A typical bear which is leery of humans. “Hey look, I am a human.”Leaves the area quickly.It is reacting like a normal bear.Carry on, but be aware and careful.
Is interested in you, your food or belongings.“I am human… watch out for me”Approaches slowly, appears calm. Raises head and nose.It is still curiousDiscourage bear. Use aggressive behavior.Shout, bang something, throw something. INCREASE your response as the bear approaches as if to say “GET LOST - DO NOT MESS WITH ME!
Has been around benevolent humans so is no longer wary.“I am NOT your typical human..”Appears calm. Becomes interested in you and approaches.It wants your stuff!Hold your ground. Make a fuss. Shout, bang something and increase your level of response if the bear presses you. It should say “GET LOST, DO NOT MESS WITH ME!
Has gotten other’s food or garbage and now is looking for yours.“This food is NOT available!”Is bold, pushy, persistent. Approaches haltingly. Appears calm with head and nose up, cranes neck, ears forward.It wants your foodDiscourage the bear using very aggressive behavior. GET LOST - DO NOT MESS WITH ME
Reacting in self-defense or defense of cubs - or was surprised at close range - or while guarding a carcass.“Don’t get pushy. I did not mean it. I’m not moving more.”Is slobbering, huffing, jaw popping, hop charging.You are in SERIOUS danger!Try to diffuse the situation.Look indirectly away (don’t stare) and talk in quiet tones. If the bear is stationary, back away. If it approaches, stand your ground. If the bear is a black bear, fight back. If the bear is a grizzly bear (aka. Alaskan Brown), play dead with hands over neck and elbows over face, and in fetal position. If the brown bear’s behavior shifts from aggression to feeding -FIGHT BACK!
Stalking you! This is a very rare but dangerous bear.“I am not afraid of you!” (yea, right)Continues stalking and moving slowly - often in circles around you.Human - You are in very deep doo-doo!VERY SERIOUS DANGERYOU ABSOLUTELY MUST DISCOURAGE THIS BEAR!!!!!Use very aggressive behavior!If the bear makes contact -FIGHT BACK IF IT IS A BLACK BEAR
Observe/Judge What Is The Bear’s Position
Stand Your Ground, Which Tells The Bear ---
See What The Bear Does Next
This Further Tells You What It Wants From You
Now What Should You Do????
Extracted from Alaska State Parks bear warning signs - 2015
TheabovebearcontactbehaviorandhumaninteractionchartispostedinAlaskaState ParksandotherAlaskarecreationareas.Ifanyoneknowsbears,itisthepeopleinAlaska whoareconstantlyvigilantofbearactivityandknowpreventivemeasures.See“Bear Behavior and Senses” for avoidance defensive actions I have gleaned from the literature.AlaskabearexpertbiologistJohnHechtelstudiedbearsandhumaninteractionseighteen yearsanddelcaresthatunderstandingbearsandrespectingthemisthebestdefense againstattacks.Hiscredentialsforthisattitudearelaudable.Hehadtokillonlyone dangerousbearinthirtyyearsasahuntingguideinAlaska’sremotebearcountry.Hesees alotofpeopleinvadingbears’habitatwithpoorattitudestowardsbearsandwithsloppy habitsthatleadto“foodconditioning”bears.Allmostallbearsthatlearntoequate humanswithaneasyfoodsupplywillgraduallybecomeincreasingnuisancesandthreatto futurehumansinteractionsandproperty.“Afedbearisadeadbear”istheadage,because 95% of fed bears will eventually have to be destroyed.Thebasictenentinbearcountryistorespectthebear’spersonalspace.Bearsarenaturally curious. Take actions to let them know you are approaching and that you are human. Human-Bear Conflict Management:Wildbearshabituallyavoidhumansiftheycan.Theywillmoveawayfromapproaching sounds,smellandsightstheybelievearethreatening–iftheyareabletointime.This assumesyouhavenotcorneredthemincabinorgarage,anarrowravine,alongafenceor onathicket-borderedtrail.Stayintheopenasmuchaspossible.Talkorusebellsto announceyourpresence.Hikersshouldgroupupandcombineeffortsatscaringawayany belligerentorcuriousbearsencountered.Planyourhikingdaysothatthewindisatyour back;thiswillcarryyoursoundsandscentfartherinthedirectionyoutravel.Avoidbear