I opened my eyes and held my breath. Was I dreaming? The bear growled again. I wasn't dreaming. He shuffled around in the pine needles, a few feet away. Only the thin nylon wall of my tent separated u...
I opened my eyes and held my breath. Was I dreaming? The bear growled again. I wasn't dreaming. He shuffled around in the pine needles, a few feet away. Only the thin nylon wall of my tent separated us. I waited for the bear to attack.
I breathed slowly, trying not to make a sound. There was nothing to be done, nowhere to run, and not another person within ten miles. I could die in a few seconds, I realized. I could be torn apart.
Grizzlies had already killed two people in Montana this year, and mauled several others. That's what the ranger told me when I entered Yellowstone that morning. A mild winter had left too few dead animals for the bears to feed on, so they were hungry and dangerous.
The pamphlet, the one with "WARNING" written in red over a silhouette of a bear on the cover, was in my backpack. I mentally reviewed it. My food was in a tree fifty yards away, I wasn't wearing cologne or deodorant, and I wasn't moving. I should be okay.
The bear grunted and pawed the ground. Then nothing. I strained to hear something, anything, but the sounds of the river covered any smaller sounds. Had the bear left? I couldn't be sure. I looked at my watch without moving my head. I could barely make out the glow-in-the-dark hands. It was four a.m. I was starting to sweat. Does sweat attract bears, I wondered.
How To Prevent Bear Attacks
The good news was that the bear eventually left. I think he was just upset because I had set up my tent in the middle of the path along the river, where he probably walked nightly. Don't do that, if you want to avoid being in stories like this. Here are some other ways to avoid a bear attack.
- Talk quietly or just don't talk at all. The time for loud noises was before you encountered the bear. Try to detour around the bear if you can.
- Don't run! Try to back away slowly, but stop if this agitates the bear.
- Assume a non-threatening posture. This could mean turning sideways, or bending at the knees to appear smaller.
- Don't look straight at the bear. Bears may interpret direct eye contact as threatening.
- Drop something, like a water bottle or hat, to distract the bear. Don't drop food, however, or he may come to you looking for more. Leave your backpack on for protection in case of an attack.
- If you have bear repellent (pepper spray) get it ready. If the bear attacks, use it!
- If the bear makes contact, fall to the ground on your stomach, or assume a fetal position to protect your chest and abdomen. Lace your fingers together over the back of your neck. Don't move until you the bear has left.
The above is good advice only if the bear attack is a "bluff" attack, or a surprised bear. This is the most common type of bear encounter. However, if the bear is stalking you, you need to take entirely different actions. That, however, is a topic for another article.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Copyright Steve Gillman. Learn how to tell the difference between a "bluff attack" and a predatory bear attack in the ebook "Ultralight Backpacking Secrets (And Wilderness Survival Tips)." Get it FREE, as well as photos, gear recommendations, and a new wilderness survival section, at: