In the lower 48 states, fewer than 1,100 grizzlies are remaining. Most can are found in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Washington. If you are not hiking or camping in one of those states, then you only have to worry about black bears. Male Grizzly bears can weigh up to 1,700 pounds while females weigh up to 800 pounds. Nothing small about a Grizzly, and that is why it is important to know what to do if you see them. Seeing a bear in the wild is a moment you may never forget. However, you want to be prepared if you see one that is too close for comfort.
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What to do if you see a grizzly bear while hiking
If you encounter a bear, you may find a bear that ignores you completely or a bear that appears to be aggressive. If it feels threatened, it may act defensively by growling or snapping its jaws. Bears may bluff a charge at you and then retreat at the last second just after you pee yourself. Below is a list of things to do and things to keep in mind if you encounter a bear.
Do not run. If you run, the bear might mistake you as prey. They are very fast, and you are no match for their speed. A Grizzly bear can reach speeds up to 35 mph. That is faster than any human, even an Olympic sprinter. Simply, if a bear wants to catch you, it will.
Do not take off your backpacking backpack because this may serve as protection if you are attacked. Also, any big movements like that may startle the bear in a bad way.
If you are with small children, pick them up.
Do not look in the bears’ eyes and do not approach the bear. Especially if the bear is eating, the bear will want to protect its meal. Wild bears are not pets, and you need to respect their size and strength.
Do not hide because bears have a great sense of smell.
Identify yourself to the bear. Don’t scream or yell but speak softly and let the animal know you are not a meal but a human. Do not imitate the bear sounds or make cute sounds like you are talking to a puppy or baby. Remain still while standing your ground. Slowly wave your arms from your side. This will help the bear recognize that you are a human.
If the bear is not moving, back away slowly. If the bear follows you, stop and stand your ground again. Once you are safely out of the bears’ sight, then leave the area or take a detour if necessary.
One important thing to determine is if there are any cubs around. If it is a male bear, there will be no cubs around. If it’s a mother bear with cubs, determine if you are in between the mother and her cubs. This is a very dangerous position to be in, and you want to react slowly while quietly backing away as soon as possible.
How to avoid bears while hiking
If you don’t want to have a close encounter with a bear, then the best way to avoid that is by making noise. You never want to surprise a bear while you are hiking.
A surprised bear is more likely to cause problems. Wear bells while you are hiking or backpacking. If you do not have bells (or if they annoy you and you don’t want to wear them), make sure to make a lot of noise while you are hiking. If you are hiking with a group of people, make sure to speak loudly among each other or sing songs. If you are by yourself, talk to yourself or sing songs, especially if you are in densely covered areas where animals can be hiding, or sound doesn’t travel that well.
Unleashed dogs are great companions, but they also might attract a bear.
Do not leave food on the trail. And never let a bear eat your food. If they eat your food, it will condition the bear to see humans as a food supply.
What do you do if a Grizzly bear attacks you?
If a Grizzly attacks you, play dead. Leave your backpack on, lay on your stomach, and bring your hands behind your neck. Leverage yourself with your legs so that the bear cannot turn you over. Remain still (probably not easy) until the bear leaves you alone. If a black bear attacks you, fight back, hitting the animal’s eyes and snout.
How to Avoid Bears in your Campsite
Bears are very intelligent animals and have great noses for food. If you are camping in bear country, then there is no sure way to keep bears out of your campsite. If you are camping, you will have food. Bears will smell the food in your camping area. Keep your food out of reach from the bears. Keep your food in bear boxes if your campsite has them or use bear canisters.
If you use bear canisters, do not store them next to your tent but a safe distance away. Do not at any time bring food into your tent or your favorite backpack. Even if there are Gatorade packages bought from a store, the bears can still smell the sugar inside the pouches. A majority of bear attacks happen when food is stored inside the tent, and bears are trying to find the food.