Let’s face it: The odds of coming across a bear during a camping trip are never slim, especially if you are going deep into the forest. To make matters worse, real-life bears are far from the cuddly and lovable Yogi Bear. A certified killing machine, they have the strength, the agility and the power to crush your fragile bones into tiny pieces.
Now, you don’t really have to give up the camping tent to avoid encountering a bear. Believe it or not, bears can also make an appearance on cities. Ever heard of bear attacks in the suburbs?–Yes, we can say that coming across a bear is all a matter of bad timing and bad luck.
So basically, if bear attacks can happen outside the wilderness, it can definitely happen to you as you camp around unspoiled sites. The question is, what should you do to survive?
Firstly, Let’s Identify the Type of Bears
It really pays off to know what you are dealing with before devising a plan of escape. Remember, not all bears are made equal. While some are vicious in nature, others attack mainly for defense.
There are 3 types of bear species in America: the polar bear, the brown bear and the black bear. If you are camping up the Arctic Circle, chances are, you are going to encounter a polar bear, which is one of the deadliest animals in the world.
If you are hiking in the western part of the country, you might come across a brown bear, which is further subdivided into two categories: the brown bear and the grizzly bear. Grizzly bears are smaller than brown bears. Both these species can be easily spotted by their shoulder hump and concave facial feature.
Black bears, on the other hand, are most common in the East. The problem is, black bears are the most challenging to identify as they can be black, white, brown or cinnamon in color. The good news is, most are vegetarians.
Bear Precautions: What to Do to Avoid a Bear Encounter
If there’s anything you need to avoid, it’s to startle a bear. When camping anywhere in the country, always remember that bears can take after hiking trails. Also, they love hanging around berry patches and thick bushes, so keep your feet off those areas.
To further lessen your chance encountering a bear, below are some the things you need to do:
- Don’t hike quietly, especially when you are alone in the wilderness. Sing a song, clap your hands and make sure you are making noises so you won’t catch a bear by surprise.
- Always be alert. If you love listening to music, make sure you aren’t stuck on your headphones as you hike. You don’t want to catch a bear’s glimpse only to realize you are only 50 meters away, so make it a habit to stay attentive.
- Hike in groups. The larger the group, the better.
- Invest in a bear spray. You’d never know when a bear is just around the corner.
- Avoid blind spots. Bears are known for their poor eyesight, so you don’t really want to startle them.
- Most bear encounters occur when food is left out in the open. When you are sleeping on your tent, make sure your food is away from your sleeping area. Also, invest in high quality food containers.
How to Survive a Bear Encounter
If all your efforts to avoid a bear encounter failed, playing dead or running away won’t always do the trick. To survive, below are the pointers you need to consider:
- Don’t attempt to run or climb trees. Bears are faster runners and climbers than you.
- If a brown bear is about to attack you, it’s usually an act of defense. If this is the case, calm down and speak in a soft, reassuring voice. Prepare your bear spray for defense. If it attacks you and your bear spray failed to do its magic, act dead so you won’t be a perceived threat.
- If, on the other hand, you encounter a black bear, then you just got a little less lucky. In contrary to grizzly bears, black bears often attack as a sign of aggression. In a scenario like this, fight with everything you got. If you are in a group, stay together and position yourselves so you would look larger than the bear. Make a lot of noise. Get big rocks and sticks and throw it towards the bear.
- If you have food, drop it. Bears also attack when they sense food on your baggage.
As a camper, you have to stay alert when you are out on your trails. Bringing a bear spray and taking a lot of common sense with you as you hike may seem little, but it can mean a lot in life-threatening situations like this.
Susan Whick is a contributor to The Camping Canuck. She’s worked and interned at Global News Toronto and CHECX. Susan is based in Toronto and writes travel pieces for the site. In addition to her severe Cinnabon addiction, Susan is a Netflix enthusiast, a red wine drinker, and avid paddler.