Surviving Bear Encounters

We live in bear country and sometimes we get to meet them nose-to-snout. Reports of encounters are becoming more common in this area. What to do if you encounter a bear?

IN AN IMMEDIATE EMERGENCY:
contact your local police force or dial 911


TO REPORT BEAR PROBLEMS: contact the Bear Reporting Line at:
1-866-514-2327   (TTY) 705 945-7641

 A black bear will react to humans in one of two ways:
Offensive manner  the bear either wants right-of-way, to assert dominance, or it may be stalking you as possible prey
Defensive manner  a bear sees you as a threat to it, its cubs, or its food

 Bear is offensive:

If a bear has not been approached and is not stressed, you should interpret any silent advance as offensive.
The bear's head will be up and ears erect.
–  A first response should be to give the bear right-of-way moving aside and watching the bear.
–  If it continues to follow you, you may try dropping any pack or food, then slowly move away while keeping an eye on the bear.


Reacting to a offensive situation
–  If the bear ignores your pack or food and continues to follow you: Stop and stand your ground. If you are with others, stay closely together and act as a group.
–  Make sure the bear has a clear escape route.
–  Act aggressively to persuade the bear you are not easy prey.
–  Stare it in the eye.
–  Raise your jacket to look bigger.
–  Shout. Wave your arms. Stomp your feet.
–  Stand on a log or rock.
–  Slowly move uphill from it.
–  Use an air-horn if available.
–  Use your bear spray if within range.
–  Use your firearm if you have one.
–  If the bear attacks silently, fight back with anything at hand.
–  Use your walking stick or grab a rock.
–  Use a stout piece of wood or knife.
–  Strike for the nose or eyes.
–  Kick, yell, be ruthless.
YOU ARE FIGHTING FOR YOUR LIFE.

 

 Bear is defensive:

A bear may run or it may defend itself by acting aggressively. These bears usually become stressed, often giving visual and vocal cues:
–  swatting or slamming its paw against the ground
–  blowing explosively through its nostrils
–  exhaling loudly, huffing and moaning
–  jaw-popping (snapping its teeth)
–  lowering the head with ears drawn back while facing you
–  excessive salivation
The situation may escalate to an actual charge, but it is most often a bluff where the bear stops and veers away before making contact.


Reacting to a defensive approach or charge

–  Stand your ground.
–  When the bear has stopped its advance, slowly back away, watching the bear through the corner of your eye and talking to it in a calm, low voice.
–  If you haven't already done so, prepare your deterrent such as bear spray, knife or firearm, if you have it.
–  If the bear attacks, fall to the ground immediately upon contact.
–  Lay on your stomach with your legs spread slightly apart, locking your fingers behind your head. If the bear flips you over, roll back on your stomach to protect your vital organs and face.
–  Do not struggle or cry out.
–  When the attack is broken off, do not move or make a sound until you are sure the bear has left. If you do, the bear may resume the attack because it still feels threatened.
Both approaches are extremely rare with offensive attacks being more frequent than defensive attacks.

Because bear encounters can be complex, there is no 100 per cent certain way to ensure your safety. The following are only suggestions that may fit the situation you may be faced with while in bear country.
To be safe, AVOID ALL CONTACT with bears.


–  Stay alert, and be aware of your surroundings. Watch for bear signs like tracks, droppings, turned up stumps and claw marks in trees. If possible, stay in the open and avoid bear-activity areas, such as travel corridors along waterways and especially berry patches and carcass remains.
–  While walking, take a walking stick, an air-horn, and carry pepper spray attached to your belt.
–  Don't hike alone. Travel with a friend or, at the very least, tell someone where you will be.

–  Never let children straggle behind or rush ahead.
–  Dogs can serve as an early-warning system for the presence of bears but should be kept on a leash at all times. If an unrestrained dog confronts a bear, the bear may follow the dog back to its owner.
–  Make your presence known by any means available to you - wave your arms slowly, sing,
clap your hands, talk in a calm voice. Don't whistle, as it may resemble an animal's call and could attract a bear from afar.
–  Do not use a headphone device -“ walkmans, CD- or MP3 type players.
–  Do not use scented hair or body products.
–  Backwood users must keep campsites clean. They should store food and unwashed utensils in airtight storage containers to minimize odours and pack all remaining garbage for proper disposal. Only if necessary, burn (in approved facilities where fires are allowed) garbage, sanitary materials, cooking grease and food scraps rather than burying them. Become aware of local fire restrictions.
–  Avoid carrying and/or cooking highly odorous food (canned fish, bacon, etc.).
–  Place food, the clothing you cooked in and any synthetic-based odours (perfumes, deodorants, toothpaste) out of the reach of a bear, not in your tent. Suspend these items at least four meters (15 feet) off the ground in between two trees and
well away from your campsite. If you are camping in or by a vehicle, store all food, cooking clothes and garbage inside the vehicle.
–  Do not dispose of dishwater around or near your tent.

If you see a bear
Each encounter is unique. There is no guarantee that what works in one instance will work in another. In the collective opinion of experts, the following are recommended:
–  Stop, remain calm and try to assess the situation.
–  NEVER approach or crowd a bear.

–  If a bear is in a tree, leave it alone by vacating the area. When it feels safe, it will climb down and leave.
–  Never feed a bear!
–  Never run unless reaching safety is a guarantee. If you are near a building or car, get inside. Fleeing may trigger a chase response. With a burst speed of 50 kilometres/hour (30 miles per hour), a bear can outrun any human and most cyclists.
–  Climbing a tree or entering water is not a guarantee of safety, since black bears are superior climbers and strong swimmers.


If a bear seems unaware of you
–  Move away quietly when the bear is not looking toward you. Keep your eye on the bear, but do not make direct eye contact because it may be interpreted as a challenge.


If a bear is aware of you
–  Let it know you are human. Talk to the bear in a low tone of voice and wave your arms slowly while moving away upwind, if practical, to give the bear your scent.
–  A bear standing on its hind legs is seldom getting ready to attack. It is only trying to get a better look or smell.