If You See a Bear

Congratulations! A bear sighting is a rare occurrence and will be a memory to cherish. Stay at least 150 feet (45 meters) away from the bear and enjoy watching how a bear moves through the landscape or forages for natural foods. If a bear alters its behavior in response to your presence, you are too close. Black bear are generally fearful of humans and will leave an area if they are aware of your presence. Only on very rare occasions will a black bear attack-- these bears are often habituated bears that have lost their fear of people and likely have associate humans with food (see do not feed the bears).

Avoid encounters with bears

While hiking in the woods, don't surprise bears. Make your presence known. Make noise by talking loudly, singing, or clapping hands, particularly when coming around blind corners or bluffs.

If you do see a bear and you are at safe distance, remain calm and avoid sudden movements. Give the bear plenty of room, allowing it to continue its activities undisturbed. If the bear doesn't see you, watch carefully and enjoy the opportunity to view at a safe distance--but do detour quickly and quietly. If the bear changes its behavior, you are too close, so back away.

Do not approach! Bears are wild and their behavior is sometimes unpredictable. Treat bear encounters with extreme caution.

If you encounter a bear on a trail

If you see a bear, and it sees you, slowly back away, talking sternly to the bear ("hey bear/I see you/no bear") in a low voice. You want it to know you are human. It may stand to get a better view or sniff the air for your scent.

If the bear stops what it was doing, watches you, or stands its ground, you are too close. This may promote aggressive defensive behavior from the bear such as making loud vocalizations, swatting the ground, or bluff-charging (running toward you and stopping). This is a sign the bear is demanding morespace and wants you to back off. Don't run--slowly back away, while watching the bear and talking in a stern tone. Try to increase the distance between you and the bear. The bear will probably do the same.

If the bear's behavior indicates it is on the offensive, give it the right of way and change your travel direction. If it appears to be after your food, separate yourself from the food and back away while talking in a low/stern tone. Do not try to protect your food.

If a bear persistently follows or approaches you (offensive behavior), stand your ground. Act aggressively (yell/make noise) and try to intimidate the bear. Make yourselves look as large as possible (raise your arms, move to higher ground, or if in a group huddle together) and assert your dominance.

Throw non-food objects such as rocks at the bear. Use a deterrent such as a stout stick. Don't run and don't turn away from the bear.

Step at least 150 feet (50 yards) off the trail and give the bear plenty of room to pass, if possible. If not possible, yell at the bear, and stay a safe distance from the bear. Keep small children near adults. Please report the sighting to a park ranger.

Don't approach or surround a bear. Never run from a bear or get between a sow and her cubs.

If a bear approaches you in a picnic area or campground

Yell aggressively at the bear. Keep small children near adults.

Don't approach or surround a bear. Never run from a bear or get between a sow and her cubs. NEVER store food, beverages (other than water), trash, or scented items in tents or leave food unattended. Please report the sighting to a park ranger immediately.

If a bear charges

Remember that many bears charge as a bluff. They may run, then veer off or stop abruptly. Stand your ground until the bear stops. Slowly back away while facing the bear.

Never run from a bear! They will chase you and bears can run faster than 30 mph.

Don't run towards or climb a tree. Black bears can climb trees, and many bear will be provoked to chase you if they see you climbing.

If you are physically attacked, fight back aggressively with any available object-a backpack, stick, rocks, or your bare hands. Do not play dead.

Last updated: January 24, 2018

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