Bears

Here I'll provide some general information on bears. Black bears are numerous and are the most common in North America, then you have grizzly and polar bears to the West and North respectively. From largest to smallest you have polar bears, grizzly bears then black bears. There are other kinds of bear as well, such as the Kodiak and the brown bear, but will focus on the three already mentioned. The Kodiak and the brown bear are large bears that should be respected and dealt with in the same manner as a grizzly. All are quite capable of killing a man and must be respected in their environments where they may be encountered.

Having a fear of bears isn't always warranted, but it is understandable in some instances. Every now and then we hear cases of bear attacks that cause bodily harm and even death.


Black bears are normally timid and will try to avoid a human being.


They aren't interested in us and even have a natural fear of us.


Attacks by black bears are rare in comparison to grizzly attacks. If a black bear hasn't been somehow habituated to humans, and if is not predacious (rare towards humans), it will avoid a human being if it has the chance to.


When out in the woods it is important to exercise proper routines such as cooking away from shelter sites, hanging up food (away from shelter sites) and not eating in your shelter whether that be a tent or any other kind of shelter. Be certain that you do not bring any attractants of any kind into your shelter. Do not store your toothpaste or used toothbrush there, as well as any deodorants etc. Careless hikers leaving food around camp can attract bears and make it a problem for the hikers that will be next to use the site.


Always make your presence known in advance to avoid encounters. Bear bells can work but not always given they are not very loud. Whistling may actually attract a black bear given that the sound may mimic that of another animal such as a marmot or an animal in distress. You can sing or talk out loud in combination with the bear bell. Rivers and streams may block out the sound of a bell, so when you talk, make it loud enough. This is to avoid startling a bear that may be near the river.

They have an excellent sense of smell, but if you approach the bear from downwind it may not be able to get your scent and then leave.

Always carry bear deterrent in bear country. Make sure you know how to use it. Do NOT pack it in your backpack, but always have it handy and ready to use. Get the larger canister and buy a good quality brand. There are pros and cons to bear deterrent. A gun isn't always the answer either. Many hunters have been attacked and mauled even though they were armed.


Pros and cons of bear deterrents:

Pros:

1. Easy to obtain and is legal for use. Guns are not legal for use except for hunting in season. Check the laws for your area to see what the regulations are.

2. In-expensive and lightweight.

3. Effective under the right conditions. This may be a 'con' as a 'pro' as I will show you.


Cons:

1. Range is limited. Usually to about 25 feet. Check the instructions on the particular brand you purchase.

2. Limited use per canister. You can spray a couple of times with limited bursts of spray, so if you are in a situation that you need to use it, make each one count! Don't waste any of the spray by firing at the bear if it is 100 feet away as an example.

3. If it is raining, the effectiveness will be reduced.

4. If it is very cold, the canister might not fire at all.

5. If it is windy, the spray will be affected, and it is important that you are upwind of the bear when you fire, or you'll get sprayed, fall to the ground with the bear sniffing around you. If there is an angle between you and the target with respect to the wind, you'll need to aim so that as the wind pushes the spray in its direction, that you can still hit the target. This means you need to angle the shot slightly in order to hit the objective.


Bear deterrents are not all made equally, and they have an expiration date as well as different percentages of capsaicin (or oleoresin capsicum) in them, affecting the strength. 2% capsaicin is the maximum that there is at this time. What is available may depend on your local laws. Do not get a deterrent that is less than 1% if legally possible. Maybe they'll make them stronger in the future.


Do NOT spray your tent and/or any other equipment with the deterrent for this may actually attract bears that may find the smell curious. It is the capsaicin ingredient in the spray that causes discomfort when it contacts the bears mucous membranes, not the smell. The eyes and the nose are sensitive. I have read of a case where a charging grizzly was being sprayed, and as this was happening the bear actually turned its head to the side and continued the charge. Apparently the bear was sprayed before and learned to turn away from it. This isn't for the majority of bears however.


If you see a black bear a short distance away and it hasn't seen you, you have two choices: 1. You carefully turn back and wait for it to leave, or 2. You make your presence known to the bear, so that it can get your scent, recognize you as human and leave.


If the bear stands on its hind legs this isn't an aggressive posture, but the bears method of getting your scent to determine what you are. It may turn around and leave, or it may approach you. If it leaves, great, but if it doesn't, it doesn't mean that all is lost. Stand your ground, do not shout or make any aggressive actions, and never turn your back and run. This will provoke the bears hunt, chase and attack instinct, and the bear can easily outrun you. Talk to it calmly in a monotone voice, while looking at it, but not making direct eye contact. If the bear ceases to approach you, back off slowly and yield the right of way to the bear in order to not make it feel cornered. If the bear leaves, great, but if not, once again not all is lost, meaning you still have a chance to get out of this unharmed.


