If you spend any time hiking in bear country, you need to know how to handle a potential encounter. In such high-stress situations, preparation and knowledge can make all the difference. If you know what to do, you’ll have a better chance of not just surviving but keeping the bear safe as well.
Always Carry Bear Spray
Studies have shown that bear spray is the best defense against a bear attack. Two factors to consider when choosing bear spray are range and duration. I prefer to carry the 8.1-ounce can of Counter Assault Bear Spray. It’s the only one on the market that reaches 40 feet for a full eight seconds.
Practice Drawing Your Bear Spray
Practicing drawing your bear spray from its holster might be the most important tip here. Since staying calm during a bear encounter is challenging, you’ll need to depend on muscle memory. If you have practiced removing your bear spray from the holster and removing the safety wedge, you’ll have a better chance of being prepared when every second counts.
Study the Area
Make sure you educate yourself about the area you’re hiking in. This means understanding what types of bears are in the area and learning about their particular habits. The easiest way to do this is to contact the local park ranger (or park office). They’ll be up to date on bear sightings and might even tell you which regions of the park to avoid.
Make Your Presence Known
You’ve probably heard about the use of bear bells or even singing while hiking to make sure that bears know you are there. You should also pay attention to environmental sounds that could make it harder for a bear to hear you. Remember that sound doesn’t carry very far on windy days and that hiking next to a river can also mask your sound
Keep Bear Spray Accessible
This tip is obvious, but when we say always, we mean always. Sometimes hikers will set it on the picnic table in camp, but what happens if you walk off to use the bathroom and run into a bear? You should have your bear spray within arm’s reach at all times. The easiest thing to do is to keep it in the holster until you go to bed.
Dealing With a Bear Encounter
If you run into a bear, the first course of action is to remove your bear spray, so you’re ready to deploy it. Slowly step back and keep your eyes on the bear at all times. If the bear charges, you should spray in a sweeping motion at a downward 45-degree angle. This will create a wall of capsaicin that the bear has to run through, irritating his eyes, nose, and mouth.
After a Bear Encounter
Your number one goal is to leave the area immediately. Usually, the bear will retreat after contact with bear spray, but they could revisit the site at some point. It is worth mentioning that bear attack survivors have often said that they should have had a spare can of bear spray in their pack. Hiking out after a bear attack without a second line of defense can be nerve-wracking because you wouldn’t be prepared if a second attack happened
Hopefully, these tips give you the confidence to continue enjoying the outdoors. Fear of a bear attack shouldn’t keep you from going on adventures. Preparation makes all the difference and should provide the peace of mind you’re looking for next time you head out.