There is a nightmare that all hikers and outdoor adventurers have: meet a bear in the forest. The great king of forests is no match for a human (even a well-trained one) and when he is aggressive, he can inflict a lot of damage using his weight, his teeth and his claws; Sometimes the attack can be fatal.
The bear is an omnivore; This means that he will introduce anything into his diet and yes, human flesh is also on the list. Although they will not hunt humans for food and most likely do not eat us, they will definitely attack if they are surprised or threatened. Those who are more likely to find a bear in the forest are hikers, campers, cyclists and hunters.
Statistics show that attacks are not numerous, which is logical, given that they occur only when humans and bears cross. Even so, they are disorderly and violent. In the table below there is a statistic that records the number of deaths that occurred after an approximate encounter between a human and a bear between 2005 and 2012 in North America.
|Year||Black bear||bear Cafe|
What kind of bears can you find and where?
There are only three types of bears that are native to North America and can usually be found in their natural habitats. There are some stray who learned to approach human cities in search of food, but they are rare encounters (unless their city is close to their habitat). So, to summarize, there are two possible main locations where you can find bears:
- In the local dumpster that is near a forest, the bears have adapted over the years and have learned not to fear human-inhabited areas. They often go to the city to buy at their local mall, the trash bin, to buy some treats like leftovers and other interesting things. Unfortunately, they can become addicted to human food and, therefore, difficult to handle when someone bothers their play around the dumpster.
- In the forest, on trails or in bushes in areas frequented by bears, they do not like to meet with us as much as we do not like to do so. It is a reciprocal agreement that it is best not to meet, if you wish. Even so, meetings happen and when they do, you need to be prepared.
Areas frequented by bears in North America.
When hiking or camping, it is always best to check if the area you are heading to is not a bear habitat. A map like the one above will definitely do the trick, but if you do not have access to one or do not have the necessary resources to obtain the information for yourself, consult local authorities.
Let’s discuss a little about the areas most frequented by bears in North America. This little guide is meant to help any outdoor enthusiast or adventurer correctly quantify the danger of meeting Smokey.
As we mentioned earlier, there are three main types of bears here:
- The black bear
- The Grizzly or the brown bear of America
- The polar bear
The black bear (or in Latin: Ursus Americanus)
Habitat: This is the one that is most likely to be found while walking through the forest or looking for berries because their habitat is the largest. You can meet a black bear that starts in central Mexico and ends in northern Alaska. In the USA You will find them in the Rocky Mountains, on the west and east coast and in small plots in the southeast and southwest.
Personality: This type of bear is quite shy and tries to avoid getting to know people as much as possible. He will definitely try to steal food from garbage cans if he can, but he will be a gentleman and will travel at night when the danger of coming face to face with him is extremely small.
Physical characteristics: They are the smallest of the three types and, despite their name, the color of the coat can vary from light brown to black. Their ears are a little higher than those of Grizzly and a male black bear can weigh up to 550 pounds. In addition, the front claws are short and dark, the face is straight and the shoulders do not form a hump.
The grizzly bear (or in Latin: Ursus arctos)
Habitat: In the USA UU., Yellowstone National Park is considered the home of the Grizzly, but can be seen in other states such as Utah: the north side, Alberta, British Columbia, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington and Montana, in the northwest. Its largest habitat is found in Alaska and Canada, the northwestern regions.
Personality: The brown bear is much more aggressive than the black bear and will not shy away from a confrontation.
Physical characteristics: The general color of the skin is brown, so the Grizzlies are also called the brown bears of America. The Grizzly is easily recognizable by the obvious hump that forms his shoulders as he walks. The face is a little concave and its front claws are long and light colored. His ears are short.
The polar bear (or in Latin: Ursus maritimus)
Habitat: Northern Canada, northern Alaska and Greenland. We all know that the great white loves the cold weather and that a little snow never bothered him.
Personality: They are not used to people, even though humans have invaded their habitat in recent decades. This makes them extremely dangerous, since you can consider us part of your prayer.
Physical characteristics: As the name implies, their fur is white and they have the same hump on their shoulders as the Grizzlies. They are the largest of the three types; A male polar bear can weigh 700 pounds to 1500 pounds.
This description is important because when “finally” you can meet Smokey, you will need to know the type you are dealing with. If you do not plan to go to the frozen North, then it’s probably safe to say that you will not have to worry about the Polar Bear, which is actually good news.
To summarize, if you see a bear in the distance, see if you can see a hump on his shoulders while walking. Of course, you can try to take a look at their claws, but if you’re so close to seeing them, it might be a bit late for you. Still, do not lose hope, there are people who had a close encounter with a bear and lived to tell the story. The claws are also useful if you find traces. Just keep in mind that the black bear has short, thick claws, while the brown bear has long, straight claws.
Although the Grizzly is considered larger than the Black Bear, trying to differentiate them according to the size or color of the skin is not always a good idea. For example, Grizzlies that live on the coast are generally larger than those that live in the interior. Black bears can also grow according to the food resources they have access to. The coat can be deceptive, since the Black Bears can have a brown color on their fur and the brown bear (the Grizzly) can be dark brown, almost black.
Why does a bear attack and when?
