Aug-2009 world championships. The average human running speed ranges between 10 to 15 miles per hour and this average running speed varies depending on your age and gender. Females are a bit slower than males. 

Types of Bear


Brown Bear

brown bear

Top speed

34.9 km/hr

Size 

1.4 to 2.8 m (length)

70 to 153 cm (shoulder height)

Weight 

100 to 205 kg (females)

140 to 400 kg (males)

Lifespan

20 to 25 years

How to identify a Brown bear?

The color of the brown bear depends on the location it lives. It varies from light brown to dark brown and in some location, it is black in color.

Brown bears are strong and can gain high speed in a small distance run but slow down quickly due to their heavy body weight. Brown bear is considered as the worlds mostly distributed bear specious. 

Brown bear cubs grow faster, within 6 months they gain more than 20 % of their body weight and continues to grow until 10 - 11 years old. Their toes are closer together and less curved.

BROWN BEAR NATURE

What does Brown Bear eat?

Brown bears are omnivorous. They feed on grass, fruits, nuts, roots, berries, some insects, bugs, beetles, termites, ants, worms and some dead animal meat. When they become very hungry they will hunt on other animals like squirrels, rodents, foxes, deer, sheep, fish especially salmons etc.

Do Brown bear attack humans?

Bear defense:

They are unpredictable in temperament. Brown bears are aggressive to defend themselves and will become more aggressive especially with cubs and to defend their food resource.

These bears are more aggressive when they are surprised or when they feel threatened.

Where do you find a Brown bear?

Mostly found in Europe and some parts of Asia. In some part of the world, they are called grizzly bears and in Mexico as Mexican grizzly bears. 

What do you do when you see a brown bear?

  • Wave your hands and don’t scream, speak in a low voice
  • Observe the situation and slowly back away
  • Don’t try to run away
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    Keep an eye on the bear so that we can assess the situation and its behavior

How to survive a brown bear attack?

Playing dead may help you as they will stop attacking you if they feel that you are no longer a threat. When playing dead the bear may try to toss you, continue playing dead until you are sure that the bear is no longer near you.

Use bear deterrents.

If it charges towards you beyond 1-meter limit use your bear safety spray.

 

Black Bear

Top speed

50 km/hr

Size 

1.2 to 2 m (length)

70 to 91 cm (shoulder height)

Weight 

57 - 250 kg (males)

41 - 170 kg (females)

Lifespan

18 - 23 years

The Biggest Black bear weighed 500 kg.The front leg claws length is about 1 to 2 inches.

How to identify a black bear?

Black bears are not always black in color it varies from light brown to even grey-blue color. A subspecies of the black bear which is in British Columbia called spirit bear is white in color.

In Black bears, its rump is higher than its shoulder and have larger ears. Their toes are more separated and more curved than grizzly bears. Their face profile is straight.Black bears and their cubs can climb tree tops very easily for adventurous and get safety from other predators.

tibetan BLACK bear howling in nature

What do Black bears eat?

They are also omnivorous feeding on grass, fruits, nuts, roots, insects, fish and some dead animal meat. 

Do black bear attack, humans?

Black bear rarely attacks people to cause death or injuries. More than 70% of the Black bear attack was reported on a single person and while only a small percentage of attack has occurred to more than two people.

Black Bears are not territorial. They move out their common area to a large distance in search of food.

Black bears can see things in color. They don't have long distance eyesight but can identify a fruit when it ripe.

Where do you find a black bear?

Black bears are two types American black bear and Asian black bear.

American black bears are mainly found in North America, in Canada mostly in riding mountain national park.

Asian black bears are also called moon bear because it has a half moon shaped white color mark on its chest. Asian black bears are found in the Himalayas, the northern part of India, Korea, China and some parts of Japan and Taiwan.

What do you do when you see a black bear?

  •  Stand on your ground do not try to run, it can easily outrun you
  • If you use a hiking pole, then wave your hand sideways or use any tree branch
  • Make a loud noise and wave your hands
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    The idea of waving is to get big in size this may help you to avoid a bear attack
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    Prepare your bear spray, knife, and torch
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    If you are in a group stay together, don’t split and run

How to survive a black bear attack?

Always Keep your Black bear deterrents with you and keep it somewhere which is easily accessible.

