What to do if you encounter a black bear - Wilderness North

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Bear Border Crossing

What to do if you encounter a black bear

If you encounter a black bear:
As long as you stay away, a bear is usually less dangerous the louder it is. The sound serves as a warning and is intended to scare you off.

Do Do Not
  • Back Away your steps slowly, keeping the bear in view, and wait for it to go.
  • Toss things, move your arms, and create noise by yelling, whistling, or using an air horn.
  • Get your bear spray ready.
  • If there’s a building or car nearby, go inside.
  • Give up any food you may be holding, then back off carefully.
  • If a bear is in a tree, leave it alone and continue on.
  • If you come across a mother bear with her cubs, then play dead.
  • Run away, climb a tree or swim
  • Kneel down
  • Make eye contact
  • Approach the bear to get a better look
  • Attempt to feed the bear
  • Let your dog off a leash
  • Play dead unless you are attacked by a mother bear defending her cubs
If a Bear attacks Preventing bear encounters
  • Use bear spray and immediately leave the area
  • Fight back
  • Do not play dead unless you are sure you are being attacked by a mother defending her cubs
  • burn off food residue and oil from barbecue
  • Clean up all food scraps, and wrappers from the campsite
  • Never leave out food to feed wildlife
  • Don’t dump oil outside
  • Don’t leave your pets outside unattended

Bear warning signs:

A shocked bear gives warning signs to let you know you are too close since bears hate surprises. A bear, for instance, might stand on its hind legs. It’s not an indication of hostility; rather, the bear wants to get a closer look or smell you. Letting bears know you’re around so they can stay away is a good way to minimize encounters with these animals. When you are in places where sight is limited or where there is a lot of background noise, such as near streams or waterfalls or on windy days, make noise by talking, whistling, or singing.

A defensive bear  A predatory bear
  • Will salivate excessively and exhale loudly
  • Make huffing, moaning, clacking and popping sounds with its mouth, teeth and jaws
  • Lower its head with its ears back while facing you
  • Charge forward, and or swat the ground with its paws (this is a bluff charge)
  • Will make a steady, silent approach 
  • May come closer despite your efforts to scare them away with yells or thrown objects.
  • If bear spray is used properly, they will retreat, but they will eventually come back, so you should leave the area right away.


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