Be advised that no bears were harmed in the writing of this post – largely because we didn’t encounter any bears.
John has a
obsession fascination with bears. He watches all the Nature Channel documentaries about the behaviour of bears. He could be a modern-day Grizzly Adams. So when I suggested that we may want to stop and get some bear spray, I knew that he would have some feedback regarding this request. His opinion is that bear spray would be ineffective in most cases. Often, when bears attack – it is due to them being startled. Hikers unexpectedly come across the path of a Momma Bear with her cubs, and then the bear attacks to protect her young. In these cases, there is usually less than 50 m between the hikers and the bear. Bears can run at speeds greater than 50 km per hour. You may not have time to pull the safety clip on the bear spray canister and get an accurate shot into the bear’s face, especially if you are someone who is prone to panic under stress (like me). He felt that I would have no hope – even with the bear spray. My solution was that I would coat myself with the bear spray and then throw myself to the ground.
I did some research on bear attacks. Generally, bears are tolerant of people. Bears attack when they are surprised or feel threatened. So to be safe, avoid known bear habitat areas, hike in groups, and make noise to let the bears know where you are.
If a grizzly bear does attack – play dead. Lie on your stomach, spread your legs slightly and lock your hands behind your head. Lying on your stomach will protect your vital organs and your face. Do not cry out or struggle. Lay in this position until you are sure that the bear has left the area.
When a black bear attacks, you should fight back. Use rocks, sticks and your fists to hit at the bear – aiming for the eyes and snout. When a black bear sees that their victim is willing to fight back – they often give up. Do not climb a tree as black bears are excellent climbers.
If it is a polar bear attack – do not run. Use of firearms may be necessary for your survival.
I assume that I would be able to identify a polar bear, but in the event of an attack – I doubt I would be able to differentiate between a grizzly bear and a black bear. Might be problematic if I have to decide whether to play possum or wrestle the bear.
Fortunately, fatal bear attacks are rare. I found 8 reported deaths by bear attacks in all of North American from 2010 to now. You are 10 times more likely to die from a dog attack than a bear attack, and 12 times more likely to die of a bee sting than a bear attack.
After all this, I think I will pass on the purchase of bear spray. Knowing me, I would likely trip while carrying it and spray some unsuspecting hikers close to me. Bound to end badly.