How to Handle Approaching a Bear in the Wild

How to Handle Approaching a Bear in the Wild

Apparently, you're more likely to die from a bee sting than to die from a grizzly bear attack in Yellowstone. More often than not, they'll see you and start booking it in the other direction. 

While it's unlikely that you'll be harmed, it's always best to be prepared for anything. We've all been warned not to get between a mama bear and her cub; it could be deadly! Bears have the potential to be ferocious.  

If you're a fan of hiking and camping in national parks and forests, this blog post is for you. Let's talk about what to do if you come across a bear in the wild. 

Bear Knowledge

You wouldn't take a butter knife to a gunfight, right? So make sure you're not treating a grizzly bear encounter in the same way you would treat a black bear encounter. Having some basic bear knowledge under your belt is an absolute must! Let me repeat that: knowing some quick facts about bears is essential before you begin your hike or expedition.

There are polar bears, black bears, and brown bears. There are two types of brown bears- the grizzly and the brown bear. You probably won't come across a polar bear unless you're canoeing in the Arctic! The color of the bear gives away which type. However, it is difficult to tell the difference between a brown bear and a grizzly bear. The grizzly bear has pronounced shoulder hump and a distinct face.

Brown bears and grizzlies live in Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Canada, Russia, and parts of Europe. Black bears mostly live in Canada, though around 50 live in the United States along the west coast and in the Rocky Mountains. Brown bears and grizzlies protect their territory and their cubs, while black bears do not. 

Stay Alert

If you wanted to go on a quiet hike, think again. You've got to make noise for the duration of the trip. Whether you're chatting with a friend or humming is up to you. Hiking quietly is extremely dangerous, because a bear can't hear you coming. If you suspect that there may be a bear nearby, clap your hands or sing loudly.

Be aware of blind corners or loud streams where a bear may not be able to hear or see you coming. The last thing you want to do is approach a bear when he or she doesn't expect it! This is not the time to listen to music. Leave your headphones in the car. Make sure that you're hiking in a group with at least three people if you're in bear country. Save your solo hikes for a bear-free zone. 

I shouldn't even have to say this, but please do not try to take a picture. Make sure you know where your bear spray is at all times. Staying alert and focused will be your biggest asset. 

Bear Encounters

You've come face to face with a bear at this point. So, what should you do now? If clapping and singing didn't scare the bear off, let's talk further about safety measures.

Remember, brown bears are more confrontational and territorial while black bears are timid. If a bear charges, it's often a "bluff" or a fake out. While this is scary, the bear will run directly at you but then wait for you to leave the area. 

Brown bears (including grizzlies) 

  • Do not run! The bear WILL catch you.
  • Stay calm. 
  • Stand your ground.
  • Reach for the bear spray. 
  • Slowly back away. 
  • If bear continues to follow you, spray the bear spray. 
  • If the bear charges you, tuck and cover. Protect your neck, head, and stomach. 
  • Play dead. 

Black bears 

  • Yell.
  • Use sticks to make yourself look bigger.
  • Slowly back away. 
  • Use bear spray. 
  • Fight back! Throw stones and sticks at them. 

Do not climb trees or run because the bears will be able to chase you. If you encounter a brown bear or grizzly, play dead. On the other hand, fight back if you encounter a black bear. 


I hope this blog post proved to be informative. I hope that you don't have to fight back or play dead, but if it comes to that, it's always best to be prepared. Stay alert, make noise, and always carry bear spray.

Knowledge is key; it can save your life. If you and your family or friends have an upcoming trip planned, make sure to pack essential equipment (bear spray) and do some research on black bears and brown bears. You can always refer back to this post as a starting point. I hope it helps. Have some fun on your excursion! 

Annie Foley
Stealth Spork 

P.S. Looking for survival tips? From financial preparedness to depression, the Ultimate Prepper's Survival Handbook covers it all! 

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