- When bears are caught off guard, they are stressed, and usually just want to flee.
- Stop. Do not panic. Remain calm.
- Generally, the noisier the bear is, the less dangerous it is, provided you do not approach. The noise is meant to “scare” you off and acts as a warning signal.
- Slowly back away while keeping the bear in sight and wait for it to leave.
- If the bear does not leave, throw objects, wave your arms and make noise with a whistle or air horn.
- Prepare to use bear spray.
- If you are near a building or vehicle get inside as a precaution.
- Drop any food you may be carrying and slowly move away.
- If a bear is in a tree, leave it alone. Leave the area. The bear will come down when it feels safe.
- Run, climb a tree or swim.
- Kneel down.
- Make direct eye contact.
- Approach the bear to get a better look.
- Attempt to feed a bear.
Bear warning signs
Black bear attacks are extremely rare.
A threatened or predatory black bear will give off warning signs to let you know you are too close. A black bear standing on its hind legs is not a sign of aggressive behaviour. The bear is trying to get a better look at you or catch your scent.
A defensive bear
A bear that feels threatened will:
- salivate excessively and exhale loudly
- make huffing, moaning, clacking and popping sounds with its mouth, teeth and jaws
- lower its head with its ears drawn back while facing you
- charge forward, and/or swat the ground with its paws (known as a ‘bluff’ charge)
A predatory bear
The bear will approach silently, usually in rural or remote areas, and may continue to approach regardless of your attempts to deter them by yelling or throwing rocks. If the bear attacks:
- use bear spray
- fight back with everything you have
- do not play dead unless you are sure a mother bear is attacking in defence of her cubs
When out in bear country
Bears are smart, curious, powerful and potentially dangerous. And they don’t like surprises. If you are a hiker, cyclist, jogger, berry picker or you plan to spend some time in “bear country,” learn to be Bear Wise to avoid an encounter.
Avoid bear-human interactions
Alert bears to your presence so they can avoid you. Make noise, such as singing, whistling or talking while in areas with restricted visibility or with high background noise, such as near streams and waterfalls.
- travel in groups of two or more—people who travel alone are most vulnerable
- scan your surroundings and do not wear music headphones
- watch for signs of bear activity such as tracks, claw marks on trees, flipped-over rocks or fresh bear droppings
- leash your dog, as uncontrolled, untrained dogs may actually lead a bear to you
- pay attention, especially if you are working, gardening or berry picking
- rise slowly if you are in a crouched position so that you don’t startle nearby bears
- avoid strong fragrances that may cause a bear to be curious
- put any food you are carrying in sealed containers in your pack
- carry a whistle or air horn
- learn how to use bear pepper spray and carry it somewhere that’s easy to access
- consider carrying a long-handled axe, if you are in remote areas or deep in the forest