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A publication of the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance 04-24-2014

Bear Attack: How to Survive

Posted on August 27, 2013

News of bear attacks have been dominating headlines for the past few weeks, with seven attacks in a five day span across the U.S. With hunting seasons nearing, hunters will be entering the woods and risk the possibility of coming face to face with the bruins.  Would you know what to do if a bear came across your hunting path?

Don’t mistake bears for the cuddly, stuffed animals your child may have named.  In actuality, bears are large predators near the top of the food chain. The three different species of bears found across the U.S. can range anywhere from 125lbs to 1500lbs!

As fierce as they may seem, bears of the U.S. – the Black, Brown, and Polar bear – are not generally intent on attacking humans.  They in fact are typically more scared of us and attacks are most generally known to happen when they are protecting their cubs or a food source from unexpected visitors.

So, how do you survive a bear attack? First, it is important to identify whether the bear is just behaving defensively or if it is viewing you as prey. In most situations, bears are acting in a defensive manner because you may have startled them in their natural environment.

If a bear is charging you out of defense: Make yourself as big as possible. Hold your arms above your head and spread your legs to a larger stance.  Speak loud and clearly at the bear, however, avoid eye contact as this may be perceived as a threat to the bear and provoke a charge. Appearing larger than the bear may scare it off.

Do not run or make any sudden movements. If a bear charges at you, try to stand perfectly still and stand your ground as bears may make bluff charges to see what you will do.  Standing still may cause the bear to lose interest in you.

However, if the bear continues to charge in a defensive manner, your next plan of attack would be to play dead. Playing dead against a defensive bear leads the bear to become bored with you and may cause it to leave you alone.

If a bear is viewing you as prey: In rare occurrences, you may be in the situation where a bear that has tracked your movements.  Predatory behavior is most often found to be from hunger or just an indifference to what and who you are.

If you find yourself a victim of a bear attack, it is not time to play dead, but rather fight with everything and anything you can find.

If living in bear country, bear spray is a necessity if you plan on venturing into the woods. If a bear charges you, aim the spray downward toward the front of the bear so the spray billows up creating a barrier.  As the bear passes through the cloud of spray, it will enter its eyes, nose, and mouth hopefully disorienting the bear or stopping the advance altogether.

From there, use your fists, rocks, sticks, etc. to hit the bear as hard as possible. Aim for the snout of the bear as this is a very sensitive part of the animal.

Bear attacks are not prevalent; however, the USSA urges sportsmen and women across the country to always be prepared to come across these large mammals in the wild to avoid harm.

Identifying the United States Bears:

Black bears: Colors of black bears tend to range from black to blonde hair, with a muzzle that is usually lighter in color than the rest of the body. Black bears range in weight from 125-660lbs and stand 2-4 feet when on all four legs.

Brown Bear (sub-species “Grizzly” bear): Don’t let their name fool you; Brown bears are not always brown. They range in color from black to blonde and are known to have silver-tipped fur that looks streaked with gray hair or “grizzled.” Brown bears will range in weight from 550-1500lbs and can reach 9-12 feet when standing on their hind legs.

Polar bear: Only found in the Arctic Circle, the Polar bear has white fur and can reach 770-1500lbs.



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