How to Avoid a Bear Attack: Dealing with Bears in the Wild

Bear Attacks: While they don’t happen often; when they do, they can be quite horrific.

Awareness is the first step in Surviving a Bear Attack

The best way to survive a bear attack is never to put yourself in a situation where you are likely to be attacked. When traveling through bear country, that means keeping your distance and being aware that you are in their surroundings; so tread lightly.

  • Always keep your distance: It may sound like common sense, but most people are attacked because they fail to give the bear room.
  • Never seek out a Bear: Unless you’re hunting them, there really isn’t a good reason to seek them out. Every year people are killed because they thought it would be cool to get that picture of a wild bear. These are wild animals; go take your selfie somewhere else!

What to do if you come upon a Bear in the Wild

If you travel through bear country, there’s a good chance you may eventually come upon a bear. Here is a good video of a close up bear encounter and how using something as simple as your voice, body and position can be enough to deter a bear from attacking.

Caleb Jacques, a Grizzly Bear safari guide in Alaska, when talking about the situation in the video said, “In a situation like this, there is no time to be scrambling to get bear spray out of a bag or to hand it off to someone else. It is in hand or it’s out of play. We did not have bear spray out and available. I made do with the two best bear deterrents available to me: my voice, and my body. It is important to recognize this bear’s behavior for what it is: a very curious approach to a previously unencountered stimulus. I say unencountered because of the incredibly remote location where this occurred, and the fact this is a young bear perhaps on its first or second summer away from its mother. Likely we are the first people it has ever encountered on its own, thus leading to a confrontation that because of proximity could have turned deadly for the bear and us in a split second.”

Caleb’s firsthand account sheds light on the importance of being prepared and vigilant when in bear country.

  • When hiking through bear country, you want to make noise. Making noise while hiking, will help make sure you don’t accidentally sneak up on a bear. Make noise, sing, talk loudly, or wear a bell when hiking.
  • If you spot a bear, and the bear is unaware of you, back away slowly and quietly. Once you’re out of the bear’s line of sight, get the hell out of there!
  • If you see a bear when hiking and it notices you, shouting is usually enough to scare it away. If shouting fails to scare it off, back away slowly. NEVER turn your back to a bear; doing so will kick in its natural predator instinct. Bears run faster than 30 mph; You will not be able to outrun it.
  • Never come in between a cub and it’s a mother. This is a recipe for disaster.

Safety Precautions when Traveling Though Bear Country

Bear in the forest
  • Carrying bear spray is always a good idea when walking through bear country.
  • Wearing a pack, even when day hiking, can provide some extra space between you and the bear. (Keep in mind, I said space NOT PROTECTION). If the bear starts coming towards you, throw the bag onto the ground. Often the bear will become distracted long enough to allow you to slowly back away and escape.
  • Check with the area Ranger Station for current bear sightings, locations, and any tips that they have.
  • Bears are Wild Animals; they are unpredictable. Even the best tips may fail when it comes to dealing with a wild animal. In Bear Country, carrying a high-power handgun on your side is something I think everyone should do.

Awhile back, one of our readers who worked on a fatal bear attack in the southeastern United States shed light on the importance of being prepared and armed when venturing into bear country.

“Having worked one of the two fatal bear attacks in the southeastern US in history, I am often amused by some of the comments on the internet. I carry a 10mm or 44 mag in bear country but would not hesitate to use a smaller caliber in a pinch. If that’s what I have, that’s what I am going to use. The most important thing is it needs to be quickly accessible, as these attacks occurred in seconds. You will not have time to retrieve from your backpack or purse.”

“I have turned charges by boar and black bear by shooting a warning shot or two, and if time allows, I try that. Curious bears can be turned this way, but predatory bears cannot. If you are the selected victim of a predatory bear attack, you better be ready to fight, or you will not survive.”

Safety Precautions when Camping in Bear Country

Bear in the woods

Bears and other wild animals have an incredible sense of smell, so cooking or eating any type of food at your campsite increases your risk of an encounter.

To lower that risk there are a couple of things to keep in mind.

  • Bears have an impressive sense of smell. In general, dried and canned foods are going to have less of a scent than foods like fish, bacon, and sugary sweets. That being said, bears and other wild animals have an incredible sense of smell, so cooking or eating any type of food at your campsite increases your risk
  • It’s not just food you should worry about. Deodorant, lotions, toothpaste and other scented products can all attract bears and wild animals. When camping it’s a good idea to lay off these types of products, and NEVER leave these products open or stored inside your tent.
  • Your tent should be placed upwind, and at least 100 yards from where you are cooking and eating.
  • All cooking equipment, food, and garbage should be sealed in airtight canisters, and if possible strung up high in a tree. If your campground offers bear-proof garbage receptacles use them.
  • Pet food should never be left out in the open. People with pets often make the mistake of leaving their pet food out in the open; you need to treat this food in the same way you would any other type of odorous product.
  • Don’t sleep in the same clothes you cooked with. Standing over a campfire can infuse your clothes with smells that wild animals love. Before going to bed, make sure you change into fresh clothes and store the old ones in an airtight container away from your sleeping area.
  • Don’t try to mask the smell. Spraying air freshener products on your garbage does nothing to mask the smell from wild animals; in fact, it probably will cause them to investigate the new smell from the air fresher.
  • Never eat inside your tent!
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  1. I’ve heard people making fun of the idea that making noise and wearing a bell is a good idea. Who should be laughing?