travelandloungingareaslikethickets,deeptimberorwheretherearebeartrails(similarto mantrails,butwithbearscatandfootprints).Useextracautionwhenhikingorfishing along streams; the water noise can prevent bears from hearing you.Bearscommunicatewithbodylanguage.Dothesame.STANDYOURGROUND(WITH BLACKBEARS)!Makeyourselfaslargeaspossiblewithraisedarmsanddrawnupcoat. Facethebearandtalkforcefully,loudly,butnotinafrightenedorantagonizingvoice. Slowlybackawayifthebearshowsrestraintandbecomesboredwiththesituation. Photographers:useyourtelephotolensinsteadofapproachingabear.Yourslowsteady advanceandperhapscrouchedposturemaygivethebearthefeelingyouareinferior, weak and perhaps stalking it. This is not a good impression to give the bear.Donotturnyourbackonabear.Likemanylargepredators,thelackofeyecontact indicatesinattentionandsubordinaterank.Neverrun!Bearsmayinstinctivelybeincitedto attack.Youwillbephysicallysmallerifknockedtotheground,andyouwillbebecausea beareasilycanoutrunanyhuman.Donotcountonfiringaguntoscareawaybears.The surprise gun blast may elevate bears’ adrenalin beyond its composure restraint point. Bearswillcontinuetofightuntiltheyfeelreduceddangerandnolongerfeelthreatened. PlayingdeadmightbeOKasalastresortwithblackbears.(Itisthefirstployforgrizzly bears).Fightforyourlifeifthebearstartstochewonyou.Focushittingthebearinthe eyes, nose, and snout with whatever you can lay your hands on. IreviewtheuseofgunsandpeppersprayintheHunterSafetyandWelfaresection.I capsulateawarning:usingaguntostopachargingbearisverydifficult,andoftenthe shooterorbystandersareshot.Thereisalsoachartofbearencounterbehaviors,their meanings, the degree of potential threats, and the best appropriate responses.Bearsprotecttheiryoungandfoodsourcestowhichtheyhavebecomeusedtoandclaim withtheirterritory.Itisnotgoodtounknowinglywalkbetweenthesowandtheerrantcub. Stopyouradvanceandanalyzethesituation.Sincesowscommonlyhavetwocubs,visually searchforanothercubifonlyonecubisinsight.Ifyouseeabear-molestedcarcass, immediatelymoveawayfromitin the same path you came (you know that way was bear-clear).Abandonthemeat,becauseitisprobablyalreadyspoiled.Themeatshouldhave beenimmediatelycarriedawayfromthegutpileinthefirstplace.Gutpileandspilled blood attract even distant bears.Yearlingbearsposeextraattention.Thesecurious,frisky,partially-trainedteenagersare pronetotesttheirabilities.Theymayapproachandbluffcharge.Theyaremorelikelyto wanderintoacampsite.Itisbesttostandyourgroundandimmediately frightenthem awaywithshouts,potbanging,rockandstickthrowingandarmswaving.Theyneedto learn they are encountering something frightening – humans. Back Country Hunting Bear Safety RulesBearsareintelligentbutnaturallywaryofandwillavoidhumans.Theinvader hunterorfishermanisresponsiblefornotattractingbears.Herearesomebasic, common sense rules for backcountry sportsmen.Makenoisewhentraveling.Groupsarelesslikelytohaveabearconfrontation than a lone individual.Walkwiththewindatyourback.Yourscentandnoisewillbecarriedforward andtheabeargetsanearlywarningandleaves.Bearscanseealmostaswellas humans, so stay in the open and out of thick brush. Scoutyourpotentialcampsitebeforechoosingit.Makesuretherearenoanimal carcases,gutpiles,fishoffal,orremnantsofpreviousmessycampersandtheir cookinglitter.Noticetheactivityofscavengerswhichmayindicatethesenearby bear food sources. Avoidcampingalongtrailsandroads;bearsusethemtoo.Adultboarsactually favor roads and major paths. Keepyourcampclean.Immediatelyplacetrashinbear-proofdumpsters. Immediately(don’tdelayafterdinner)putfoodinbear-prooflockersiftheyare available,orinyourcar.Keepyourcarcleanoffastfoodlitterandfoodsmells. Highlyattractedbearscaneasilypealbackacardoorlikeakidpeelinga banana.Hangyourfoodinmid-aironaropebetweentwotreesifinthebackcountry. Simply tying food high in a tree is not much deterrent to a climber. Avoidgreasyandhighlyaromaticfoodslikebaconorsmokedfish.Washdishes after burning food scraps. Practicethe100-yardseparationtrianglecampplan.Sleepatoneup-wind locationapex.Cookanddinedownwindintheopenwhereyouseean approachingbear;brushteeththere.Storefoodandtoiletriesatthethird