You walk around a bend on one of Yellowstone’s trails and all at once there’s a bear. Would you know what to do?
Bear safety starts before you get on the trail. Start at the nearest backcountry office or visitor center. Ask about bear closures and recent sightings. Take the time to learn a little bear ecology. Learning what foods are available at certain times of the year can help you avoid confrontations.
Hike with others, and talk or clap your hands while walking. Consider carrying Bear Pepper Spray. It should contain between 1% and 2% capsaicin. Each hiker should carry their own canister.
So you have done your homework and you are prepared, and still, there is this bear. If the bear has not seen you, try backing up slowly and quietly. If that works, leave the area and reroute your trip.
If the bear has seen you, the proper response depends on what the bear does next. Slowly walk backwards while talking to the bear in a non-aggressive voice. Most likely the bear will run away, but not always. Never run from a bear.
If the bear charges you, stop retreating and hold your ground. Most charges are bluff charges. Remove the safety from your bear spray and if the bear gets within 40 feet of you spray it in the face.
Never play dead until a bear has made contact with you. If that happens, lay on your stomach with your hands clasped over your neck. Keep your backpacks on. Your legs should be slightly spread, so that it’s harder to flip you over. Remain as quiet and still as you can, until the bear leaves. Then find help.
Remember that climbing trees does not always work in Yellowstone. The park has both black bears and grizzly bears. Black bears are great tree climbers and grizzlies have been known to follow people quite far up a tree.
In reality, your chances of being injured by a bear in Yellowstone are 1 in 1.9 million. Yellowstone is a wilderness and wildernesses have rules that we can learn to follow. “Hey bear, Hey bear.”(Walking away while clapping).