What Should I Do if I See a Black Bear?
Seeing a black bear at Lassen Volcanic National Park is a rare treat (there are no brown or grizzly bears in the park). While it is an exciting moment, it is important to remember that bears in national parks are wild and can be dangerous. Their behavior is sometimes unpredictable. Although rare, attacks on humans have occurred, inflicting serious injuries and death. Each bear and each experience is unique; there is no single strategy that will work in all situations and that guarantees safety. Most bear encounters end without injury. **Bear Spray is not permitted in the park.
Stay with or Store Your Scented Stuff at All Times
Black bears at Lassen Volcanic are beginning to associate humans and our stuff with food. Human-bear encounters have increased in recent years after multiple incidents of bears obtaining improperly stored food from hikers and backpackers.
All visitors can help prevent closures and protect bears:
Most human-bear sightings occur at a safe distance without incident. However, if you encounter a black bear close-up or a bear is reacting to you, the following strategies can help prevent the situation from escalating.
If a Black Bear Attacks
Bear attacks are rare; most bears are only interested in protecting food, cubs, or their space. However, being mentally prepared can help you have the most effective reaction.
Bear Pepper Spray is Not Permitted at Lassen Volcanic
The generally non-aggressive behavior of black bears at Lassen Volcanic National Park does not necessitate its use nor is bear pepper spray recommend for black bears (verses grizzly/brown bears).
Do Not Play Dead if You Are Attacked by a Black Bear
Try to escape to a secure place such as a car or building. If escape is not possible, fight with everything you have.
Bluff charges are meant to scare or intimidate. When a bear bluff charges, it will have its head and ears up and forward. The bear will puff itself up to look bigger. It will bound on its front paws toward you (moving in big leaps), but then stop short or veer off to one side. Often bears retreat after a bluff charge, or they may vocalize loudly.
This type of charge by a black bear is very rare yet very dangerous. Warning signs of an impending aggressive charge includes yawning, clacking their teeth, or pounding their front paws on the ground while huffing. These behaviors indicate that a bear is stressed and it may be getting ready to charge. Most aggressive charges by black bears are an attempt to protect a perceived threat to a cub or food source such as a deer carcass. A bear charging aggressively will have its head down and ears pointed back and will come at you like a freight train. Be prepared to fight with everything you have.
Last updated: July 10, 2021