November 20, 2015 8:16 PM MST - Subscription purchasing, account maintenance, forum profile maintenance, new account registration, and forum posting have been disabled
as we prepare our databases for the final migration to our new server next week. Stay tuned here for more details.
Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Black bear encounters
Display Avatars Sort By:
Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
Black bear encounters on 10/21/2011 06:42:29 MDT Print View

A few situations and im wonderinv what is the proper thing to do:

Im sleeping in my hammock and a bear is rummaging through my pack next to my hammock and bumping me in my hammock. Do i blow my whistle and startle him or remain silent?

A bear is walking toward you on a narrow trail. You cannot side step. Stand yourground, make yourself large and ready your bearspray?

Hiking on a trail with no side visibility due to very tall and thick bushs. A bear growles very nearby, u cannot see him. Continue walking or "hey bear"

I"ve always wondered what to do in these and similar situations.

Edited by isaac.mouser on 10/21/2011 06:44:36 MDT.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Black bear encounters on 10/21/2011 08:11:03 MDT Print View

A bear is walking toward you on a narrow trail. You cannot side step. Stand yourground, make yourself large and ready your bearspray?

Bear probably doesn't see you. Make yourself big and yell. It'll most likely run away.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
spray on 10/21/2011 08:28:08 MDT Print View

have bear spray ...

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: spray on 10/21/2011 09:32:05 MDT Print View

On the trail:

Do not make eye contact, slowly walk backwards maintaining distance, talk softly but firmly to the bear, get your hand on your bear spray, get your other hand on bear bangers.

If you hear a bear in the bush: make lots of noise and do the above if necessary.

In a hammock: where is your food?

Edited by FamilyGuy on 10/21/2011 09:33:31 MDT.

Ryan C
(radio_guy) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Re: Black bear encounters on 10/21/2011 09:38:43 MDT Print View

All three of these situations have happened to me in one form or another. While in a tent, I was dead silent and let it walk away. When approached on the narrow trail, I let the bear know I am there and stand my ground or back away slowly, they usually walk away off trail. When they growl and I cannot see them, I let the bear know I am there and give them space for a few minutes, usually they walk away but keep in mind they may stalk you if habituated and hungry. Bears can be unpredictable so having the spray ready for when all else fails is smart. Trekking poles make nice deterrents if threatened.

Edited by radio_guy on 10/21/2011 09:40:13 MDT.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
just to add ... on 10/21/2011 10:47:09 MDT Print View

Encountering a Black Bear

If you encounter a Black Bear it is likely to react in one of four ways.

Fleeing Bear
Habituated Bear
Defensive Bear
Predatory Bear
1. Fleeing Bear

In most cases, a bear will hear or smell you before you are aware of it. Even if you surprise a bear, it will most often flee the area. Reacting to a fleeing bear... Enjoy the fleeting sight of a wild Black Bear.

2. Habituated Bear

Some bears lose their fear of humans from frequent human contact or from being rewarded with human food or garbage. These bears may not respond to our attempts to dissuade them and may react defensively. Reacting to an Habituated Bear... Stay calm and determine if the bear is aware of you. If the bear is unaware of you, move away quietly. However, if the bear is aware of you, talk to the bear in a low tone, wave your arms, back away, and leave the area. If you are near a building or car, get inside as a precaution. If the bear was attracted to food or garbage, remove it after the bear leaves to discourage the bear from returning.

3. Defensive Bear

A defensive bear will respond in a defensive manner if it perceives you as a threat or if it is defending a food source. It may use vocalizations such as huffing, blowing air loudly through nostrils, exhaling loudly and "popping" of teeth, and may swat the ground with its fore paws, lowering its head, and drawing back the ears. As well, a defensive bear may resort to bluff charges. The bear is feeling threatened by your presence and is trying to get you to back off. Reacting to a Defensive Bear... Stop and face the bear. If you are with others, stay together and act as a group. Make sure the bear has a clear escape route. Slowly back away while watching the bear and wait for it to leave. Use a whistle or airhorn, or bear spray if you have them. Do not turn and run - this may trigger a predatory response in the bear. Do not climb a tree - bears are excellent climbers.

4. Predatory Black Bear

On EXTREMELY RARE occasions, a bear will attack humans with the intent to kill. Predatory bears seldom make huffing or "popping" sounds, nor do they swat the ground with their forepaws, or bluff charge as defensive bears sometimes do. Instead, they silently stalk, or press closer and closer to their intended prey, apparently assessing whether it is safe to attack. Reacting to a Predatory Bear... Leave the area in your canoe or car if you can, but never turn and run. If you cannot leave, confront the bear. Do everything in your power to make the bear think twice about attacking you. Be aggressive, yell, throw rocks, hit the bear with sticks, and use your whistle, airhorn, or bear spray if you have them. If a predatory bear does make contact with you, do not play dead. Fighting back with everything you have is the best way to persuade a predatory Black Bear to halt its attack.

