Safety Tips for Bear Country
While bear attacks remain a relatively rare occurrence, practicing bear safety when traveling in bear country.
They are strong animals, capable of inflicting great bodily harm on any person.
Practicing bear safety boils down to understanding bear psychology and acting appropriately in their territory. North America's three bear species, black bears, brown bears (grizzly) and polar bears cover a good deal of territory. With the exception of Alaska, home to all three species, or the Northwest, home to a small brown bear population, meeting up with a wild bear means meeting up with an American Black Bear.
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Types of Bears
North American Bears
Depending on the climate conditions, black bears spend the coldest part of the year, winter and the surrounding months, hibernating. Eating, breeding, and for females, taking care of young cubs, occupies their time out of the den.
Their strength and athleticism, including keen tree climbing and running abilities, give black bears an edge in any encounter with unprepared humans. Fortunately, they are not natural human predators, they are omnivores, content with a fruit, nut and vegetable based diet.
Often it's their extraordinary sense of smell for most food stuffs that leads them into human habitats.
Knowing those few facts explains why the possibility of a bear attack increases when humans encroach on their food, personal space or young.
The worst case bear encounter scenario involves an accidental face to face meeting. In those instances, most experts recommend speaking softly and carrying a big stick or bear repellent spray.
When you see a bear, and you think the bear sees you, lower your glance, speak to it in a low voice and slowly wave your arms to identify yourself as a person. Attempt to back away slowly.
In many cases, removing oneself from the bear's territory serves as a sufficient deterrent.
Charging bears present an altogether different problem. While perhaps counterintuitive. experts often suggest humans hold their ground because bears charge as a bluffing tactic. Experts also remind us that bear swiftness insures a win in any foot race.
In instances of actual attacks, experts split on promoting the playing dead and fighting back strategies.
A recent study, Bear maulings treated in Calgary, Alberta: Their management and sequelae suggests,
"Of the six grizzly bear attacks in the present study, two were predacious and four were defensive. The victims of the defensive attacks were hiking and hunting. The victims of the predacious attacks were camping. Interestingly, the predacious attacks were less serious than the defensive attacks in terms of injuries sustained and operations required. This is in contrast to the expected severity.
Perhaps the predacious attacks occurred as a result of the bear looking for campers' food and not the campers themselves. Another possibility is that act of playing dead was successfully achieved by these victims.
It is important to note that individual bear activity or behaviour is extremely difficult to predict. Therefore, the actions of the victim may be completely irrelevant in determining the severity of the bear attack."
Given the impulsive and irregular behavior or bears, anyone faced with imminent attack should be ready to to fight back using spray, along with any sharp sticks, branches and stones in the immediate area.
© 2007-2012 Patricia A. Michaels