ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Grizzly Bear Attack! Tips for Hiking Safely in Bear Country

Updated on June 16, 2015

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."


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?*

Blond, Cinnamon, Brown, Black 
Blond, Cinnamon, Brown, Black 
300-800 lbs. 
100-300 lbs. 
Hump at shoulders,
No hump, 
rear lower than shoulders
rear even with or higher than shoulders
Scooped profile from ears to nose
Straight profile from ears to nose
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


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 3 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!

    • Mrs. Menagerie profile image

      Mrs. Menagerie 5 years ago from The Zoo

      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!

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 5 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.

    • healthwealthmusic profile image

      Ruth R. Martin 5 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!

    • Mrs. Menagerie profile image

      Mrs. Menagerie 5 years ago from The Zoo

      Hi Totalhealth

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

    • TotalHealth profile image

      TotalHealth 5 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 6 years ago from The Zoo

      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.

    • Teylina profile image

      Teylina 6 years ago

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

    • jimmar profile image

      jimmar 6 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.

    • pooilum profile image

      pooilum 6 years ago from Malaysia

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

    • Mrs. Menagerie profile image

      Mrs. Menagerie 6 years ago from The Zoo

      Thanks so much!

    • Mr. Smith profile image

      Mr. Smith 6 years ago from California

      A great bear country guide! Well done!

    • Teylina profile image

      Teylina 6 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!

    • Mrs. Menagerie profile image

      Mrs. Menagerie 6 years ago from The Zoo

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

    • profile image

      DoItForHer 6 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 6 years ago from The Zoo

      Hi Matt and thanks so much for the vote!

    • mattdigiulio profile image

      mattdigiulio 6 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 6 years ago from The Zoo

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

    • profile image

      rorshak sobchak 6 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 6 years ago from The Zoo

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

    • Ask_DJ_Lyons profile image

      Ask_DJ_Lyons 6 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 6 years ago from The Zoo

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

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 6 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 6 years ago from The Zoo

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

    • MsQuestion profile image

      MsQuestion 6 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!

    • Teylina profile image

      Teylina 6 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!

    • Mrs. Menagerie profile image

      Mrs. Menagerie 6 years ago from The Zoo

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

      Thanks for commenting!

    • Teylina profile image

      Teylina 6 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 6 years ago from The Zoo

      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 photos, darn.

      Fortunately, the encounter was totally uneventful.

    • Pamela-anne profile image

      Pamela-anne 6 years ago from Miller Lake

      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 6 years ago from The Zoo

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

    • profile image

      DoItForHer 6 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 6 years ago from The Zoo

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

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      Another great hub and thanks for sharing.

      Again I push all the buttons and bookmark.

      Take care


    • Mrs. Menagerie profile image

      Mrs. Menagerie 6 years ago from The Zoo

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

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 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 6 years ago from The Zoo

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

    • Teylina profile image

      Teylina 6 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!

    • Charlu profile image

      Charlu 6 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.

    • Angie Jardine profile image

      Angie Jardine 6 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 ...