location,whichshouldalsobedownwindfromthecampsite.Eachlocation shouldbevisiblefromtheothertwo,sothatpeopledonotabsentmindedly surpriseabearloiteringatasite.Avoidcampsitesnearrunningwaterinbear country.Noisywatermaymaskhumanactivitynoise,andabearmaybe surprised and reactive. Bears also scavenge-travel along streams.Neverstoregear,gearbags,backpacks,foodorsnacksinyourtent!Thatincludes insectsprays,cosmetics,sunlotionandfuelcans.Bearseasilypuncturefuelcans withcuriosityprowling.Nofuel,nohotmeals,greatfuelsmellonclothingand equipment.Donotcleanfishincamp,nornearwaterwhereentrailswillteachbearsto prowltheshore(fromwhereyoufish).Leavingfishonstringersintheshallowis notagoodidea;bearsmaybeattractedbyfishodors.Splashingfishonaline mayattractabear;slackofforcutthelineifabearisnear.Bearseasilylearnto associate fishermen with easy meals and they may scout stream/river banks.Donotbecomefixatedwithfishingorhuntingalongstreamsandwater.Bears maynothearyouandbestartled.Youinturnmaybestartledandmakethe wrong responses to the encounter. Donotusebearsprayto“protect”acamp.Pepperspraysarenotadeterrent whenusedasafence.Theymayactuallyattractbearswhenthespray’spepper capsicum decays into its more basic food source smell.Pack out all trash. Buried trash is easily found by keen bear noses. Cleanyourcarof“kiddietrash”beforethehunt.Allthoseloosefruitloops, candy,potatochipsandfrenchfrieshavecausedmorethanonebeartotrasha vehicle.Knowthatbearsactivelyusetheirnosestosearchforfood,evenover fairlylongdistances.(Note:mysonlearnedthiswarning;abearenteredhiscar at night and cleaned up the children’s snack scraps.)ALWAYSAPPROACHYOURKILLSITEWITHEXTREMECAUTIONINBEARCOUNTRY! Bearsdefendtheirclaimedcarcasses,especiallyifyousurprisethematthekill.If youseeyourmeathasbeenmovedordamaged,immediatelyleaveBYTHESAME TRAILYOUCAME(youknowthattrailwassafe).Removeyourgamemeatassoon aspossible.Donotleaveitnearbrushysites.Removegamemeatfromthe immediateareaafterskinningandbeforeopeningthegutcavity(whichhas strongerbear-attractingaromasthatshouldnotgetonhungmeat).Never provideascenttrailbydragginggameintocamp.Removebloodstainedclothing and store with the meat away from your tent. Rememberthatotheroutdoorspeople(includingfamilieswithcurious, wanderingchildren)andsportsmenmaylateruseyourcampsite.Keepitclean and bear-safe for the next people. Itisyourethicalresponsibilitytotrackandkillanybearthatyouwound.A woundedbearisadefinitehazardtoyouandothers.Pleaseseeyourstatelaws concerningkillingabeartodefendyourmeatcache.Thismaybeillegalinitself, and this action may be construed as baiting a bear with meat.Iconsultednumerouscitationstoconstructthislistofbackcountrybearrules. DNR.alaska.gov/parks/safety/bears.htm,Blackbears.orgColoradoparksand Wildlife, and Westernwildlife.org were particularly informative.Linktothesesitestogetmorebearinformation,includingvideosandaudiosof bear vocalizations.Please see the “Bear Behavior” page to better understand these wonderful animals, and how they think and act when encountering prey and humans.There is a black bear attack story on the page “Hunter Fiascoes”BearElectricFence:Youmaywanttoconsideranewtechnologyelectricfencetoifthereisahigh concentrationofbearinyourhuntareaandyouwanttopreventbearcamppillage.Theyusewireina plasticmeshthatrollsupandtheyarepoweredbybatteries.Checkouttherequirementatthe InteragencyGrizzlyBearCommittee(IGBC)beforeyouinvesttimeandmoney.Fencesystemsmustbe sufficientlyenergizedtoshockabear.GotheIGBC’swebsitehttp:/igbronline.org.TheForestService approved products are at http:/fs.fed.us/t-d/pubs/htmlpubs/html07232305Death by Black Bears: For every black bear human fatality, there are:17 by spiders25 by snakes67 by dogs150 by tornadoes180 from bee stings374 by lightening90,000 homicides Colorado Department of Wildlife, 1994, Fall CompendiumBearTrivia:Bearsarethemostrecentlyevolvedcarnivore.ThegenusUrsidaesplitofffromcaninesonly 20-25millionyearsago.ThesubspeciesUrsinaeevolved2-5millionyearsagonowhassixspecies,and Tremarctos has two species in the southern hemisphere.