If after slowly backing off the bear continues to approach you, stop and maintain your ground! Speak loudly to it. If the bear continues, start making a lot of noise by shouting, using a whistle or what have you, and making yourself look big. You can make yourself look big by holding something over your head, waving your arms, or if you have a raincoat on or other, open it up wide to appear large.


Group together if you are several persons and do the same, make a lot of noise and look big. This will show the bear that you won't let yourself be an easy prey. Have your bear deterrent handy and ready to go! Now you see why you shouldn't bury it in your back pack.


If the bear truly appears intent on approaching you, and you had spoken loudly and make yourself big, this will probably escalate into a bear charge or attack.


Do not remove your backpack is the general recommendation because in the event of an attack it may offer you some protection. I believe this is more in the case of a grizzly however, when you need to play dead once contact has been made, while lying on your stomach with hands behind your neck. To get back to the black bear encounter, if the bear is a distance away and runs towards you, there are two things that you can do: 1. Fire a shot at the bear even if it is out of range but will run through the mist of deterrent you created which may be enough to make it back off, or 2. If number one doesn't work for some reason and the bear continues the charge at you, fire a good dose at the bear when it is close enough.


It is said that a bear may make a bluff charge, where the bear runs at you and then veers off at the last second. Now that would get the heart pumping wouldn't it! If you have bear deterrent, use it, if you don't, stand your ground and hope that the bear is only bluff charging you. If it isn't bluffing and it makes contact with you, the situation is now very serious.

The bear may be predacious or simply is defending itself. It all depends on the circumstances of the encounter and the bear.


If the bear isn't predacious, you may upon contact drop to the ground and play dead if it is a grizzly or a mother black bear defending her young, and hope that the bear loses interest after it sees that you are no longer a threat.


If you do so and the bear leaves, great, but do NOT get up immediately for the bear may be close by eyeing you to see if you are really 'dead' This I can see if the encounter is with a grizzly bear, and is worth attempting if it is with a black bear, just in case. Otherwise the bear will come back and attempt to finish the job.

If the bear is predacious, anotherwords it sees you as its next meal, fight with all you've got. You'll know if it is predacious if after playing dead the bear starts to eat you. No humor is intended in the least here, but is what is taught about bears. Small nips and squeezes may not be a sign that the bear is predacious, but if it goes further... Use a rock, knife, binoculars, your fist, anything including kicking if you have the chance. The eyes and the nose are the bears most sensitive parts.


I heard of a case in the news of a guy who was attacked by a grizzly and remembered being taught by his grandmother years before that if he ever was attacked to jam his arm down the bears throat, causing it to have a gag reflex. Well apparently it worked. The poor guy was hurt in the attack but survived due to his actions. So ram your arm down its throat with force.


As for polar bears, an old Inuit teaching was to punch the bear right in the snout, causing it to back off. Apparently it would be like punching into hamburger meat. So just punch it in the nose, a sensitive part.


As for black bears, as with any other bear, the eyes and the nose are the most sensitive parts, so if you are attacked hit the bear with anything you have like binoculars, a rock, the buttstock of your gun if given to circumstances this is the situation, even your fists if that is all you have, to get the animal off of you.


Even animals do not want to get injured, because they know that they may die due to their injuries. This may not always be the case however, so fight if you have to.


A black bear can be fought off, at least most of the time, while a grizzly most likely cannot. Playing dead is the way to go with a grizzly, but of course if it is predacious, fight back and who knows, you may have a chance. Just remember to jam your arm down its throat as mentioned above. People survive things you'd never think possible.

This is why it is important to respect these powerful animals by giving them their space, leaving their young alone, not feeding them or leaving food behind that can habituate a bear to humans, as well as making your presence known to them.


Make noise in grizzly country as well in order for the bear to know of your presence, in the event the bear didn't get your scent.


Grizzlies and polar bears each have their own psychologies, and therefore require different methods in dealing with them with some exceptions.


Note:

You may see different info elsewhere concerning eye contact, in fact there are other conflicting ideas that exist concerning proper actions to take when humans encounter a bear.


In areas where human development has encroached on wilderness areas, it is important to exercise a proper routine there as well, not just in the backcountry. Don't leave garbage out overnight, or cat or dog food as well. Bird feeders and composts may also attract bears.


