Protecting Yourself from Bear Attacks

black bear in trash florida fish and gameIt was a day like any other for one Alaskan woman until she rounded a corner at the wrong time when out for a jog. She suffered a bear attack — and came out alive. It’s a good reminder of what to do if you’re visiting an area with bears this summer.

Be Prepared

If you’re going to an area with bears, make sure you’re ready to handle what that might mean for your trip. At the very least, be canny about food when camping in bear country.

Bears can smell just about anything, even when it’s in a bag. The best thing to do is to  plan ahead and make sealing food containers part of your camping practices. Keep in mind that bears love to investigate and will approach your camping area like Yogi if they smell food—though they’ll be much less friendly. Any non-food items that smells good, like toiletries, can also attract bears.

Learn When to Defend Yourself

Traveling in groups and being loud is part of the key to avoiding a bear attack. When bears hear humans coming in a big group, they tend to leave the area to avoid you. The worst is usually when you’re by yourself and surprise a bear who didn’t expect you to show up suddenly. It’s particularly bad if the bear has cubs, as in the case of the Alaskan jogger. In these situations when a bear is surprised and defensive, the best thing to do is to back away slowly. Do not run. If the bear tries to attack, defend yourself with bear spray, rocks, or sticks. Playing dead by lying prone and covering your neck with your hands is the next step if a bear makes contact during a surprise attack.

If you can keep calm, you may be able to get some useful information. Surprised bears display a cautious look, with their ears tucked back and their heads low. Bears with predatory intentions look different: their ears point forward and they make themselves look as big as possible by raising up their heads and puffing up. Predatory bears don’t give warning signals, like blowing, huffing, or popping their jaws, but a surprised bear might. Never turn your back to a predatory bear. You may have to defend yourself if a bear attacks your tent; it’s better to make a plan ahead of time than to try to figure something out on the spur of the moment.

If you go out to bear country this summer, come by our shop and we can talk you through products that can help you prevent bear attacks by keeping food smells to a minimum.

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