Bear tracks from May 2, 2008. Click picture for largest image.
Saw some day old bear tracks around the Bradley/Taggart area last week. Running into one of these guys (moose too!) in the dark, early morning hours is one of my biggest nightmares. Here are some things to think about if you have and encounter.
- Watch out for cubs…often found in trees. Sows will defend their cubs
- Be extra cautious around a kill sight, as bears become extremely aggressive when defending their dinner.
- Younger bears have more of a tendency to bluff charge. Not something you want to test though.
Bear is more than 100M away…and sees you.
Talk calmly and let the bear know you are a human…they will often give you more space once they figure it out. If you decide navigate around the bear, travel upwind…so the bear can get your scent.
Bear sees you and is acting aggressively.
Access the situation. Do not run…you won’t win. Avoid direct eye contact and retreat slowly while talking calmly. Climb a tall tree if you can (might be tough in ski bots?), at least 10M…and hope the bear will feel less threatened.
Bear charges you.
Often bears will bluff charge on the first go…to avoid having to actually attack an enemy. As a last resort, use your pepper spray once the bear is within 15′. Discard the canister after using it…even if it’s not empty. In lower concentrations, it may act as an attractant.
Bear has been stalking you…and makes contact.
If it’s a black bear you are in a predatory situation and your only hope is to fight back. Blackies are more likely to back down than the grizzlies. Your unlikely to deter a grizzly attack, so rolling up in a tight ball and lie on your side…burying you head between your legs. Wait until the last minute to play dead…you might first be able to dodge a deadly blow. Lying on your stomach with your backpack protecting your back, with your hands over the back of your neck is another option.
After an attack.
Stay calm and be patient. If you have determined the bear have left the area, bail for help…pronto!
Yes indeed, it is that time of year. I have had two encounters with grizzlies while spring skiing in the Absarokas. I had a plan worked together like you have here, but in the heat of the moment I did not stick to the rules.
We were just skinning out of tree line near the Pinnacles and a big griz popped out right behind my partner and I. Literally five feet behind us. He mock charged, pissed all over the skin track, and we ran and then pointed em down hill. I always hear not to run, but we really had no other choice since the bear was so close. Fight or flight. We were lucky. And staying calm after this incident…yah right, I needed new capilene and my heart started back up. Needless to say, the objective was shot after that.
Good post Steve! Good to let peeps know they are indeed awake now!
I’ve never understood the “climb a tree” strategy, since many of the bears I’ve encountered have been in trees. Has it been shown that bears don’t follow humans up trees? Or is this advice specifically for grizzlies? Just wondering . . .
While slogging out of Open Canyon after a west to east traverse on Sunday we saw at least four sets of fresh bear tracks. The bears have to be surly after waking up only to have it appear like it’s still winter(3-5 feet on low elevation approaches). Them bears got to be all kinds of hungry!
Good stories guys…thanks!
Yeah…they say grizzlies aren’t as good at climbing trees as blackies. I think the idea is that they might just get lazy and not want to expend the energy to follow you up there.
The bears have been awake up here as well. The .454 has become as essential as bringing a beacon the last couple weeks. There all super hungry and the salmon are still at least two weeks out, so caution is mandatory. It’s times like these that squeaky bindings and boots are great, as the more noise you give off the less chance of surprising one.
how about some bear spray and a good knowledge of kung fu, more humane, and a heck of a lot lighter!
yeah but you gotta give props to the local Wyo gat…right down the street in Freedom if I’m not mistaken.
We saw pretty fresh black bear tracks last Saturday. It went west to east, up over the Great White Hump and down the ridge between Unskiabowl and Powder/corn. Looked like a juvenile blackie by the stride and straddle.
Can’t really complain about Keas stealing my sun glasses now…
yea Johnny, still don’t trust bear spray, seems a bit to much like seasoning salt for me trust, despite what the local papers have been pushing. still have yet to use the gun, and hoping to never have to, despite countless encounters. weight doesn’t bother me.
we’ve also set a couple trap lines along some more hidden skin tracks and have grown used to skiing with a gun.
bring a knife for skinning
the bear that is 🙂
he…he…he. Keas…but they are SO cute!
What are you talking about Gringo?