Idaho Falls, IDAHO – To many adventure junkies, nice weather usually means it’s time to pack your bags and head to the closest mountain as quickly as possible. However, it’s crucial to keep in mind that before enjoying the nice weather and the great outdoors, being prepared to face mother nature needs to be high on the adventure priority list. The average joe usually can think of at least one trip where they could have avoided a less than ideal experience with something as simple as packing a first aid kit. However, just like packing a first aid kit, in bear country, it’s very crucial to know what to do if you encounter a bear. According to The National Park Service, there are roughly 728 grizzly bears that live in the Greater Yellowstone Area as of 2019. And honestly, no one really knows exactly how many black bears are out there.
With recent events that have transpired with grizzly bears in Island Park, Idaho on Friday, and in western Montana on Tuesday, KID News radio feels it might be a good idea to go over the basics of what to do if you run into a smoky bear on your next outdoor adventure.
DISCLAIMER: We are not trying to scare you! Stay calm. We realize it is important to know and understand bears because it could help decrease the chances of bear encounters and diffuse aggressive encounters IF they occur.
When exploring mother nature, the best rule of thumb is to take precautions to not run into a bear at all. Here are a few basic tips on how you can avoid a bear encounter:
- Store all food, garbage, or smelly items so that bears cannot access them. Whether that is in a bear canister hung away from your campsite, in your car, or in a bear safe that is provided at some campgrounds. Do not store food, garbage, or smelly items in your tent or leave them unattended ever. That includes avoiding eating a candy bar for your late-night snack in your tent. Even if you clean it up the best you can, the bear usually can still smell it.
- If camping, pick a campsite that is not appealing to bears and make sure you pick up your campsite well. It’s also important to try to set up your campsite with 3 different regions– sleeping, cooking, and food storage. Do your best to ensure that these don’t mix– like not sleeping in clothes that you cook in.
- Make sure you have bear spray that is easily accessible and a bright flashlight you can use to shine in a bear’s eyes.
- If you are exploring bear country, don’t be a silent hiker. Make some noise. Whether that is practicing your karaoke skills, yelling, or even carrying items that make noise. Most bear attacks occur because the bear is startled.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t get in between a bear and her cubs/prey.
For more detailed tips, visit nps.org.
However, what if you still encounter a bear after following all these precautions? A general rule is to never run from a bear. They will only chase after you. According to North America Nature, bears can run between 24-35 mph. Humans can run short distances over 100 meters at speeds of up to 25 km/h (16 mp/h). But unfortunately, over longer distances, the average speed decreases. Unless you are The Flash himself, it’s best to avoid running from a bear.
Your actions after you encounter a bear will depend on the kind of bear you encounter. There are 3 kinds of bear attacks, but (only two you really need to worry about). Those are encounters with a black bear, grizzly bear, or a polar bear.
Facing a Black Bear:
There are a lot of black bears out there. These bears can be found everywhere from Alaska to the East Coast. Because black bears are more timid and shy than grizzlies and polar bears, you’ll need to employ a different strategy.
If you encounter a black bear, it’s important to make yourself look big. Stand taller and make yourself look meaner than he is. If he still charges you, spray it with some bear spray when he is forty to fifty feet away. If this doesn’t stop the bear, drop to the ground and play dead until he considers you neutralized and walks away. If worst comes to worst and you are in hand-to-hand contact with the bear, aim for its sensitive nose and eyes.
Facing a Grizzly Bear:
Grizzly bears live in Alaska, Montana, and some parts of Idaho. Their key feature is the hump of muscles on their shoulders.
Grizzly bears tend to be more aggressive than black bears. Unlike black bears, if you make yourself look bigger, the bear will most likely maul you. If you encounter a grizzly, spray the bear repellent if he comes within forty to fifty feet. If that doesn’t stop him, lie down on the ground, protect the back of your neck. Play dead and pray that he considers you “neutralized” and goes away. Even after you hear him walking away, wait a few minutes before getting up. Again, If worst comes to worst and you are in hand-to-hand contact with the bear, aim for its sensitive nose and eyes.
Facing a Polar bear:
This doesn’t matter too much because they live in the Arctic regions of Canada or Alaska. But if you are unfortunate enough to meet a polar bear in eastern Idaho, the first thing to do is pray. Grizzly and black bears attack you because they are either territorial or scared, but polar bears will attack you because they want to eat you. Stand tall, face it, and don’t make yourself look like an easy kill. If it charges, use bear spray. If he continues to charge you, don’t play dead, he will eat you faster. Fight hard, and aim for its sensitive nose and eyes.
To learn more about what to do in a bear encounter visit nps.org.
In summary, the best kind of bear encounter is no encounter at all. Even if the odds of being attacked by a bear are very unlikely, it’s still crucial to be careful anyways. Being proactive and making sure you are educated should be high on your adventure priority list.