Recently, I was at the French Broad River Park with my son. After I got him into the stroller and was walking through the parking lot towards the park, I noticed a crowd of people coming my way all gawking and gasping and pointing. Turns out that there was a black bear right next to me and I didn’t even notice. After I realized what was going on and saw the bear, the bear also saw me….and the mass of humans heading our way. Both the bear and I were more frightened of the crowd than of each other and we scurried off in opposite directions to safety.
No, I was not scared of the bear. Maybe I should have been. I suppose I was shocked more than anything. In that fleeting moment when the bear and I locked eyes I simply did not feel the need to be threatened. Definitely on alert, but not threatened. What was threatening was the mob of people running towards the bear. If seeing that made me uneasy I can only imagine how the bear felt and would have reacted if approached any further.
This experience prompted ‘How to not get eaten by bears’ as black bears are a fairly common sight not only in our country woods but also in our neighborhoods. And with many of you WildBerry guests loving our wildlife and hiking adventures, chances are that you may encounter a bear sighting.
What to do if you see a black bear:
- Immediately pick up any small children.
- Stay calm. Black bears are primarily wary and shy creatures and if left alone will probably leave you alone. Unprovoked black bear attacks are extremely rare.
- Let them know you are human and not prey by talking to them calmly. Be still while raising your arms into the air and slowly waving them. If the bear stands on its legs, this is usually because the bear is curious about you, not necessarily because it wants to eat you.
- Do not feed the bear. Bears become much more bold and interested in you if they know you have food for them. The consequences of this are unwanted.
- DO NOT PLAY DEAD. This only works with Grizzly Bears.
- DO NOT RUN. Black bears can run as fast as a race horse up and down hill. In the event a bear is motioning to you for an attack, scream and shout and stand your ground! Leave any packs on your body so the bear may grab the pack and not you. Punch and kick concentrating on the muzzle and head. If you have a blunt object, you should definitely use it.
What to do if you are camping:
- Secure all bags of trash up high out of bears reach.
- Pack your travel foods in air-tight, odor proof containers.
- Choose a camp site that is upwind of food stores and cooking sites.
- Keep the camp site extremely clean by picking up all trash and cleaning off all cooking and eating utensils.
- Some people choose to take extra precautions and put up a bear fence. It is called a Bear Shock Electric Fence and made by a company called UDAP based out of Butte, Montana. This method is primarily used for Grizzly’s but I’ve heard of people using it for black bears as well.
I want to press how unproblematic black bears usually are. They are still wild animals though and therefore unpredictable. The tips outlined here will certainly help avoid a bear attack which would undoubtedly wreck your day.
Written by Kate Randall