Edited by bearbreeder on 10/21/2011 10:48:20 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Black bear encounters on 10/21/2011 11:33:24 MDT Print View

At least in Yosemite National Park, it is hard to imagine that anybody would waste an expensive load of bear spray on a black bear. With a few exceptions, a black bear is going to run away. One exception is if it is a sow bear with a cub. In that case, you simply move away from them and give them room.


Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: Black bear encounters on 10/21/2011 11:42:59 MDT Print View

In the Canadian Rockies (Alberta), you are fined should a ranger find you without Bear Spray. Black Bears up here eat guys from Silicon Valley so should you venture up, bring the spray.


eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Re: Re: Re: Black bear encounters on 10/21/2011 11:46:14 MDT Print View

now now now david ... be honest ... bear spray just adds some spice to the bear diet ...

canadian bears have multicultural tastes these days ... they enjoy a good spicy peppered silicone valley yuppie curry as much as anyone else ;)

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
Precautions on 10/21/2011 17:30:28 MDT Print View

I always hang food and all remotely scented items and never goto the bathroom wthin a mile of my camp if i can help it. I use unscented toothpaste, soap, unscented everthig. Never cook or eat at camp and hang my food a good distance away up high.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
Hammock/tent on 10/21/2011 17:41:27 MDT Print View

Can any1 else address what they would do in a bammock/tent if the bear was rummaging and rubbing against it? This happened to last year on the AT and. cost me a night of sleep and scared the crap out of me. I froze, had he decided to swat the hammock i would have fallen out like pinyata candy.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Hammock/tent on 10/21/2011 19:27:29 MDT Print View

"had he decided to swat the hammock i would have fallen out like pinyata candy"

And it wouldn't have been "unscented" any more!

Somewhere I read a post from a woman who had a peanut butter and jam sandwich before going to sleep under the stars and reportedly woke up with a bear licking her face. I couldn't imagine keeping my cool, or the sleeping bag just after that.

A guy on HammockForums had a photo of a hammock with some bear bites in it. MOMMEEEEEEE!!!!!

carl becker
(carlbecker) - F

Locale: Northern Virginia
Re: Precautions on 10/21/2011 19:33:41 MDT Print View

I have read a few books and done a little research on black and brown bears. Unscented only means to you. Bears have a truly incredible sense smell. If you are in a hammock and the bear touches you he has smelled you and is not afraid of humans, you have not been bit and dragged away so you are not a meal to it. IMHO the best course of action would be to scare the bear away helping to create a bear wary of humans helping both. Rarely a black bear will see a human as a meal, fight like hell and you may have a chance. Browns if you are perceived as a threat or meal good luck. Being faster than your buddy might not help a bit nor carrying a handgun or rifle. Look up Stephen Herrero, some very tough reading. If you carry spray practice using it so you don't have to think. Keep it available to either hand. It seems like there is absolutely no time to react in many cases. If you are walking upwind a bear will probably not hear or smell you. I don't see where bells make enough noise to travel very far in wooded areas. Read up on the latest Alaska group and how prepared they where but still had a very hard time of it.

Hikin' Jim
(hikin_jim) - MLife

Locale: Orange County, CA, USA
Re: Re: Precautions on 10/21/2011 20:00:50 MDT Print View

Don't pee or poo near camp? I've not heard that one before. In fact, I've heard that pee might actually keep bears away to some degree. The "Bear Whisperer" of Mammoth Lakes, CA, uses ammonia (very pee like) to mark areas against bears.


Paul Wagner
(balzaccom) - F

Locale: Wine Country
True story on 10/21/2011 22:36:40 MDT Print View

SO here is a story from our website: 100% true.

It happened about 45 years ago--when I travelled with his parents and younger sister on an epic road journey through the Canadian Rockies. We camped our way through Banff and Jasper, and then down the Frazier River, all the time reading endless Tolkein books as entertainment.

But I was about thirteen years old, and not about to give up my mountain man image. While the rest of the family slept in a small 15-foot travel trailer, I slept like a real man, nestled in my mummy bag, lying out under the stars.


It was a great feeling, until one night in Jasper National Park, when I awoke to find a bear standing on top of me, sniffing his face.

You might wonder what I did.

Did I mention that I was in a mummy bag, and the bear was on top of it?

I couldn't move, even if I wanted to. And somehow, in my sleepy mind, I knew that. So I closed his eyes and pretended to sleep. I smelled the bear's breath, which reminded him very strongly of garbage.

