Grizzly Bear Attack! Tips for Hiking Safely in Bear Country

Hikers Mauled by Grizzly Bear

Two Hikers were attacked by a mother Grizzly Bear while hiking the Deer Creek Trail, May 13th, 2011 at approximately 3:30 pm. A man and woman were enjoying the popular hiking trail in the Gallatin Canyon, when an elk ran across their path. Chasing the elk was a young grizzly bear, followed by Mother Bear.

The woman attempted to climb a tree and the sow grizzly reacted by biting her leg. The man tried to fight the bear off the woman (wow, my hero) and received a bite to his arm. Unfortunately, the hikers did not have any bear spray with them.

Both hikers were treated for non-life threatening injuries at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital. Although they may not think so, these hikers were very lucky (and it was Friday the 13th.) An encounter with a protective mother grizzly bear could easily have been fatal.

The Deer Creek Trail and several hiking trails around it were closed while Gallatin National Forest officials contain the situation.

Hiking in Bear Country 101

Grizzly Bear in Yellowstone
Grizzly Bear in Yellowstone | Source

"Bear Spray" is a high emission pepper spray used as a bear deterrent. By "high emission," I mean that it dispenses more like a fire extinguisher than the self-defense type pepper sprays.

Bear spray is not a repellent; do not spray yourself or your campsite. (Don't laugh, people have actually done this.) Bear spray should be used with caution, it is very powerful stuff.

You can purchase bear spray at most sporting-good stores or on-line from Amazon.

Listen to Jack Hanna on YouTube

Hiking in Bear Country: Dos and Don'ts

  • Do bring bear pepper spray
  • Do make noise as you hike so that you do not surprise a bear. You never want to surprise bears: talk, sing or clap your hands periodically. Some people hike with bells attached to them to make continual noise.
  • Do hike with others. More people equals more noise. Also, greater numbers will discourage aggressive behavior from bears.
  • Don't bring or wear "attractants" which includes scented sunscreens or bug repellents, fragrant unwrapped foods and anything that might be "smelly." (Thanks to DoItForHer for this tip.)
  • Don't hike at dusk or dawn when the bears are more active...and definitely don't hike at night.
  • Stay on trails and watch for signs of bear activity such as scat, marks on trees or footprints.
  • Don't bring your dog (unless it is specifically trained to protect you.) Dogs are notorious for bringing angry bears back to their owners.


A Little Bear Country Humor...

Two buddies were camping together in bear country. One night they heard a bear outside the tent, it was getting closer and closer. One of the guys started to put on his running shoes. His friend said:

"What are you doing? You can't out run a bear."

He answered:

"I don't have to out run the bear, I just have to out run you."

Haha


Encountering Bears: Dos and Don'ts

If you encounter a bear while hiking:

  • Do avoid sudden movements, back away slowly.
  • Don't run, running could prompt the predatory instinct in an otherwise uninterested bear.
  • Don't draw the attention of a bear that has not spotted you. The time for making noise was before the bear encounter, now stay quiet and leave at once.
  • Don't try to get closer to the bear (for a photo or a better look.)
  • Don't feed the bear. NEVER, EVER FEED A BEAR!
  • Do remain calm, if the bear does spot you, speak to it calmly. You want to let it know that you are human. Most bears want nothing to do with humans.
  • Don't make eye contact with a bear that has spotted you, it may perceive this behavior as threatening. Keep backing away.

If the bear charges:

  • Do remember that bears make "bluff charges." This means it will charge right up to you but will not make contact. Back away slowly. (Try not to soil yourself at this point.)
  • Do not run. Bears can run up to 30 mph, you cannot outrun a bear and running may trigger it to pursue.
  • Don't climb a tree. All bears can climb and climbing is another behavior that will likely illicit an attack from a bear that otherwise would not have.
  • Do use your bear spray!

If a grizzly bear attacks:

  • Do play dead. Lay face down covering your neck with your hands.
  • Do keep your backpack on to help protect your back.
  • Don't move even after the bear leaves, wait until you are sure it is gone.


How can I tell a Grizzly from a Black Bear?*

 
GRIZZLY BEARS (BROWN BEARS) 
BLACK BEARS 
COLOR 
Blond, Cinnamon, Brown, Black 
Blond, Cinnamon, Brown, Black 
SIZE 
300-800 lbs. 
100-300 lbs. 
SHAPE 
Hump at shoulders,
No hump, 
 
rear lower than shoulders
rear even with or higher than shoulders
FACE
Scooped profile from ears to nose
Straight profile from ears to nose
CLAWS
Long claws, can be seen in tracks
Shorter claws, cannot be seen in tracks
*This is not a stupid question. You may be thinking..."uh, black bears are black and brown bears are brown, duh." Actually, both bears can be blond, brown, cinnamon or black.