Climbing a tree will not be a good idea because black bears are excellent climbers. Use your bear spray if it comes closer to you less than 1 meter. If it attacks you fight back with anything you get such as rock, tree branch, knife, etc

Try to hit hard on its face particularly in the eyes and nose area of the face.


Grizzly Bear

grizzly bear

Top speed

56 km/hr

Size 

1.5  to 2.3 m (length)

73 to 105 cm (shoulder height)

Weight 

180 to 360 kg (Males)

130 to 180 kg (Females)

Lifespan

20 to 25 years

How to Identify a Grizzly Bear?

Grizzly bears have longer front claws than black bears of about 2 to 4 inches and their rump is lower than its shoulder. These bears have smaller ears than black bears. Their face is of a concave shape. They are the second largest bear after polar bear. 

All Grizzly bears are brown bears, but not all brown bears are grizzlies. These bears are larger subspecies of brown bear.

GRIZLY BEAR

What does brown Grizzly eat?

They are also omnivorous feeding on grass, fruits, nuts, roots, insects, fish, some dead animal meat, elk, carrion and even cutworm moths. 

Do Grizzly bear attack, humans?

Grizzly bears are most aggressive to defend themselves and will become more aggressive especially with cubs and to defend their food resource. These bears are more aggressive and more dangerous than black bears.

Where do you find a Grizzly bear?

In Canada, North America, Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, Mexico, Idaho, California, Ohio and in some area of Washington.  

What do you do if you see a grizzly bear?

  • Don’t run when you encounter a grizzly bear
  • Back away slowly if the bear is not approaching towards you
  • Avoid direct eye contact
  • hand-o-right
    If it charges towards you stand your ground

How to survive a Grizzly bear attack?

Wave your hands and don’t scream, speak in a low voice.

Use bear deterrents: If it charges towards you beyond 1-meter limit use your grizzly bear safety spray.

Playing dead may help you as they will stop attacking you if they feel that you are no longer a threat. When playing dead the bear may try to toss you, continue playing dead until you are sure that the bear is no longer near you.

Polar Bear

polar bear

Top speed

40 km/hr

Size 

2.4 to 3 m (Length)

122 to 160 cm (Shoulder Length)

Weight 

350 to 700 kg (Male)

270 to 500 kg (Female)

Lifespan

20 to 25 years

The Biggest Polar bear weighed 1002 kg

How to identify a Polar bear?

Polar bears share most of the same physical characteristics of brown and grizzly bears in terms of size and body form, but they are the biggest bear and land predator.

The Polar bears have a long neck and elongated head. Their ears are smaller than other bears. Polar bear fur is light in colors such as white, light brown, light yellow and light grey. Their nose and skin under the fur are black in color.

Polar bear front limbs have webbed paws, which is larger than other bears and is used for swimming. They are excellent swimmers and can swim for several days.

POLAR BEAR

 What does Polar Bear eat?

They mostly feed on different types of seals. They also kill walrus for food which is twice the size of it and sometimes they kill white whale also for food.

Polar bear consumes a wide range of food. They will try to eat almost anything which they find in the wild. Sometimes they even eat hazardous substance like plastic, rubber, battery, engine oils, lubricants etc.

If you are in a polar bear country, try to avoid leaving such waste product in the wild.

Do Polar bear attack, humans?

Polar bears show extremely aggressive, fearless and unpredictable behavior when they are hungry. The polar bear is a predator.

It shows some of the hunting skills like stealth to attack its prey without showing its presence until the attack is underway.

Where do you find a Polar bear?

These bears are most commonly found in the Arctic circle, and some parts of Canada, America(Alaska), Denmark, Norway, and Russia.

What do you do if you see a polar bear?

  • If you see a polar bear and if the bear doesn't know you are there then don’t try anything stupid to invite it towards you.
  • Slowly back away and leave the area
  • Don’t make any kind of noise that attracts the polar bear towards you

How to survive a polar bear attack?

Best way to survive a polar bear attack is to avoid such encounters entirely.

In polar bear country try to travel in groups. If the polar bear see you and it moves towards you then it is most likely to attack you.

The polar bear is the biggest land predator and a carnivorous it will see you only as its prey. Be prepared with your bear repellent. If it comes closer less than 1 meter then use your bear defense spray.

If it attacks to try to stay away from its powerful claws and try to strike hard on its eyes and nose. Show your torchlight on its face. Don’t play dead when a polar bear attack.

