Bear behavior is complex. Like people, bears react differently to each situation. 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 you 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 are not necessarily signs of aggression, the bear may not have identified you as a human yet.
If you encounter a bear:
The vast majority of bear attacks have occurred when people surprised a bear. In this situation the bear may attack as a defensive maneuver. The bear may be protecting young or defending a carcass.
If a bear charges you:
In rare cases, bears have attacked at night or after stalking people. These attacks are very serious because it may mean the bear sees you as prey. If you are attacked at night or if you feel you have been stalked and attacked as prey, fight back. Use your bear spray, or shout and try to intimidate the bear with a stick or rock. In this type of situation, do whatever it takes to let the bear know you are not easy prey.
To purchase books on bears and other subjects please visit the Grand Teton Association website.
Never approach a bear.
Last updated: December 8, 2016