What should I do in a bear encounter?

If you see a bear and it has not seen you, Stay calm and quietly leave the area. If on a trail, step off the trail on the downhill side and slowly leave the area. If the bear has seen you, identify yourself – let the bear know you are human. Talk in a soft to normal voice, do not yell. Help the animal recognize you are human. If the bear cannot tell what you are, it may come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better look or smell.

A standing bear is curious, not threatening, but this is a good time for a first short (one-second) burst of Counter Assault, which may send the bear on its way. Try to back away slowly diagonally, but if the bear follows, stop and hold your ground. Pick up small children immediately and stay in a group.

Try not to pose a threat – avoid direct eye contact, as bears may perceive this as a threat. Don’t make any sudden movements. If necessary, back away slowly to give the bear plenty of room to escape.

Wild bears rarely attack people unless they feel threatened or provoked. Stand still – hold your ground if the bear charges. Bears often “bluff charge”. Since it’s impossible to tell a bluff charge from the real thing, a short (1-3 second) blast of Counter Assault should interrupt the charge. Do not run – including to the nearest tree unless you are sure you can climb at least 10 feet before the bear reaches you.

Running is likely to prompt the bear to give chase. You can’t outrun a bear — they have been clocked up to 35 mph, and like cougars and dogs, they will chase fleeing animals. (Climbing a tree may not work for black bears because they are agile climbers.) Under no circumstances should bear spray create a false sense of security or serve as a substitute for standard safety precautions in bear country.

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