Behavior and Human Interaction Chart(This chart is too complex to be shown in this mobile version. Please go to the larger desktop version.)The above bear contact and human interaction chart is posted in Alaska State Parks and other Alaska recreation areas. If anyone knows bears, it is the people in Alaska who are constantly vigilant of bear activity and know preventive measures. See “Bear Behavior and Senses” for avoidance defensive actions I have gleaned from the literature.Alaska bear expert biologist John Hechtel studied bears and human interactions eighteen years and delcares that understanding bears and respecting them is the best defense against attacks. His credentials for this attitude are laudable. He had to kill only one dangerous bear in thirty years as a hunting guide in Alaska’s remote bear country . He sees a lot of people invading bears’ habitat with poor attitudes towards bears and with sloppy habits that lead to “food conditioning” bears. All most all bears that learn to equate humans with an easy food supply will gradually become increasing nuisances and threat to future humans interactions and property. “A fed bear is a dead bear” is the adage, because 95% of fed bears will eventually have to be destroyed.The basic tenent in bear country is to respect the bear’s personal space. Bears are naturally curious. Take actions to let them know you are approaching and that you are human. Human-Bear Conflict Management:Wild bears habitually avoid humans if they can. They will move away from approaching sounds, smell and sights they believe are threatening – if they are able to in time. This assumes you have not cornered them in cabin or garage, a narrow ravine, along a fence or on a thicket-bordered trail. Stay in the open as much as possible. Talk or use bells to announce your presence. Hikers should group up and combine efforts at scaring away any belligerent or curious bears encountered. Plan your hiking day so that the wind is at your back; this will carry your sounds and scent farther in the direction you travel. Avoid bear travel and lounging areas like thickets, deep timber or where there are bear trails (similar to man trails, but with bear scat and footprints). Use extra caution when hiking or fishing along streams; the water noise can prevent bears from hearing you.Bears communicate with body language. Do the same. STAND YOUR GROUND (WITH BLACK BEARS)! Make yourself as large as possible with raised arms and drawn up coat. Face the bear and talk forcefully, loudly, but not in a frightened or antagonizing voice. Slowly back away if the bear shows restraint and becomes bored with the situation. Photographers: use your telephoto lens instead of approaching a bear. Your slow steady advance and perhaps crouched posture may give the bear the feeling you are inferior, weak and perhaps stalking it. This is not a good impression to give the bear.Do not turn your back on a bear. Like many large predators, the lack of eye contact indicates inattention and subordinate rank. Never run! Bears may instinctively be incited to attack. You will be physically smaller if knocked to the ground, and you will be because a bear easily can outrun any human. Do not count on firing a gun to scare away bears. The surprise gun blast may elevate bears’ adrenalin beyond its composure restraint point. Bears will continue to fight until they feel reduced danger and no longer feel threatened. Playing dead might be OK as a last resort with black bears. (It is the first ploy for grizzly bears). Fight for your life if the bear starts to chew on you. Focus hitting the bear in the eyes, nose, and snout with whatever you can lay your hands on. I review the use of guns and pepper spray in the Hunter Safety and Welfare section. I capsulate a warning: using a gun to stop a charging bear is very difficult, and often the shooter or bystanders are shot. There is also a chart of bear encounter behaviors, their meanings, the degree of potential threats, and the best appropriate responses.Bears protect their young and food sources to which they have become used to and claim with their territory. It is not good to unknowingly walk between the sow and the errant cub. Stop your advance and analyze the situation. Since sows commonly have two cubs, visually search for another cub if only one cub is in sight. If you see a bear-molested carcass, immediately move away from it in the same path you came (you know that way was bear-clear). Abandon the meat, because it is probably already spoiled. The meat should have been immediately carried away from the gut pile in the first place. Gut pile and spilled blood attract even distant bears.Yearling bears pose extra attention. These curious, frisky, partially-trained teenagers are prone to test their abilities. They may approach and bluff charge. They are more likely to wander into a camp site. It is best to stand your ground and immediately frighten them away with shouts, pot banging, rock and stick throwing and arms waving. They need to learn they are encountering something frightening – humans. Back Country Hunting Bear Safety RulesBears are intelligent