    • You can laugh all you want. There were many encounters with brown bears charging, and people stated the bear spray stopped the bears dead in their tracks, turned around, and ran away. Just sayin’

  2. Most bullets will do nothing to a bear. Only the .357 SIG and a very large rounds from a handgun will have any effect. Unless you want to carry a shotgun or full blown rifle every time you hunt, a gun is probably not the best option.

    I hike at night by myself a lot and have done a lot of internet research on this, for what it’s worth.

    • a 357 magnum is better than a 357 sig the magnum has more punch and the 357 magnum can hit harder than a 45 with the right ammo like say hornady critical defense which hits with over 800 ft lbs of kinetic energy pop on of those in his nose and I don’t think he’ll ask for seconds lol

      • The Hornady Critical Defense in .357 magnum has 624 ft lbs of energy. Not over 800. Still very powerful and good for bear defense.

    • that’s not entirely true bears will eat off of other animals kills and that only sometimes works with grizzlies dont try it with a black bear though at all if you can’t get away I would say your best bet is to fight back with a rock or anything hard enough to do damage I have actually known people who have been attacked by a black bear before and they fought back when they hurt it it decided to back off although im not saying go attack a bear because they are as individualistic as people are what works for one will not always work for another necessarily. you just have to read the bear and use the best commen sense you can according to the situation. but i would recommend using the experts tips as a guideline just know that some things might not work so you have to keep cool and think on your feet just don’t ever run away and think you;ll make it I have seen a bear take down a deer on the run, yup humans don’t stand a chance in hell of running away if that bear wants you and many times the bear is trying to tell you to back off, not run away just back off either out of it’s space or away from it’s cubs or it has a foodsource those things are mostly what the bear attacks for except for some rare cases they will try to avoid you.

  3. When I was living up in Alaska there was a saying I heard multiple times: “Bear crap sounds like bells, and smells like bear spray.”

    Personally, I would not trust my survival to a can of spray that lasts about five seconds and only reaches out about ten feet (I bought a can of bear spray while I was in Alaska and sprayed it to see what it could do). Also, if there is any amount of wind, bear spray is useless. If you’re in grizzly country, a .44 magnum is your best bet as far as handguns go, or get yourself a nice .45-70 lever action.

  4. Brown bears typically are less aggressive than Grizzlies, and would more likely wander away from you unless protecting their cubs. I have stood and watched a few brown’s walking away from us noisily walking down the trail.

    Thankfully I have never knowingly been in a position to be in proximity to a Grizzly.

    I have heard Brown Bear scat has berries, leaves and fur in it, Grizzly scat has bells, pieces of bone and smells like pepper spray too… LOL

    The BSA Philmont camp has a very strict bear policy… you cook and eat >100 feet from where you sleep, you hang your smell-ables, any food or item including your toothpaste, day and cooking clothes >100 feet from your cooking and sleeping areas, and you sleep in only your sleep clothes >100 feet from both the cooking and food hanging areas. They are unwavering and have very few reported bear incidents.

    I would agree that a .44 magnum would be the smallest caliber to carry, and I do not care how “protected” the Ranger says they are… if it comes to me or the bear, I prefer to be the one standing in courtroom in the end.

    As for #9 throw your food bag down as the best distraction, but if a cub’s protection is in question, that won’t help either, just be faster than your friend(s)!

    • Grizzlies are actually subspecies of Brown Bear family. In essence, you are saying “Chevrolets are a lot better quality than GM cars”. It doesn’t make sense.

      Glad we don’t have browns here in GA. And there has never been a death due to a black bear attack here either. Chances are good, we’ll be okay here.

  5. Friends of mine had a big Bear enter their campsite and were able to scare it away with a few shots from their paintball guns.

  6. Also, learn to read the signs. Black bear scat is sweet smelling and often contains nuts or berries. Grizzly bear scat can smell like pepper spray and contain little bells.

  7. I was walking quitly and came across a huge bear.

    Theres no way in hell i was going to shout at it, so i simply threw up my arm, said K boy, and in the same movement turned around and walked away as if nothing had hapened.

    Kind of like saying, hey theyre and off on my way.

    I wasnt followed, it made no noise, it had looked very serious, and not very happy we had run into one another.

    And it was camouflaged, looked very much like the trees shade and colour except a huge round head and shining yellow eyes

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