Black Bear

Black Bear
Black Bear | Source

Grizzly Bear or Brown Bear

Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear | Source

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Comments 40 comments

Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 5 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

Hey Mrs M ... great hub ... very informative and useful - voted up etc.

Not many bears in Devon - might get a miffed mole in the lawn but that's as bad as it gets.

Still ... for those living and moving through bear country this hub tells you all you need to know ...


Charlu profile image

Charlu 5 years ago from Florida

Awesome hub, for people that live near bear inhabitants or are going on vacation to some wildlife parks like Yellowstone etc. I've never heard of the bear spray but what a great idea. Sorry about your friends encounter with the bears but at least they lived to talk about it. Voted useful up and awesome.


Teylina profile image

Teylina 5 years ago

Did hear about the Hanna encounter and use of spray, but as recent as it was forgot it was a bear spray. Neither did I know anything about it--like force, use, etc. As I'm strongly considering various hikes this summer if possible, and my son is in throes of planning a 6-mos-hike/camp/hiatus, I'm bookmarking for me and passing along to him. You've covered all our bear bases for us! Thank you so much! Glad your friends are okay! Like sharks and beaches, I guess there's always a price to pay for enjoying the beauty of our natural neighbor's paradise!


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 5 years ago from The Zoo Author

Thank you Angie, Charlu and Teylina...much appreciated!


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

Fabulous hub--so important from someone who lives in bear country.

Your last tip probably wouldn't be a problem since I would pass out cold anyway and be unable to give a report on the incident.

Vote up and useful. There should be an IMPORTANT INFO thingy to click on.


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 5 years ago from The Zoo Author

Haha, Thanks Rtalloni. Yes, I agree that passing out might be likely!


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

Another great hub and thanks for sharing.

Again I push all the buttons and bookmark.

Take care

Eiddwen.


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 5 years ago from The Zoo Author

Thanks again Eiddwen! I get so excited when I see that someone left comments...you made my day twice today!


DoItForHer 5 years ago

I would like to add to minimize attractants. An attractant does not have to be food, it can be sunscreen and other similar smelly substances. Bears have one of the best senses of smell in the entire animal kingdom, and they like to check out stuff that smells.

When bears come across an odor, they think, "Hmmm. I smell the smell of something that smells smelly. I better check it out."


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 5 years ago from The Zoo Author

Hahaha...smell the smell of smelly smells...hilarious! And thanks for adding the extra tip...good one!


Pamela-anne profile image

Pamela-anne 5 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

Great hub Mrs. Menagerie I would hate to come across an angry grizzly especially with no bear spray! I too am doing a series on teas of the world check it out while your sipping on a cup of tea perhaps. good series, I'm glad your friends survived their encounter with the bear. take care!


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 5 years ago from The Zoo Author

Thanks Pamela--guess what..I just got back from a walk during which 2 friends and I came across a mama and baby grizzly! I went back in the car with my camera but they had moved on...no photos, darn.

Fortunately, the encounter was totally uneventful.


Teylina profile image

Teylina 5 years ago

Oh, Ms. Menagerie, what an awesome memory to have! We're the ones who are missing the photo! Would love to have seen it, but you'll have that picture in your memory bank forever--we're probably just a little jealous!


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 5 years ago from The Zoo Author

Thank you Teylina, I'm just glad she (mama bear) was not at all interested in us.

Thanks for commenting!


Teylina profile image

Teylina 5 years ago

Hadn't thought of that! And I just reminded someone today the mama bear in me was ticked off on behalf of my very-grown daughter! Mama Bears can be nasty creatures in any species, can't they? Can't imagine the attitude of a Mama Grizzly!


MsQuestion profile image

MsQuestion 5 years ago from New Jersey

I always thought (and a lot of people obviously have thought the same thing)that you could get away from a bear by climbing a tree! Now I know not to do that (we have black bears around us)! Interesting (and frightening!) hub!


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 5 years ago from The Zoo Author

Luckily the bear went easy on them and they are ok. True, a lot of people think to climb trees.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 5 years ago from America

Enjoyed your hub. Need to get some of that bear spray. We have so many bears in our yard I worry about running into them.


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 5 years ago from The Zoo Author

Yikes Moonlake, I'd worry too! Be careful!!!! Thanks for reading and commenting.


