By: Jack L. McSherry, III
When in bear country talk to local authorities about bear conditions, get good advice, use common sense,and good judgement. The responsibility for your saftey is your’s alone.
In the early days of the north, the natives of Alaska and the Yukon, believed that bears were another species of man. They also knew that they could be dangerous! So, if they came upon a bear, they would stop and hold their hands over their heads and say “Hello brother bear, I did not mean to disturb you. I will leave your territory now and let you in peace.” Then they would back away, unharmed. While this is only legend, it does work! At times.
A bear will attack a man if they are surprised, feel they are in danger, wish protect territory or if they have cubs. The best way to avoid danger is to avoid the bear. But if you can not avoid them, make sure they see you first.
As you walk or travel through bear territory, and if you can not see more then 50 to 100 feet in front of you, call out every few minutes until you enter a clear area. Some people call out, others sing, some wear bear-bells. The point being to make a lot of noise. In most cases the bear will move off the trail and watch you pass. They rarely look for a confrontation.
If you see a bear, talk to the bear. Make sure he sees you. Hold you arms high above your head. this will make you look like a much bigger animal to him. Continue to talk and slowly back away. If you run he will chase you.
If the bear comes for you, climb a tree or drop to a fetal position. Cover you head and neck with your hands. Keep on your pack to protect your back. Even if the bear bites you continue to play dead. Once he realizes that you are not a threat he may leave. If he does not stop, fight back and make as much noise as possible
The best protection from bears is to carry a firearm, where permitted in bear country. But, still avoid a confrontation, because bears rarely go down with a single shot and can cover some distance while wounded.
Another popular defense against bears is to carry bear spray. This is capsaicin and related capsaicinoids spray in a compressed gas container. If you spray the bear he may change his mind or break off an attack; although some claim it just makes a bear mad. However, in many areas this is the only protection permitted.
Stay away from bears. Many tourists think they look cute and like to get close enough to take a picture. Do not be stupid! All wild animals can be dangerous! Also remember that a female with cubs is very protective and dangerous and may attack even though you think you are a safe distance away.
If you are in a camp, before anything else, put your food, trash, cooking gear, fuel, soaps and toiletries up a bear pole or tree. They must be at least 12 feet (4M) to be secure. Then place your camp a safe distance away.
The Black Bear:
The black bear is the smallest of the bears. He is primarily a scavenger, not a hunter. In areas where people are present he has learned that people can provide food, and he may have lost much of his fear of man. Use the procedure as above, but if he attacks it is likely that he has mistaken you for food, or that you have food, or he could be rogue. Play dead, but if he bites, fight back.
The Grizzly Bear:
The grizzly bear is indifferent to man. He as no fear of man and will attack if he feels like it. Sometimes he may not attack and may run away. The best thing is to avoid him and never surprise him. If he does attack he rarely sustains his attack, after you play dead. Remember he is a very big animal and his weight alone can kill.
The Polar Bear:
The polar bear is the most deadly of all. While his normal food is seal, they have been known, for centuries, to attack humans. Until the introduction of firearms, the native people of the north have lived in fear of them. Many early explorers have told horror stories of polar bear attacks. These bears are known to stalk and hunt humans. If you are in polar bear country carry a firearm or avoid the area.
See also: The Survival Firearm