How to behave in a

bear encounter

“Know what to do when you see a bear. NEVER run from a bear. Don’t approach a bear – just quietly move away and leave the area.

 

However, if a bear does approach you, make yourself look big, make loud noises, clap your hands, and continue to back away.”

Jaime Sajecki, Black Bear Project Leader
Virginia Department of Game and Inland. Fisheries

BLACK BEAR ATTACKS ARE VERY UNCOMMON

Black bears rarely become aggressive when encountered. However, it’s best to avoid bears by following these simple steps, and to know what to do if an encounter happens.

If you encounter a bear…

…IN THE WOODS

  • Do not approach the bear.
  • Quietly move away and leave the area.

…IN A BUILDING, DUMPSTER OR AROUND THE CORNER

  • Give the bear a clear escape route. (Do not corner it.)
  • Leave any doors open as you back away from the bear.
  • Do not lock the bear in a room.

…IN YOUR BACKYARD

  • From a safe distance, make loud noises, shout, or bang pots and pans together (to scare the bear).
  • When the bear leaves, remove potential attractants such as garbage, bird seed, or pet food.
  • Ask neighbors to remove attractants.
  • Check your yard for bears before letting out your dog.
Chasing a bear out of your backyard includes removing whatever attracted the bear to your yard in the first place. (Photo: Madison Rapp)

Avoiding bears while…

WHILE HIKING OR WALKING

  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Hike in groups and stay together.
  • Keep kids within sight.
  • Keep dogs on a leash or leave them home.
  • Make noise in thick cover.
  • Carry bear spray.

WITH YOUR DOG

  • If you encounter a bear while with your dog, back away and leave the area.
  • Keep dogs leashed.
  • Do not let dogs chase or interact with bears.

WHILE CAMPING

  • Do not store food in your tent.
  • Cook 100 yards from your tent.
  • Clean cooking area thoroughly.
  • Don’t sleep in clothes you wore when cooking.
  • Store food, trash, lotions, toothpaste, and deodorant in:
    • a hardtop vehicle with windows closed and doors locked.
    • a bear-resistant container, or suspended in a tree 100 yards from sleeping area.

If a black bear becomes aggressive and…

…Approaches you

  • Stand your ground.
  • Back away only when the bear stops its approach.
  • Make yourself look bigger by raising your arms and jacket, and/or standing on a rock or stump.
  • Yell “Hey bear” loudly.
  • Get your bear spray out of the holster and into your hand. Remove the safety latch.

…FOLLOWS YOU

  • Stand your ground.
  • Try to appear large by holding up your arms and jacket, and/or standing on a rock or stump.
  • Back away only when the bear stops its approach.
  • Intimidate the black bear by making yourself look bigger and making noise (wave arms, shout, clap, bang stick).
  • Stay together.

…CONTINUES TO FOLLOW YOU

  • Stand your ground and stay together.
  • Intimidate the black bear by making yourself look bigger and making noise (wave arms, shout, clap, bang stick).
  • Prepare to fight or use bear spray.

…CHARGES YOU

  • Stand your ground.
  • Remain calm.
  • If you have bear spray, spray it directly at the bear.

…MAKES CONTACT WITH YOU

  • FIGHT BACK with anything at hand (knife, sticks, rocks, binoculars, backpack or by kicking).
  • DO NOT play dead.

 Top photo: Steve Uffman