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blue bulletWhat Kind of Bear is That?
blue bulletHiking in Bear Country
blue bulletIf You Encounter a Bear
blue bulletCamping and Bears
blue bulletBear Spray
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If You Encounter a Bear?

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Quicktime Movie of a black bear

A commonly asked question is "What do I do if I run into a bear?" There is no easy answer. Like people, bears react differently to each situation. The best thing you can do is to make sure you have read all the suggestions for hiking and camping in bear country and follow them. Avoid encounters by being alert and making noise.

Bears may appear tolerant of people and then attack without warning. A bear’s body language can help determine its mood. In general, bears show agitation by swaying their heads, huffing, and clacking their teeth. Lowered head and laid-back ears also indicate aggression. Bears may stand on their hind legs or approach to get a better view, but these actions are not necessarily signs of aggression. The bear may not have identified you as a person and is unable to smell or hear you from a distance.

Bear Attacks
Almost 2 million people visit Waterton-Glacier yearly, and it seems that one or two bear attacks occur each year. The vast majority of these occur because people have surprised the bear. In this type of situation the bear may attack as a defensive maneuver. Though injuries from a bear attack can be serious, most attacks result in minor injuries. There have been only 10 bear related fatalities in Glacier since 1910.

If you surprise a bear, here are a few guidelines to follow that may help:

  • Talk quietly or not at all; the time to make loud noise is before you encounter a bear. Try to detour around the bear if possible.

  • Do not run! Back away slowly, but stop if it seems to agitate the bear.

  • Assume a nonthreatening posture. Turn sideways, or bend at the knees to appear smaller.

  • Use peripheral vision. Bears appear to interpret direct eye contact as threatening.

  • Drop something (not food) to distract the bear. Keep your pack on for protection in case of an attack.

  • If a bear attacks and you have bear spray, use it!

  • If the bear makes contact, protect your chest and abdomen by falling to the ground on your stomach, or assuming a fetal position to reduce the severity of an attack. Cover the back of your neck with your hands. Do not move until you are certain the bear has left.

  • Report all bear attacks to the nearest ranger or warden immediately.

In rare cases bears may attack at night or after stalking people.

This kind of attack is very rare but can be very serious because it often means the bear is looking for food and preying on you.

If you are attacked at night or if you feel you have been stalked and attacked as prey, try to escape. If you can not escape, or if the bear follows, use pepper spray, or shout and try to intimidate the bear with a branch or rock. Do whatever it takes to let the bear know you are not easy prey.

Camping and Bears

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Odors attract bears. Our campground and developed areas can remain "unattractive" to bears if each visitor manages food and trash properly. Regulations require that all edibles (including pet food), food containers (empty or not), and cookware (clean or not) be stored in a hard-sided vehicle or food locker when not in use, day or night.
  • Keep a clean camp! Improperly stored or unattended food may result in confiscation of items and issuance of a Violation Notice.
  • Inspect campsites for bear sign and for careless campers nearby. Notify a ranger or warden of potential problems.
  • Place all trash in bearproof containers.
  • Pets, especially dogs, must be kept under physical restraint.
  • Report all bear sightings to the nearest ranger or warden immediately.

Bear Spray

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This aerosol pepper derivative triggers temporary incapacitating discomfort in bears. It is a non-toxic and non-lethal means of deterring bears.

There have been cases where bear spray apparently repelled aggressive or attacking bears, and accounts where it has not worked as well as expected.

Factors influencing effectiveness include distance, wind, rainy weather, temperature extremes, and product shelf life.

If you decide to carry bear spray, use it only in situations where aggressive bear behavior justifies its use. Under no circumstances should bear spray create a false sense of security or serve as a substitute for standard safety precautions in bear country.

Bear spray should not be confused with anti-personnel defense sprays. Anti-personnel defense sprays are not suited for bears. Likewise, bear spray is intended as a deterring mechanism for bears, not humans.

Some brands of bear spray may be transported across the U.S./Canada border while others may not; check before attempting.

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