Bear Attacks and Bear Spray
Bearman's Preferred Bear Spray and What To Do If You Encounter A Bear
A short note on "Bear Bells"
Individuals who panic, run, or fight an aggressive grizzly bear usually end up with the worst injuries. Keep in mind though that in most cases during a surprise encounter grizzly bears will run or leave the area once they have become aware of your presence.
Humans are NOT on the list of preferred food items for grizzly bears, and most bears want to avoid humans as much as possible.
During a close surprise encounter a grizzly bear may knock a person down, possibly claw them or even bite them but only in rare cases has a grizzly bear eaten a human and probably only after the bear inadvertently killed the person and then considered the body as a potential food item. In most cases a grizzly bear will run away even after they have knocked a person down and mauled them.
Here is the Key:
In virtually every mauling, each and every time a hiker has been charged and attacked by an angry, surprised grizzly bear. Once the person quit fighting, quit screaming and laid quiet.........the bear has in nearly every case..........run or walked away. Grizzly bears want nothing to do with humans and are only mauling you, the hiker because they feel threatened and will continue to maul you as long as you are fighting and threatening them.
In a recent research project conducted in Yellowstone Park, bear researchers approached radio collared grizzly bears, and in 90% of the encounters each bear ran or moved off once the bear noticed the researcher nearby. The remaining 10% of encounters resulted in one or more of the following; the bear standing, making aggressive noises and/or making a short bluff charge BEFORE turning and running or moving away from the researcher.
As of 2010 firearms are allowed within Yellowstone National Park, but must be in compliance with applicable federal and state law. Firearms are not allowed in any Federal Building---Visitor Centers, Post Office, etc........The way I understand it is, Yellowstone Park is within the boundaries of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. If you happen to be within the Montana section of Yellowstone you must comply with Montana state laws regarding the holding, possession and transport of firearms as well as the permits for each state. The same is true if you happen to be in Idaho or the Wyoming sections. Outside of Yellowstone Park boundaries hunters or individuals who have shot at grizzly bears have generally ended up with serious injuries about 40% of the time. Shooting a charging grizzly bear can be very difficult and will require nerves of steel. If you miss or just wound the bear you can count of getting seriously mauled, or killed.
Boat Air Horns are not allowed in the backcountry, or on hiking trails inside Yellowstone Park but can be used while boating on Yellowstone Lake.
Hikers and hunters who have stood their ground, stayed calm, played dead or have sprayed "bear spray" have generally walked away with few, or no injuries. Spraying pepper spray (bear spray) and or falling to the ground and "playing dead" should ONLY be done as a last resort. Remember, most bears will run or move away once they have noticed or heard you. Dealing with an aggressive or pushy black bear should be handled differently. More on this below.
The majority of all bear mauling's have been with female (sow) grizzly bears and cubs and the majority of those mauling's could have been avoided had the hiker or hikers made noise while hiking and paid more attention to the area they were about to hike into. More on this below too.
Bear attacks can
be classified as two separate types:
A defensive attack, the most common type of
bear attack, is generally the result of a surprise encounter
and almost always with a sow (female) and her cubs. In nearly
every mauling that has occurred in the past during a surprise
encounter, once the hiker quit fighting and laid quiet, the
sow has grabbed her cubs and run or walked away,
Predatory attacks are much different and are generally a result of a black bear or even mountain lion, but there have been a few reported cases of grizzly bears being involved in a predatory attack.
Predatory attacks by bears usually start off slowly and calmly when one or two hikers encounter a bear at some distance and the bear slowly approaches them and the hikers try to move away only to have the bear follow them. Basically what is happening is the bear is testing the hikers, and possibly the bear may have done this in the past and had a timid hiker drop their pack or even food on the ground and the bear has obtained a food reward and has learned that pushing people will result in a "reward". Or, the bear may actually be looking at the hiker or couple as a potential food source.
This latter scenario is more common with black bears although
it has happened with grizzly (brown) bears and if the bear is
not aggressively pushed back or sprayed with "bear spray" the
bear has finally attacked and then consumed the person.
following are general rules of thumb. Keep in mind that bears
are unpredictable and what worked for one hiker with one particular
bear may not work the next day................. even with the
same bear. And once in awhile no matter what you do is going
to result in a mauling. It could be as simple as "sometimes
you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you".
In a defensive attack,
if a grizzly bear does charge it will probably be very fast
Pay attention to your surroundings!! In most cases hikers could have avoided encounters with bears by paying attention to the surrounding area they were about to hike into and left the area once they spotted a bear nearby.
With the average distance of 14 feet that hikers have first noticed a bear nearby prior to an attack tells us that most people stare at the ground while hiking. Over the course of two summers I walked down several trails 100 yards and then stepped off to the side of the trail 6 feet, sitting in plain sight with a cooler and clipboard, not one single hiker ever noticed me. Its a wonder we don't have more mauling's each year, and probably due to the fact that most bears would rather avoid humans.
If you encounter an aggressive black bear or mountain lion react aggressively. Fight back aggressively. Black bears and mountain lions are predatory and have been known to stalk, or test humans and eat them if given the chance. On average 3 people a year are killed and eaten by black bears in North America. Most of those deaths have occurred in the Great Smoky Mountains, and Canada. Often with women napping or reading a book while their husbands were fishing nearby.
Bears In Camp At Night
Having a bear in camp late at night is completely different than a chance encounter during the day. If you have a bear come into camp at night, this is a bear that has possibly been fed or received some sort of reward (food) in the past when it has come into a campground or residential area or it could be a very old or very young bear during a "bad bear food year" when natural bear foods are hard to find and could possibly be looking at you as a potential food source. React aggressively, no matter what specie of bear.
When a bear comes into a camp, especially at night, we know that this is not a typical bear encounter but a bear that has possibly been conditioned to humans and human food, trash, etc...."Grizzly bears usually enter camping areas at a walk and at night. Before an attack, a person seldom sees any signs of aggression." Writes, Dr. Stephen Herrero in his book "Bear Attacks, Their Causes and Avoidance". Individuals who have aggressively yelled at the bear or thrown rocks or other objects to distract the bear, generally have then had time to move away to safety or, they drove the bear away with the first yell and aggressive action.
Stay together in a group. Never leave your tent area alone. Bears are more reluctant to attack a group of people than they are a single person.
Identifying the type of bear you are dealing with can be a problem for some folks. Remember, color can not be used for identification. You wouldn't want to act submissive to a predatory black bear, nor would you want to act aggressively towards a defensive grizzly bear.
Bear bells are generally a grouping of several small bells, sometimes just one bell, often attached to hiking boots, walking staff's, backpacks, etc.. The responses of grizzly bears to the sound of bear bells has not been studied experimentally. However, there have been rumors of data collected which indicate that hikers wearing "bear bells" have reported seeing more bears. Possibly due to curiosity, if in fact this data exists.
Obviously the more
noise you make the better, but the locals call the sound
of bear bells "ringing the dinner bell",
and I have to admit the sound of bells ringing off in the
distance seems a bit intrusive to me. After all, we are
the visitors when we step on the trail.
Examining a real life "typical" bear encounter in Yellowstone.
Sept. 14, 2005
McDonald, 52, of Bismarck, N.D., and Gerald Holzer, 51,
of Northfield, Minn., were hiking on a trail near Shoshone
Lake in the park's southern portion. They were roughly a
mile from their designated campsite when they met two hikers
who said they had seen a black bear or a grizzly. "So
we were alert," Holzer said. A little farther up the
trail they came upon a loose, splatty pile of bear scat.
Remember! Once you step on the trail
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