What to Do if You See a Bear

The weather is warming up and we are all itching to get out for a hike at our favorite spot, Campgaw. And even thought it’s just minutes away from the burbs, there have been numerous bear sitings. Every time we go, my kids ask excitedly,”Think we’ll see a bear today?!” to which I respond, “Lord, I hope not!”

As exciting as the thought of seeing a bear might be, its better to avoid an encounter all together. If a bear hears you coming, most likely they’ll avoid you. So I always tell my kids to make some noise: sing, giggle, whistle, hum!

What to Do if You Encounter a Bear
Here are some tips from the National Park System on what to do if you encounter a bear.

  1. Identify yourself. Talk calmly so the bear knows you are a human and not a prey animal. Remain still; stand your ground but slowly wave your arms. Help the bear recognize you as a human. It may come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better look or smell. A standing bear is usually curious, not threatening.
  2. Stay calm and remember that most bears do not want to attack you; they usually just want to be left alone. Bears may bluff their way out of an encounter by charging and then turning away at the last second. Bears may also react defensively by woofing, yawning, salivating, growling, snapping their jaws, and laying their ears back. Continue to talk to the bear in low tones; this will help you stay calmer, and it won’t be threatening to the bear. A scream or sudden movement may trigger an attack. Never imitate bear sounds or make a high-pitched squeal.
  3. Pick up small children immediately.
  4. Make yourselves look as large as possible (for example, move to higher ground).
  5. Keep your backpack on: it can provide protection for your back and prevent a bear from accessing your food.
  6. Move away slowly and sideways; this allows you to keep an eye on the bear and avoid tripping. Moving sideways is also non-threatening to bears. Do NOT run, but if the bear follows, stop and hold your ground. Bears can run as fast as a racehorse both uphill and down. Like dogs, they will chase fleeing animals. Do NOT climb a tree. Both grizzlies and black bears can climb trees.
  7. Leave the area or take a detour. If this is impossible, wait until the bear moves away. Always leave the bear an escape route.

Be especially cautious if you see a female with cubs; never place yourself between a mother and her cub, and never attempt to approach them. The chances of an attack escalate greatly if she perceives you as a danger to her cubs.

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Author: Heather Zachariah

Former Art Director for Home Magazine, Heather Leahy Zachariah, left her career in publishing after baby number number one. She now works from home as a freelance graphic designer and a chauffeur to her 3 busy kids. "Working on TipsFromTown has been a wonderful outlet for me. It renewed my love of publishing where I can design colorful, enticing pages online and allows me to share the things I love about being a mom." Heather grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a place that still is near and dear to her. " After living in Brooklyn for 18 years and studying Graphic Design at Pratt Institute, she now lives in the Jersey burbs. "I love living so close to NYC, but in my heart, I'm an Ohio girl."


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