Ask_DJ_Lyons profile image

Ask_DJ_Lyons 5 years ago from Mosheim, Tennessee

This was an extremely useful hub. I had never heard of pepper spray for bears. Hopefully, I will never have to use any of your advice about bears; but if I ever do encounter a bear, I think you very wise words will drift back to my mind. So thank you. After all, I do occasionally go to the Smoky Mountains to hike.


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 5 years ago from The Zoo Author

Bears: love em, fear em...:)


rorshak sobchak 5 years ago

When I am hunting in the woods I am always afraid I am going to see a bear. I didn't even know that there was such a thing as bear spray. This was a great write up!

rorshak sobchak


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 5 years ago from The Zoo Author

Thank you rorshak sobchak, you should definitely get some bear spray!


mattdigiulio profile image

mattdigiulio 5 years ago

Wild stuff. I live up north and very, very occasionally see black bears. It's a bit off-putting to say the least. But they're incredible to see in the wild. Thanks for this slick Hub. Voted up.

Best, Matt D


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 5 years ago from The Zoo Author

Hi Matt and thanks so much for the vote!


DoItForHer 5 years ago

My understanding of the problem with most dogs is that they tend to run off and chase and haze wild animals. Then should they encounter a bear, they will pester it. The antagonized bear will chase the dog back to the owner and said owner then receives the brunt of the bear's frustration.

However, a dog with the proper temperament and training will deter conflict. Some dogs such as Karelian Bear Dogs or Black Mouth Curs perform well when encountering large, wild animals, but then only a portion of pups from the litters will be able to perform up to that level. An even smaller portion of the litter of Karelians are good enough to go on to actually shepherding nuisance bears away. Bear shepherding goes a long way toward protecting campers.

Bears aren't stupid. They know when a dog means business and will react accordingly. Properly trained dogs make hiking in bear country much safer. Improperly trained dogs can invite disaster.


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 5 years ago from The Zoo Author

Right you are, DoItForHer! I could not have explained it better! Thank you for adding this great information.


Teylina profile image

Teylina 5 years ago

DoltForHer, great comment I'm sure Mrs. Menagerie is glad you posted. I know I am. Learned a lot from her, and now a lot from you--don't hike grizzly country--live the other way, but I may some day! In the meantime, a bear is a bear is a bear--we've got our share of black ones that people mistakenly think are "tame" - Hah!


Mr. Smith profile image

Mr. Smith 5 years ago from California

A great bear country guide! Well done!


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 5 years ago from The Zoo Author

Thanks so much!


pooilum profile image

pooilum 4 years ago from Malaysia

Great tips that we should be aware of! Voted for you!


jimmar profile image

jimmar 4 years ago from Michigan

Loads of information here. Nice Hub. I heard(maybe it's not true) that you should behave differently if a black bear attacks.


Teylina profile image

Teylina 4 years ago

I, too, was given different info re black bears. Somebody want to answer jimmar and me??


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 4 years ago from The Zoo Author

Sorry, sorry...I've been so busy lately....but I am not aware of any significant differences in what to do when encountering black vs. brown bears. The bears, of course, are totally different in their behaviors but us people should do pretty much the same thing. There is information saying that defensive bears( ears and eyes down) are less likely to make actual contact than curious bears (ears up and eye contact.) Ans I have also been told that if you encounter a bear at night, don't play dead...fight for your life because the bear is looking for something to eat....yikes.


TotalHealth profile image

TotalHealth 4 years ago from Hermosa Beach, CA

Thanks for the advice. I've seen video footage of a grizzly getting sprayed with bear pepper spray; it is effective at close range.


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 4 years ago from The Zoo Author

Hi Totalhealth

yes the sprays are very effective but best not to spray into the wind! :)


healthwealthmusic profile image

healthwealthmusic 4 years ago from Everywhere Online ~ Fingerlakes ~ Upstate New York

Very good information - hope I will never need it! We don't go hiking much. There are almost no bears in our area, and no grizzlies at all, thankfully!


Sherry Hewins profile image

Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

We have black bears in our area, they're much less aggressive than grizzlies. A mama bear and her cub cleaned out the freezer in our garage last year. I'm glad I didn't surprise them in the act.


Mrs. Menagerie profile image

Mrs. Menagerie 4 years ago from The Zoo Author

Hi Health wealth and Sherry....thank you for the comments! And I'm glad you didn't surprise them too Sherry! That sort of thing happens around here all too often!


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 2 years ago from Mississauga, ON

Unfortunately, I am seeing more and more people hiking with their off-leash dogs in bear country. This is too risky, but they don't understand.

Very informative article! Thumbs up!

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