If you startle a grizzly, do you want a gun or bear spray?
If you want to survive a bear attack, you’ll need a level head and nerves of steel. Grizzly bear attacks are on the rise in North America, and they’re expected to increase further as we keep expanding into their territory. Now more than ever, it’s important to know exactly what to do when a hike in the woods turns into a death match with a grizzly.
That’s why we’ve outlined three preventative measures and seven life-saving steps campers and hikers need to take in order to make it out alive when up against a grizzly bear. I’ll tell you right now: you’re going to need a first aid kit if you’re planning a camping trip in grizzly bear country. You can find out what to put in a wilderness first aid kit and discover other essential pieces of equipment you’ll want to bring along on your adventure here.
You’re most likely to encounter grizzly bears when camping or hiking in the Pacific Northwest (Alaska, Washington, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho). If you live anywhere else in the country, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared to deal with a black bear attack. For those of you in northern Canada, you’ll want to learn what to do when you come across a hungry polar bear.
Grizzly bears are known for the distinctive hump of pure muscle on their backs just at the base of their necks. They’re larger than black bears, and they’re much more aggressive. In other words, you’re much less likely to survive a bear attack if you’re up against a grizzly. Still, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family while camping or hiking.
How to a Avoid a Deadly Grizzly Bear Encounter
First and foremost, if you can avoid a grizzly bear encounter altogether, that’s your safest option. Here are three preventative measures you can take to make sure you never even have to deal with a grizzly bear when hiking or camping:
Grizzly bears aren’t looking for you. If they can hear you in the woods, they’re more likely to ignore you than they are to chase after you. They’ll attack you when they feel threatened, and they’ll feel threatened if they’re startled. Talk or hum to let them know you’re around. That said, if you end up coming across a bear, but they don’t see you, don’t disturb them.
If you leave food and trash at your campsite, bears are likely to show up to rummage through your stuff. You don’t want to come back to your campsite to find it destroyed, and you definitely don’t want to show up and find the bear is still there. Secure your food and trash in as small a space as possible. For the best results, put your food and trash in a bear canister (some parks even require them).
Leave Your Pets at Home
A grizzly bear is more likely to want a go at your pet than they do at you. Dogs are more like their regular food choice than humans, and so leave them at home. They could really get hurt.
How to Survive a Bear Attack When That Bear is a 600-lb Monster
If you do happen to encounter a grizzly bear, and they notice you, here are the seven steps you need to take in order to make it out alive:
1. Don’t Make Eye Contact
Grizzly bears consider eye contact a challenge to their authority. They will perceive you as a threat, making it much more likely that it will attack you.
2. Don’t Make Any Sudden Movements
If you encounter a grizzly bear, remain calm. Do not run away. Instead, stand up straight and back away slowly, speaking in a soft voice. If you have bear spray, reach for it slowly. If the bear decides to follow you, again, do not run away. Instead, stop where you are and ready your weapon.
3. Do Not Run Under Any Circumstances
If the grizzly bear charges at you, do not run! Stand still. This will stop it from charging. It may or may not attack you, but if you run, it definitely will attack you.
4. Use Bear Spray
Don’t go into the woods without a can of bear spray on you at all times. Bear spray is the absolute best piece of equipment you can carry in order to survive a bear attack. That said, while some National Parks allow bear spray, in more recent years, others have banned it under the belief that the preventative measures listed above should be enough to keep visitors safe. We think it’s best to have access to all of your options, and bear spray is without question the best option for surviving a grizzly bear attack.
Use bear spray while the Grizzly Bear is charging. The spray is most effectively used 40 to 50 feet away from the bear. You want to create a cloud of bear spray between you and the bear so that the bear will run into it with its eyes open as it charges you. If it works, and the bear stops, then you can get away. Bear spray is best kept in a holster or front pants pocket for ease of access. You will only have a few seconds to spray it while the bear charges.
Protect Your Neck
If the bear spray doesn’t work and the grizzly bear continues to charge at you, drop to the ground and assume the fetal position. Cover the back of your neck with your hands. Most importantly, don’t move.
If the grizzly bear attacks you, your best bet is to play dead. Once it thinks you’re dead, it might walk away, but it’s very important to continue lying still. Grizzly bears are known for making sure their victims are dead. Stay down for at least twenty minutes before getting up to escape.
Punch It In The Nose
Don’t attempt this except as a last resort. Playing dead is the best method when your goal is to survive a bear attack and make it back home, but if you can somehow do it, punch it in the nose. This can deter the bear from continuing to attack you. If it works, and you can pick yourself up, back away from the bear slowly and try the bear spray again. Never run from it.
Bear experts agree that bear spray is the best weapon against grizzly bears. Guns are of course much better than nothing, but a fully-grown, adult grizzly bear can survive a couple bullets unless you’re a real marksman and get it in the head on the first shot. If you’re out hiking or camping in the woods, bring along some bear spray and a first-aid kit that leaves nothing out. You can find a list of the most essential, life-saving pieces of equipment you need when hiking or camping here.