According to specialists, there are two types of bears attacks:
- defensive attacks, when the bear sees it as a threat to him or his puppies;
- Predatory attacks, when the bear really sees you as a prayer and wants to invite you to dinner.
It is important to know what type of attack is occurring to know how to protect yourself. The defensive attack It happens when you take the bear by surprise or when you have the bad luck of meeting a mom with the puppies. In a defensive attack, the bear tries to scare and intimidate you with slaps on the ground, snorts, snapping teeth and can even stand up on its hind legs.
the predatory attack It is direct and it is clear that the bear only has one intention: dinner. At first he will surround you, trying to decide when and where to attack first.
However, in most cases, the bear is as scared as you are and does not want to be attracted anymore. It is absolutely normal for you to be afraid, but remember, the bear is defending its territory; You are the intruder. If you act calmly and have the necessary knowledge, this meeting will be a story to tell your grandchildren.
What to do when a bear attacks: safety tips and tricks
Finally, we came to that moment in our discussion when we learned how to get out alive and untouched in a meeting with Smokey the bear. Over the years, people learned that there are some tips that, if applied correctly, can save your life and bodily integrity.
Before discussing what to do, it is better to talk a little about what not to do. Usually, when the big bear stands in front of you on the road, the fight against the flight instinct is activated and the first thought you have is “Run for your life!”. This is a big no, not when it comes to bears. They may look massive, but they can run! An average-sized bear reaches 30 miles per hour and can climb trees (Grizzlies are a bit less agile to climb, but they will definitely try). When you run, the bear will consider you praying and may actually change from a defensive attack to a predator.
If the worst happens and Smokey feels your presence, never turn your back on him. It will definitely attack if you do this.
When camping or hiking, keep your food in bear-proof containers. Bears are usually attracted by the smells and garbage that remains around the tents. If you are careless in the bear country, you will definitely have gests.
Never feed a bear, no matter how friendly it may be. As soon as you identify yourself as a source of food, you will become aggressive and ask for more.
Now, let’s see what to do when you’re face to face with a bear:
- Always, but absolutely always. keep calm. Usually, if he does not see you as a threat and states that you are not praying, the bear will go his way;
- If you find yourself between the bear and your freedom (the bear is cornered and you only block the escape route), back down slowly and let him escape. When you go back, speak softly and softly;
- It is recommended to leave pets at home when going to an area frequented by bears. Dogs attract bears and, in confrontation, dogs will definitely lose;
- Avoid eye contact – It can be difficult to control your body at that time, but you should try to avoid eye contact. The bear will consider this as a direct challenge;
- If you see the bear at a distance but he has not seen you, do not announce your presence. This will only scare him and provoke a violent response. Instead, back off slowly and let the bear move (about 30 minutes) while waiting in a distant place, downwind.
- The bear is about 350 feet away and detected your presence. This situation can easily be deactivated if you allow him to understand that you are human. Start speaking in a soft voice and move your arms (not too fast). If possible, back off and take a detour, but do not lose Smokey from your sight. In addition, you must let it collect your scent so that it can see that you are human.
- If you have children with you, wear them on your shoulders and teach them how to behave in case Smokey appears. You will see bigger and more imposing with a child on your shoulders.
- Playing the dead – This may seem like a myth, but it can actually save your life. If the bear pounces in a defensive attack lies on the ground, on your side, and put yourself in a fetal position. If you have your backpack on, this will provide additional protection. This position allows you to protect sensitive areas such as your gut (with your knees) and your head (bury it in your legs). Do not leave your neck exposed! If the fetal position is not good for you, lie on your stomach and place your hands on the back of your neck. Remember, this technique should be used only as a last resort.
- Climb a tree – Just be sure to choose a tall tree. Black bears are good climbers and, if they are motivated enough, they will chase you in the tree. It is known that grizzlies only climb short distances. Make sure you have at least 33 feet between you and the bear, to allow you to change your mind.
- Use pepper spray – It is extremely wise to bring some pepper spray for bears when you venture into an area frequented by bears. It is only efficient when applied in a close range (15 feet). If the bear gets so close, unload the entire container in your eyes to disorient it.
- If you think the bear could be close, but you can not see it, make noise, talk, sing, hit pots, anything that lets you know that you’re coming from a distance. Usually the bear leaves if it identifies you as a human being.
If the techniques mentioned above are not useful and a black bear still makes contact, it’s time to fight for your life. Strike back with anything you have on hand: rocks, twigs, sticks, branches, your backpack, absolutely anything. Black bears are more shy and your answer can convince them to back off.
What to do when the attack ends?
Usually, after the bear stops considering you a threat, it will lose interest and go away. There have been many cases of violent attacks when the bear actually tore pieces of meat or used his teeth but left the victim alive. If you played dead or if the bear just shows that he may want to leave, do not jump as soon as you think he’s gone.
Continue recostándote and try to evaluate the situation. Listen carefully to the noises and make sure the bear has disappeared. When you are sure, try to get up and move in the opposite direction from the one the bear took. Seek help and help from authorities and try to warn other campers and hikers that the area is dangerous.
If you are seriously injured, try to ask for help using a telephone or a radio station and stay as still as possible. If you can move, check your wounds and try to stop any heavy bleeding.
Now you know how to behave in case a big brown or black bear crosses your path. Remember that bear attacks are quite rare and they are as scary as you are to them.