How to Survive an Encounter With a Bear

How to Survive an Encounter With a Bear

(Modern – What is the first action you should take if you encounter a bear in the wild?

  • Run for your life
  • Play dead
  • Attack
  • Identify the bear

Answer: Identify the Bear

The first thing you should do when you come into contact with a bear is to identify what kind it is. This shouldn’t be too difficult as there are two basic types of bears in America: brown/grizzly bears and American black bears. In spite of their name, black bears aren’t always black, so use other criteria to determine what bear you’re up against properly.

For specifics on how to identify a bear, check out the National Park Service’s breakdown here.

Depending on what kind of bear you’re dealing with, your next steps could be different. Your chances of being attacked by a bear are very low, but never zero. Knowing how to handle each situation depending on which bear you’ve encountered could save your life.

Step 2: Assess the Situation

Once you’ve identified the bear, you need to assess and understand its behavior. Maybe it’s hungry or maybe you’re invading its territory; either way, a bear attack is a very scary and dangerous situation.

If the bear is acting defensively you need to defuse the situation by acting non-threatening. If the bear is acting as if you are prey, however, you’ll need to take a defensive approach.

Step 3: Stay Calm

This is obviously much easier said than done when faced with these enormous creatures. Bears will charge you to test you, stay as calm as you can, but be ready to take evasion action if needed. Bears often stand on their rear legs to assess a situation; don’t panic and definitely don’t run away, or it will see you as prey to be hunted.

Step 4: Take Action

If a bear continues to take interest in you, or even attacks you, it’s important to know when to play dead. This typically only works for grizzly bears and brown bears; trying this will not go well if you’re attacked by a polar bear or black bear.

Lie on your stomach with your legs spread apart, to prevent the bear from rolling you over. Keep your hands on the back of your neck with your fingers interlocked. Cover your face with your elbows, stay still, and be quiet. If you were wearing a pack, keep it on. This will provide some protection from the attack.

If the bear does manage to roll you over, simply roll back onto your stomach. The idea behind this method is to make the bear become bored and leave you alone. If the bear does leave, be sure to wait at least 20 minutes to ensure the bear is gone before you get up.

If you have no other option but to attack the bear, be sure to exploit any weaknesses the bear might have. Standing on a slope makes it more difficult for a bear to stand up, reducing its weight force. Bears also have great vision, but not great side-to-side vision. Make the most of this and attack from the sides rather than the front. Attacking it in sensitive areas, like the nose or eyes, could help to encourage the bear to retreat.

Fight the bear with whatever you have, sticks, rocks, or anything that can be used as a weapon. If you have bear spray, which is highly recommended if you’re going into bear country, use it. You should only attempt to escape when it is safe to do so.

While being stalked, or attacked while sleeping in a tent, is rare, if it does happen, fight for your life. In these situations, the bear has already decided you are prey and is looking to eat you.


The unfortunate thing about bear attacks is the fact that there are no surefire ways to survive an encounter. These tips have been put together by people who have survived bear attacks themselves, but that doesn’t guarantee that they will work every time.

So if you’re going to be out in bear country, be sure to invest in some bear spray. Also, be sure to avoid bears whenever possible, as you can’t be attacked by a bear if you don’t encounter one. Understand that bears are scared, too, so do your best not to provoke them to attack out of fear.

~Here’s to Your Survival!

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