Be Bear Aware: What To Do If You Encounter a Bear
If you have been hiking or camping at all this summer, I am sure you have seen the signs that read “Be Bear Aware.” And if you are like most people, you see the sign and think…what are the odds I actually see a bear. Well this last week I was hiking and I rounded the corner to find a black bear snacking on berries. My first thought…what did that sign say I should do if I encounter a bear. Hiking and camping are wonder Colorado activities, especially this time of year. It is always good to be prepared for anything including wildlife encounters. Today’s post is going to be a quick recap of what to do when you encounter a bear.
First, it is important to know that Colorado has Black Bears not grizzle bears. Black is the type of bear, it is NOT the color of the coat. Black bears can be black, cinnamon, or brown. Most bears will avoid humans if they hear them coming. So, it is important to know your surrounds and make noise while you hike. Black bears and grizzle bears are very different. Which means you should react different depending on which bear you encounter. With grizzle bears, you want to play dead. With black bears, you do not want to play dead. Again, Colorado only has black bears, so follow the guidelines for black bears. Here is how you should react if a black bear notices you:
- Identify yourself: Let the bear know you are human. Stand still and slowly move your arms. The bear might stand on its hind legs. This is not a threat; the bear is just curious. Remain calm.
- Stay Calm: Most bears do not want to attack you, they just want to avoid you. Talk to the bear using low tones. Do not scream or let out a high pitch squeal.
- Pick up small children
- Hike in groups: make noise and talk while you hike.
- Make yourself look large
- Do not give the bear your food
- Do not drop your pack– you may need it for protection
- Move away slowly: Slowly backing up allows you to keep an eye on the bear, avoid tripping, and is non-threating to the bear. Do not run and do not climb a tree.
- Leave: if possible detour away from the area.
- Be cautious of a momma and her cubs!
If a black bear attacks you, DO NOT PLAY DEAD. With black bears, it is recommended to fight back. To avoid this, when hiking in back country, it is recommended to bring bear spray. For more information on bears and how to protect yourself, visit this Colorado Parks & Wildlife page. Enjoy the outdoors, but be safe and “Be Bear Aware.”