Under no circumstances feed a bear, large or small. If you want a photo zoom in, but do not feed it to get a photo! The expression 'A fed bear is a dead bear' is true. It is next to impossible to alter the bears habits once its found an easy meal. Relocating the bear doesn't always work as well. Often the bear will have to be put down (killed) because it became aggressive towards someone because the bear associated the person for an easy meal. I don't mean the person as an easy meal, but any food the person has or that is nearby that the bear wants. Bear proof containers should be used to avoid any problems, or at least limit them.


Remember that any animal will have their own safety-zone or personal space that if you enter into it, they'll become increasingly agitated even aggressive and possibly attack you. The actual distance for each animal will be different, and may be much different than a human's ideal personal space. If the animal has its young around, the personal zone will be different and will require you to be even further away from the adult and its young. Keep your distance, and wonder how the animal feels about you being there. How is it reacting? Does it appear nervous? If so you are too close. Slowly back off and never block its route if this is the case (possibly a route of escape) or you risk an unfortunate encounter. This is a general rule and I invite you to learn more about the animals you feel you may encounter. Include this as part of your pre-trip planning if you are planning a trip somewhere.

For any species of bear, do not startle it or get between the mother and its cubs. I once read of a case where a ranger picked up a screaming black bear cub with the mother nearby, and the mother didn't make an attack.


The majority of sources out there including governmental sources mention to not get between the mother and her cubs. Err on the side of caution and respect these wild animals.


It is recommended that if you travel in grizzly country that you do so in a group of at least three. You'll appear larger as a group and three is better than one if there were an encounter or an attack. However being in a group shouldn't let you get your guard down.


Bears at times can seemingly come out of nowhere and be on you before you know it. They can be terribly fast. They can run as fast as a horse. Black bears are excellent climbers, young or old. Young grizzlies can climb reasonably well but have more difficulty when they get older.


Grizzlies are more aggressive than black bears. Polar bears are known to have hunted humans as they hunted seals up north. All bears have a certain predictability provided you know their habits and psychology, however a bear can also behave unpredictably. These are wild animals and will act accordingly. Adhere to any advisories the authorities put out on bears.

For other bear attack cases have a look at the links below for some other news articles from CBC News. Some photos are mildly graphic.

1. Two sleeping men attacked by a grizzly bear. This is an example of when a gun didn't save the day.

2. A bear attack survivor recounts his story of being attacked by a grizzly.

3. A man from B.C.fights back and wins against an angry bear.

4. A bear jumps on a fishing boat and attacks a B.C. man.


Here are some links to help you learn more about bears. There are many others and I invite you to research further. In your research you may find as I indicated above conflicting information. Do your best to sift through it.

1. Polar bear attack. A man uses an Inuit Elder's advice on what to do if attacked.

2. Polar Bears - Wikipedia

3. Grizzly Bears - Wikipedia

4. Bear deterrent

5. How to escape from a bear - wikiHow

6. Canoe.ca - 5-part video series called Bear CSI on bear attacks, what to do if attacked and prevention.

Resources

Here is video of a mother grizzly bear protecting her cub. The video was taken in British Columbia by a B.C. filmmaker. The film isn't graphic so there isn't any need to be concerned about this. Have a look here on CBC News for more information on this encounter.

Very Important Summary if Attacked by a Bear

"The eyes and the nose are the bears most sensitive parts.


I heard of a case in the news of a guy who was attacked by a grizzly and remembered being taught by his grandmother years before that if he ever was attacked to jam his arm down the bears throat, causing it to have a gag reflex. Well apparently it worked. The poor guy was hurt in the attack but survived due to his actions. So ram your arm down its throat with force.


As for polar bears, an old Inuit teaching was to punch the bear right in the snout, causing it to back off. Apparently it would be like punching into hamburger meat. So just punch it in the nose, a sensitive part.


As for black bears, as with any other bear, the eyes and the nose are the most sensitive parts, so if you are attacked hit the bear with anything you have like binoculars, a rock, the buttstock of your gun if given to circumstances this is the situation, even your fists if that is all you have, to get the animal off of you.


Even animals do not want to get injured, because they know that they may die due to their injuries. This may not always be the case however, so fight if you have to."


And always remember:

"All bears have a certain predictability provided you know their habits and psychology, however a bear can also behave unpredictably. These are wild animals and will act accordingly. Adhere to any advisories the authorities put out on bears."

Do NOT spray your tent and/or any other equipment with the deterrent for this may actually attract bears that may find the smell curious. It is the capsaicin ingredient in the spray that causes discomfort when it contacts the bears mucous membranes, not the smell.