How To Avoid A Bear Encounter (And What To Do If It All Goes Terribly Wrong)

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We ask 12 city folks what they would do if a bear charges at them and their answers are (comically) concerning:

Eric: I would shit my pants.

Fariche: I would back away slowly while shitting my pants.

Marta: Start singing "Another One Bites The Dust" or "Bear Mountain Massacre" by Bob Dylan.

Jamie: It would be fight or flight. Running away screaming or maybe put up a fight. Probably run.

Warren: Well, the initial comical response would be to pull down my pants and move my hips really fast so my dick would slap my legs making a loud enough noise to scare the bear away. But in reality, I'd probably just freeze, too scared to move and I would get eaten alive.

Sarah: Scream and run.

Linda: I would bear-fuck it to the ground.

Tracy: I would literally play dead.

Chase: I would climb up a tree and point him towards the river, fish taste BEARter.

Seb: Do I play dead or will it maul me?

Azuka: Throw toilet paper and hope it's one of the bears from the Charmin ads.

Leah: Die.

Luckily, most of these encounters will be uneventful. In almost every case, the bear will turn and run. But if you come into contact with one, it’s important to know what you’re dealing with. There are three species in North America: the black bear, brown bear, and polar bear. You will only have to worry about the first two unless you're trekking through the Arctic.

Know Your Bears

Black bears have many colour phases including white, blond, cinnamon, auburn, chocolate or jet black. The good news? Many are largely vegetarian. They also tend to be less aggressive compared to their larger relatives.

Brown bears are the king of the forest, thanks to their large size and dominant attitudes. Although they’re larger than black bears, size alone isn't a reliable way to tell them apart. Also, notice the snout shape and look for a hump of muscles in its upper back, a trademark of brown bears. As brown bears move inland away from the bountiful coast, they shrink slightly in size and are considered Grizzly bears.

The location will also help you identify black vs. brown bears—grizzly country extends through Europe, Asia, Canada, and the U.S. where they’re limited to Alaska and parts of Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Wyoming. It turns out both bears and hunters enjoy the same territory: one free of people and chalked full of fish and wildlife. Although it will be inevitable that you’ll meet a bear when hunting, camping or hiking, there are some things you should do to minimize unwanted conflict.

Black Bear

Black Bear

Grizzly Bear (Brown Bear)

Grizzly Bear (Brown Bear)

Polar Bear

Polar Bear

Do Your Best To Avoid Them 

The best defense is avoidance. Be sure to continually be looking for bear signs, including fresh tracks, shredded logs, scat, clawed trees, and overturned rocks. Steer clear of dense bushes and berry patches. Hiking through areas you know have a lot of bear activity, go in groups and make some noise. 

At camp, keep gear and clothing as clean as possible from food, blood, and other attractive odors. Overnight, be sure to store food in a bag hanging at least 10ft high in a tree away from a bear’s reach.

If you're hunting, in the field, use rubber gloves while butchering to keep odor off your hands, and hang quarters far away from the gut pile and camp.  By hanging the harvested meat high in a tree, you’ll be able to observe it from a distance with binos to make sure a bear hasn't claimed your animal. If it has, by law you’re required to surrender the meat. Call your conservation officer to report the incident, and you might be able to re-use your tag.

Shit You See A Bear

In most situations, if you encounter a brown or black bear, you’re going to want to avoid eye contact, and running away. Slowly back out of there to avert confrontation. If the bear has seen you and is standing on its hind legs, it’s trying to identify what you are. In this case, make loud noises to help it identify you as a human, in hopes it will be deterred.

On rare occasions, the best defense against a bear charge will be bear spray. Why not guns you ask? With adrenaline surging, the chances of a shot accurate enough to down a bear will be slim to none. You’ll likely wound the animal, or miss altogether. Bear spray, on the other hand, doesn’t require as much precision. Always have a can on your hip, even around camp and bring more than one can. 

So there you have it—no pants shitting or bear fucking required. Keep in mind bear encounters happen all the time and it's rare that a bear actually starts attacking you. 

Now get out there and enjoy the backcountry! 

-Jarid and Jenny