(Not surprising, considering what the bear had been eating!)

About twenty seconds later, I judged that the bear was no longer near me. I opened my eyes and looked around, to see the bear rumbling off to another campsite.

I leapt to my feet and carried his bag into the trailer, explaining to my family that there was a bear outside.

Not knowing the full story, they were not excited.

Then I stuck my head out of the trailer to check on the bear. And that's when I saw a small black animal scampering along the campground road, wailing for its mother.

"maaaaa!" said the animal.

I reported to my family that there was also a little black lamb out there, too.

My family was mightily amused.

But the next day, the story was verified by bear and cub tracks in the dirt.

That next evening, I and my sister were BOTH out under the stars, surrounded by folding aluminum chairs and rope--hoping to catch a photo of the bear when it got near.

(This is a true story. really. )

The bear never arrived. Although it did find another campsite further along, where a mother and her daughter had gone to sleep with some food inside the tent. The bear opened up the tent and ate the food, sending both women to the hospital as a result.

To this day, I am convinced that the bear was attracted by the smell of toothpaste on my recently brushed teeth.

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
First: reduce the level of bear fear on 10/22/2011 07:06:54 MDT Print View

I dedicated a post on my blog to illustrating the relative risk from bears vs other potential dangers we face in life. One thing is clear, the level of bear fear is vastly overblown.

For example I said this:

With about 16,929 murders a year in the US and Canada combined out of a total population of about 334,000,000, about 1 out of 19,625 people will be a murderer in a given year.

With about 3 fatal bear attacks per year in the US and Canada combined, and about 660,000 bears in the US and Canada total, about 1 out of 220,000 bears will be "murderers" in a given year.

Paul Wagner
(balzaccom) - F

Locale: Wine Country
Dngers on the trail on 10/22/2011 08:52:32 MDT Print View

And here's the section from our website ( about wild animal dangers:

This is the stuff that everybody wants to talk about. Wild bears who attack campers in the middle of dinner. Ferocious pumas who lie in wait behind every tree. Snakes that crawl into your sleeping bag at night!

Sorry. Doesn’t happen. Since 1980 there have been a total of twelve reported attacks by black bears in California. That’s an average of less than one attack every two years. Most occurred in developed campgrounds or rural urban interfaces, not in the wilderness. None were fatal. In that same time period, there have been exactly the same number of reported puma attacks—most near the rural urban interface, and none in wilderness areas. Almost all involved children or small adults. Roughly 800 people this year will be bitten by rattlesnakes, and one or two of those bites will result in death. Most of those bitten are young men who are bitten their hands or arms. Enough said.

So you are not going to get killed or eaten by wild animals. In contrast, some 370,000 Americans are bitten by dogs badly enough to need treatment at the emergency room, and nearly 4,000 people will die in traffic accidents in California alone this year. And about 30,000 people will die from gunshots of one kind or another in the USA. If you want to be safe, get out of the city, get out backpacking in the High Sierra and STOP DRIVING YOUR CAR!


Want some really interesting statistics? 130 Americans are killed by deer every year. 65 are struck by lightning. 100 are killed by bees. 20 are killed by cows. Makes you wonder, huh?

Most importantly, drive very carefully to the trailhead. Your chances of dying are 4,000 times higher on the highway than they are on the trail.

carl becker
(carlbecker) - F

Locale: Northern Virginia
Re: First: reduce the level of bear fear on 10/22/2011 09:06:51 MDT Print View

Yes the risk of bear attack is very low but I think your analogy is flawed. I believe there are more people in places where they may/are be murdered by people (just about everywhere) vs people in the wild or parks with bears where they may be attacked by bears. Mountain Lions are probably a greater risk as they may be more likely to see you as a meal. Keeping food and all smellables far away helps a great deal. Very few bears see you as a meal, many more bears see you as a threat, still a very small number. Still your chances of being struck by lightning once while attacked by bears once or twice might be equal. Don't stand on top of a mountain in a thunder storm. Trying not to put yourself in a bad position is a good idea regardless. No Darwin awards please. Respect and knowledge not fear should carry you through. People feeding bears one way or another seems to be the biggest problem and cause for bear attacks. Of course these are my own opinions based on my own research. YMMV

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Dngers on the trail on 10/22/2011 09:07:12 MDT Print View

Thanks a lot

Now my wife won't let me go backpacking anymore because she's afraid I'll get in a traffic accident on the way to the trailhead : )

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Dngers on the trail on 10/22/2011 09:40:51 MDT Print View

I love statistics. Perhaps we can discuss how many people venture into the backcountry in California versus how many live in urban areas. Re-work the averages. Report back.