How to Handle a Grizzly Bear Encounter

If you're heading into bear country this summer, heed these important tips from Kerry Gunther, bear management program leader for Yellowstone National Park

A grizzly bear     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Grizzly Bears at Yellowstone

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As told to Jeff Hull

1. Be Prepared
Carry bear spray and know how to use it.

Read up on bear behavior and bear food habits.

2. Prevent Surprise Bear Encounters When Hiking
Hike in groups of three or more people.

Make noise in areas with poor visibility.

Be alert: See the bear before you surprise it.

3. Know How to React to a Surprise Encounter with a Bear Displaying Defensive Aggression
During a close surprise encounter, slowly back away. Do not run.

If the bear charges during a surprise encounter, stand your ground and use your bear spray.

If the bear makes contact (attacks) during a surprise encounter, play dead by lying in a prone position with your hands covering the back of your neck.

4. Know How to React to a Curious or Predatory Bear Displaying Predatory Aggression
Always face the bear.

Be aggressive: Fight Back with bear spray, rocks, sticks.

Always fight back if a bear attacks you in your tent.

5. Know how to Distinguish Between Defensive Aggression and Predatory Aggression
If the bear immediately charges after a surprise encounter with its head low and ears pinned back, that is defensive aggression.

If the bear stalks you, persistently approaches, and is focused on you, with its head up and ears cocked forward, that is curious or predatory behavior.

Predatory bears don't give warning signals, huff, blow, pop jaws, slap ground, or hop charge.

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