but naturally wary of and will avoid humans. The invader hunter or fisherman is responsible for not attracting bears. Here are some basic, common sense rules for backcountry sportsmen.Make noise when traveling. Groups are less likely to have a bear confrontation than a lone individual.Walk with the wind at your back. Your scent and noise will be carried forward and the a bear gets an early warning and leaves. Bears can see almost as well as humans, so stay in the open and out of thick brush. Scout your potential campsite before choosing it. Make sure there are no animal carcases, gut piles, fish offal, or remnants of previous messy campers and their cooking litter. Notice the activity of scavengers which may indicate these nearby bear food sources. Avoid camping along trails and roads; bears use them too. Adult boars actually favor roads and major paths. Keep your camp clean. Immediately place trash in bear-proof dumpsters. Immediately (don’t delay after dinner) put food in bear-proof lockers if they are available, or in your car. Keep your car clean of fast food litter and food smells. Highly attracted bears can easily peal back a car door like a kid peeling a banana.Hang your food in mid-air on a rope between two trees if in the back country. Simply tying food high in a tree is not much deterrent to a climber. Avoid greasy and highly aromatic foods like bacon or smoked fish. Wash dishes after burning food scraps. Practice the 100-yard separation triangle camp plan. Sleep at one up-wind location apex. Cook and dine down wind in the open where you see an approaching bear; brush teeth there. Store food and toiletries at the third location, which should also be downwind from the campsite. Each location should be visible from the other two, so that people do not absentmindedly surprise a bear loitering at a site. Avoid campsites near running water in bear country. Noisy water may mask human activity noise, and a bear may be surprised and reactive. Bears also scavenge-travel along streams.Never store gear, gear bags, backpacks, food or snacks in your tent! That includes insect sprays, cosmetics, sun lotion and fuel cans. Bears easily puncture fuel cans with curiosity prowling. No fuel, no hot meals, great fuel smell on clothing and equipment.Do not clean fish in camp, nor near water where entrails will teach bears to prowl the shore (from where you fish). Leaving fish on stringers in the shallow is not a good idea; bears may be attracted by fish odors. Splashing fish on a line may attract a bear; slack off or cut the line if a bear is near. Bears easily learn to associate fishermen with easy meals and they may scout stream/river banks.Do not become fixated with fishing or hunting along streams and water. Bears may not hear you and be startled. You in turn may be startled and make the wrong responses to the encounter. Do not use bear spray to “protect” a camp. Pepper sprays are not a deterrent when used as a fence. They may actually attract bears when the spray’s pepper capsicum decays into its more basic food source smell.Pack out all trash. Buried trash is easily found by keen bear noses. Clean your car of “kiddie trash” before the hunt. All those loose fruit loops, candy, potato chips and french fries have caused more than one bear to trash a vehicle. Know that bears actively use their noses to search for food, even over fairly long distances. (Note: my son learned this warning; a bear entered his car at night and cleaned up the children’s snack scraps.)ALWAYS APPROACH YOUR KILL SITE WITH EXTREME CAUTION IN BEAR COUNTRY! Bears defend their claimed carcasses, especially if you surprise them at the kill. If you see your meat has been moved or damaged, immediately leave BY THE SAME TRAIL YOU CAME (you know that trail was safe). Remove your game meat as soon as possible. Do not leave it near brushy sites. Remove game meat after skinning and before opening the gut cavity (which has stronger bear-attracting aromas that should not get on hung meat). Never provide a scent trail by dragging game into camp. Remove blood stained clothing and store with the meat away from your tent. Remember that other outdoors people (including families with curious, wandering children) and sportsmen may later use your campsite. Keep it clean and bear-safe for the next people. It is your ethical responsibility to track and kill any bear that you wound. A wounded bear is a definite hazard to you and others. Please see your state laws concerning killing a bear to defend your meat cache. This may be illegal in itself, and this action may be construed as baiting a bear with meat.I consulted numerous citations to construct this list of back country bear rules. DNR.alaska.gov/parks/safety/bears.htm, Blackbears.org Colorado parks and Wildlife, and Westernwildlife.org were particularly informative.Link to these sites to get more bear information, including videos and audios of bear vocalizations.Please see the “Bear Behavior” page to better understand these wonderful animals, and how they think and act when encountering prey and humans.There is a black bear attack story on the page “Hunter Fiascoes”