If you are in a group stay together then hold your arms together and wave it, make loud noise together. Don’t try to split and run.

 

What to do when you encounter a bear?

How to survive a bear attack

  • Stop and remain calm do not walk towards the bear. In most of the time, it will flee
  • When you encounter a bear at a distance away, maintain a distance and slowly back away without making any noise
  • Do not try to take a photo when you suddenly encounter one
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    If you encounter a bear at close range then stand still and face the bear, back away slowly and never run
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    If you find a bear approaches towards you in its territory, then don’t scream talk in a calm and low tone of voice to let the bear know you are not threatening
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    If you encounter a bear in a human living area or urban area, then use a loud and firm voice and make a direct eye contact with the bear
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    Use your bear spray if it approaches you very close.
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    The bear will show aggressive behavior to make you leave the place. It may pop its jaw, swat the ground with front legs while blowing or snorting. It may bluff charge towards you and then suddenly stops and turn away. Always stand your ground until the bear turns away and retreat.
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    If the bear attacks you making physical contact, then fight back with any weapon you can find including rocks and branches.

Backpacking Bear Safety Tips

  • Before going for hiking on new place try to know about the place and predators that may encounter your hiking path.
  • If you are hiking through a bear country always be prepared for an encounter with a bear.
  • Keep a bear spray with you and keep it somewhere you can quickly access when a surprise encounter with the bear occurs.
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    When you go to sleep in your tent in a bear country keep your knife and torch close to you always.
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    The knife is not to defend you from the bear but will help you cut a hole at the back of your tent and get your way out.
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    Try to travel in a group if you are the first time on a hiking trail.
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    Always keep a safe distance from the bear and never try to go near to it.
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    Making loud noise while hiking will reduce the chances of a surprise encounter.
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    Always stay alert and look ahead of your trails.
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    If you are hiking in a bear country with your Childers, then keep them close and don't let them go away from you even a few meters.
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    The one thing that is guaranteed to bring these animals out in the open is food.
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    When you are camping always keep your food away from the campsite and keep it sealed inside a plastic bag.
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    Take a bear bag with you and keep your excess food inside it and hang it on a tree branch above with at least 10 feet height or more and 100 yards away from your campsite.
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    Most of the bears can pick up any scent from about two kilometers away, a polar bear can pick up a scent from about 30 kilometers away.
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    Some bears can climb trees so make sure that your foodstuff will be safe if it climbs the tree.
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    While camping cooks your food away from your tent and does not take food inside of your tent.
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    Never try to feed a bear.
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    Before leaving your campsite to make sure there is no food in your fireplace and campsite.
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    Avoid using products containing citronella because bears are attracted to its smell.
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    Don’t use any kind of strong cosmetics and perfumes.
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    If you cook your food while hiking then change your clothes before going to sleep inside your tent.

Do bear bells work?

Bear bells are not the best way to avoid surprise encounters with bears.

Coghlan's Bear Bell with Magnetic Silencer

Bear Spray

Keep a bear spray with you and keep it somewhere you can quickly access when a surprise encounter with the bear occurs.


If you are buying a bear spray for the first time, try to use it and know how to use it properly.
Frontiersman Bear Spray with Chest or Belt Holster

Some Bear Attack Incidents

  1. A 15 -year- old teen survives a bear attack by keeping herself cool and playing dead.
  2. A group of British teenagers encounters a polar bear during a field trip to Norway. Horacio Chappell from Eton college was killed by a polar bear. The polar bear ripped him from the tent and killed him.
  3. Garrett Coulson was walking home when he noticed something out of the corner of his eye it was a polar bear and it headed right towards him, Coulson couldn’t find a place to hide. The polar bear gained on him Coulson began running back while waving his arms and yelled loudly to scare it off the bear but ended up trapping Coulson on the porch of a bakery. The polar bear took a swipe at him and even got a taste of his hip. Desperately for a way-out Coulson finally get his phone out of his pocket and shown its light in the bear's face. The light from the phone startled the bear and moved backward allowing Coulson to barely escape with his life.

Some advice from the people living in the wilderness

If you encounter a bear even though you're scared you should stand still, more importantly, they say do not run away.

If you run; the bear will think you as a prey and will start chasing you.

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Karthik Suseel
 

Karthik Suseel is the Co-founder of riderstrail.com. He is a traveler and loves hiking.