Escaping from a Bear Attack

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. March 14, 2017
Escaping from a Bear Attack

This article is quite tricky because the author has never been attacked by a bear (yet). However, in this AnimalWised guide we will share the tips learned from articles and advice from experts and the stories of people who have themselves suffered in the flesh a bear attack and survived.

Are you planning a camping trip or are you just curious? Regardless of your reasons, keep reading and learn all about escaping from a bear attack!

You may also be interested in: Escaping from an Elephant Attack

Preventing a bear attack when hiking

When you decide to go hiking or have another reason to go where bears live, it is essential to know what kind of bears there are in that area and the temperament of each species.

American black bears are the most common throughout the North American continent. When you visit sites where they live, it is recommended to walk making vocal noise, singing or yelling at intervals. Apparently this makes them uncomfortable and they deviate from your path.

This technique can also work with brown bears, including the Kodiak or Alaskan and the grizzly subspecies. Polar bears, on the other hand, are attracted to noise, so this method is not at all recommended.

Escaping from a Bear Attack - Preventing a bear attack when hiking

Preventing a bear attack when camping

In camp sites, food should never be left outdoors because bears have an excellent sense of smell and a voracious appetite. There are airtight food containers that will stop the smells of the food extending through the woods.

A crackling fire, even in hot weather, is an essential element in any territory populated by bears. The sight of the fire and the smell of smoke will keep them away from this ancestral element that they recognize and fear.

Escaping from a Bear Attack - Preventing a bear attack when camping

Bear species and subspecies in North America

If you live in or travel to North America, you may encounter different bear species and subspecies depending on your latitude and height. The most notable ones include the following:

  • American black bear (Ursus americanus). This is the most abundant bear species in North America, and also the smallest. Most bear attacks involve American black bears, but this is because of their higher numbers: in fact, these bears avoid humans and prefer to mock-attack instead of taking real risks.
  • Brown bear (Ursus arctos). This larger species can be found throughout Eurasia as well as Canada and the United States. There are four brown bear subspecies in the continent.
  • Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis). This subspecies of the brown bear is distributed throughout Alaska, Canada and the Rocky Mountains in the US. They are quite aggressive, and it is estimated that 70% of grizzly bear attacks on humans are caused by female grizzlies protecting their cubs.
  • Kodiak or Alaskan bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi). This is the largest subspecies of the brown bear, and it is darker than grizzlies. They tend to avoid humans, but can attack when feeling threatened or attracted by food.
  • Polar bear (Ursus maritimus). This bear is the largest terrestrial carnivore, and they live in the Arctic. Polar bears rarely attack people because they hardly ever encounter humans; however, they're the most dangerous bear species because of their predatory habits and great strength.

Escaping from a bear attack

If while you walk you observe bears in your path, it's best to retreat furtively. Sometimes dangerous situations occur with adolescent bears notice a "new animal" (you) and come closer to explore you better: the mother is likely to respond aggressively in order to protect her cub from this perceived threat.

If this happens, you must scare away the bear cub before it approaches too much. Shouting and metallic sounds and gesticulating menacingly can stop the curious bear cub. If this does not stop it, a shot in the air is advisable. The bear cub may not recognize the sound, but quite possibly the mother will do and make her cub retreat.

If you encounter an adult bear, try to retreat and avoid proximity as far as possible. When it is too late for that, however, here is what you can do to escape from a bear attack:

  • Do not challenge the bear by staring at it, but try to face it without showing fear.
  • Make yourself look bigger by standing with spread arms and legs. If you carry a firearm, shoot into the air.
  • Never run, because the bear will soon catch up with you. Brown bears charge in a straight line, while American black bears tend to zig-zag.
  • Try to repel the bear with pepper spray if it gets within more than 10 m (32 ft). Position yourself so that the wind pushes the pepper spray towards the bear, not to your face.
  • Some experts advise playing dead, with the torso to the ground and protecting the neck and head with your hands. Apparently it sometimes works, except with polar bears.
  • If you have to hit the bear, aim for the nose, stomach or celiac plexus.

If you stop the bear attack, try to get away walking backwards without losing sight of the bear. If you take down the bear, you must notify the authorities as soon as possible. It is always advisable to travel accompanied by several people who can help each other.

Escaping from a Bear Attack - Escaping from a bear attack

How did Chase Dellwo escape from a bear attack?

In October 2015, a 26-year-old hunter Chase Dellwo from Montana was attacked by a young grizzly bear of 185 kg (405 lb).

Together with his brother, they were trying to hunt a moose with a crossbow when they came across a grizzly bear near a stream: the bear was as frightened as the men, and its defensive reaction was to attack the intruders. The bear tried to bite Dellwo's head - a common tactic among bears - but he managed to escape. Then, the bear retaliated and bit his leg, shaking him and throwing him into the air.

During the scuffle, Dellwo recalled an article that his grandmother had shown him once and explained that large animals had poor jaw reflexes. Reacting quickly, Dellwo shoved his arm down the bear's throat and caused it to vomit. Fortunately, that worked and the bear fled the fight. After that, helped by his brother, Dellwo went to the hospital.

Escaping from a Bear Attack - How did Chase Dellwo escape from a bear attack?

Now that you know all about escaping from a bear attack, don't miss the following articles:

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1 comment
I would advise people to shoot towards the ground or some other area. Shooting into the air is a felony offense.
Administrador AnimalWised
Good point Joshua!
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