Hey! Who Invited The Bear? Part: 2
In part one we discussed techniques to help prevent a bear encounter, but even in vast wilderness it’s possible to cross paths with one though you’ve taken all the proper precautions. Often these encounters will result in surprise for both parties and the bear will take the closest route out of the situation. However, if the bear feels threatened or in need of protecting her cubs, things can escalate quickly.
Experts recommend always carrying bear spray in bear country, but suggest two different actions during confrontations with bears depending on the species.
Black bears (which can be both black or cinnamon brown, but without a shoulder hump and a more rounded back than a grizzly) tend to be less aggressive, but still very dangerous. So it is best to stand your ground making yourself appear large and belligerent by making a lot of noise. If you create a combative appearance making the black bear the more vulnerable one in the encounter they will usually run the other direction. However if the black bear sticks around and becomes agitated and aggressive you should resort to your canister of bear spray while at distance, and fight if attacked.
Grizzlies (pictured above, which can be identified by their brown grizzled fur, distinct shoulder hump, and larger size) should be dealt with quite the opposite. If a grizzly is encountered you should remain calm and slowly back away. If the grizzly appears defensive you should make yourself appear as nonaggressive as possible, this may mean playing dead. When playing dead you should lay flat on your belly keeping your pack on and your hands clasped behind your head ensuring not to make eye contact with it. If the grizzly is offensive (meaning it has malicious intent and not just trying to figure you out) you should resort to your bear spray while at distance, and fight with all your might if attacked.
In either case you should never let the bear out of your sight until you are sure it has vacated the area completely. Once you’re sure it has gone you should quickly but calmly leave the area. If in a park or area controlled by rangers you should report any and all sightings and encounters.
Now, one common thing that creates a divide between outdoor enthusiasts is what to carry to deter a bear. Some choose to carry a gun, that’s fine, but what caliber are you carrying? You must remember that bears vary from a few hundred pounds up to eight hundred pounds, and larger depending on species. Most handguns probably won’t do much to a large grizzly, and since bear encounters aren’t as common as movies or other media would have us believe, is it really practical to hit a trail carrying something larger like a hunting rifle, just in case?
Another aspect to consider: can you place your shots well enough under the pressure of being charged? Most bear charges are bluffs anyway, meaning they will rush but dodge off at the last second. Then if the bear isn’t killed you have a wounded and possibly irritate bear on your hands or for the next hikers to deal with. Although the loud blast of gunfire could work in your favor, just remember those bullets will impact somewhere even if fired into the air.
It has been found that the techniques recommended by experts work very well with a lot of success so weapons other than bear spray should be used as a last resort, if at all, but in an attack it’s best to fight back with all you have.