Bears Are Pansies But Don’t Be a Bully.

I would like to preface this by saying that I am by no means an animal behavior expert and that these are just my own observations.

The Black Bear (or North American Tree Dogs)

I went out hiking at least once a week this past summer, and every single time I had a close encounter with one or more Black Bears. Which is really great from an ecological stand point I suppose. It means the population is bouncing back after the near extinction these beasts faced in the 70’s. But if I am running into them, that means others are too. And from what I have seen most people have no idea how to act around Black Bears. So by all means:

What to do when you encounter a Tree dog

The first thing you should do when you see one of these puppers is remain calm. Snap a picture or two now if you are at least a hundred feet away but do not approach. If you are within a hundred feet, immediately make some noise. This is really important. Bears are terrified of humans. Your noises must be distinctly human ( I normally give a hoot and holler.) You do not want to make a bird call because then the bear will think your a bird. Tree Dogs are not scared of birds do not trick them like that.

This serves two purposes:

  1. It let’s the bear know that you are near it: you do not want to catch a bear by surprise that’s how mishaps occur.*
  2. It serves to calm your nerves if your the type to cake your pants over an apex predator that could potentially end you.

*I once came upon a pair of cubs climbing a tree. Too late to warn them, they saw me and fell about twenty feet to the forest floor before sprinting away.

If all goes well, the bear should yield and move around you. They normally don’t want to be around people so this is what will happen 90% of the time.

Continue to make noise though.

This serves to show the bear that you are putting some distance between it and you; and if your noises are bizarre enough (i.e. An improvised song about bear safety,) it serves as a warning, ” don’t approach or I will sing at you.”

General good practices:

  1. If you are making camp and see a bear, maybe move a mile up or down the trail to give it some space. Bears have their own territories and you are invading it.
  2. Never feed a bear. (DUH!) This also includes leaving food where they can reach it. Always use a bear canister or bag (but know that some bears are smart enough to get to your caveman era counter-balanced bag.)

If a bear is acting funny (i.e. doing anything except running away.)

  1. Stop moving. They may perceive this as running away and think you are prey.
  2. Make louder noises: bang things off rocks, scream like a harpy.
  3. If it charges you, stand your ground. Its okay to shit your pants. So will the bear.
  4. Once you get out of this situation. Call the Rangers service and they will take care of it. *

*This means they will try to relocate it if they can. Which is really stressful for the bears, so please try your hardest to avoid spooking them.


And lastly:

Remember that you are a  visitor in the woods. Practice LNT and try to keep your nature friends comfortable. Bears can hurt you. But they don’t want to and usually won’t.

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