Hiking in bear country can be dangerous especially if you are on your own. Although bears don’t see humans as a food source but there are situations when they might try to eat you. Most bear attacks happen when someone surprises a bear by running into it suddenly. Such attacks are defensive and not with the intent of killing for food. If you ever find yourself facing such situation, there are following points to keep in mind to escape from a bear.
The first tip is obviously to try and avoid running into a bear. The way to do this is to make noise while hiking in bear country. The noise alerts the bear and they usually get out of the way as they don’t like humans that much. Don’t whistle to make noise as that can sound like some other animals that might attract a bear instead of repelling it.
If you do find yourself in the presence of a bear you need to quickly assess what kind of bear you are facing. It could be a brown bear or grizzly or a black bear. The chances of running into a polar bear are remote unless you are out in the arctic. Before going on a hike or camping trip find out what kind of bears live in the area and what are their behavior patterns.
Once you know what kind of bear you are facing you need to assess the situation you are in. If the bear is very far from you and is not interested in you then you are not in trouble and should just circle around the bear. If the bear is very close and starring straight at you, you need to judge whether it’s a territorial display or is the bear thinking of you as prey. If the bear has found you then most probably it’s hungry and is trying to hunt you. If instead you run into a bear it might just be trying to defend itself and assess how much of a threat you are.
If the bear is only trying to assess the situation and is not attacking or making any charges then they are still confused about whether you are a threat or a prey. In such situations, making noise and standing tall is a good idea to let the bear know that you are strong and not afraid of it. You don’t want it to think of you as a prey so whatever you do don’t run away as that triggers the bear’s hunting instinct.
If the bear is trying to defend itself then it will do some fake charges to test you. In such situations you need to stand your ground. If you run they’ll think of you as prey and you’ll be surprised how quickly they can catch up to you. So stand your ground till they lose interest, stop charging and go away.
If you are sure that the bear is only trying to scare you and is not interested in eating you, then you can play dead. Fall to the ground and lie still with your stomach to the ground, legs together and hands covering the neck behind your head. In this position the bear can’t harm you much if it tries to sniff and poke you with its paw. It might scratch you a bit but it will usually leave you alone unless it starts thinking about eating you.
Climbing a tree can also work if the situation is right. If you are near a tree and are a good climber you might want to climb the tree. But make sure that the bear you are facing is not a black bear as black bears are excellent climbers. Grizzlies are not good climbers but they can stand on their back legs and reach up to 12 feet so make sure that you can climb well out of the reach of a grizzly if you are climbing a tree.
Running away from a bear is not always the best way to escape as bears can chase their pray for long distances. But if you have to run away try running in a zigzag fashion. Take sharp turns to the left and right. As the bear is not good at turning quickly it will give you some advantage. Do not run in a straight line.
If an attack is imminent using a bear spray or pepper spray can distract the bear for a while and give you the opportunity to run away. But using a bear spray is not easy. You need to be very close to the bear to get its eyes. If there is strong wind the bear spray can hit your own eyes and getting blinded in front of a bear is not a good idea. Also make sure that the spray can you are carrying is full and read the instructions so that you know how to use it.
When the worst case scenario has come true and you have no other option to escape from a bear, you have to fight back. It might seem like very bad odds to fight a bear but there are some things you can do. Like aim for the soft spots such as the eyes and the snout. Use whatever you can to throw at the bear and hit it. You can even use dirt to throw into its eyes. Try to stay towards the side of the bear as they can’t move their head too much and take time to turn around.