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post #1 of (permalink) Old 02-25-2013, 02:33 PM Thread Starter
Headed for the Mountains
 
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Default Advice about bears for friend

Because I work and recreate outdoors a colleague asked for advice about responding to bears, especially as she has a very young son (about 2 yr). I tried to help but found starting with 'I see bears all the time' made things worse. What I was trying to get at I've never had a problem even though I'm at fairly high risk. I told her what I have been taught, what others have said works for them, and what I found works for me:

>if you hear a noise in the bushes, call out 'hello' to find out what is making the noise. It might be a bear but it might be a crow - you don't want to accidentally 'sneak up' on the bear and calling hello lets it know you're around.
>check out the bear and what it's doing, often it's just minding its own business and would like you to do the same (so no problem)
>Grizzlies, not so common where she hikes, are more likely to choose 'fight'. A fellow ecologist discovered if you can manage it, try to adopt 'I'm interested in leaving' body language and walk away while keeping your eyes on the bear in a non-confrontational manner (I hope I never have to try that one)
-the common wisdom of 'make yourself big and shout' can backfire if the bear chooses fight
>Black bears are more likely to choose 'flight'. Sometimes my 'hello!' is enough to make one run away.
>Grizzlies have humps, black bears do not
>Neither of the two above is foolproof and each situation depends on each situation.
>if the bear, of any type, looks like it's interested in you as a possible snack start getting the heck out of there and also look for big rocks to throw at the bear
>Yes, do carry bear spray. It can work but make sure you know how to use it, that you have removed the plastic band that keeps it from accidentally spraying during shipping, and that you keep it handy (e.g. on a belt carrier) and not buried in your pack. OK, it's not foolproof but better than not trying anything if the situation comes to that.
>if you come across cubs LEAVE immediately
>keep her son always in view and teach him what to do if they see a bear or other animal 'come hold mommy's hand', for example, to keep him from running away (and having the bear give chase).
>groups of three or more tend to be less likely to encounter wildlife so go in a group

Of course, none of it is foolproof, but I didn't get too much into that - she was concerned enough already. Plus, trying something is still better than trying nothing.

Mostly, when I'm out and come across a bear (black bears where I am) I talk to it, keep my eyes on it, see what it's up to. In part to alert the bear and in part to stay calm enough to assess the situation. Virtually every time the bear looks at me, decides I am harmless and made its way away - or runs away in response to my hello call. I do recognize that it would be more difficult for my friend to assess the situation as she a beginning hiker and has little experience with wildlife, and knows mostly what she has seen on the news.

I did try to explain to my friend that while bears are a risk and can be dangerous, human-bear encounters are fairly common in some places (e.g. the Tri-Cities in Metro Vancouver). But you don't hear about how often people have non-event bear encounters because the news won't report 'nothing happened'. Unfortunately, statistics are a poor buffer to parental concern, and they mean nothing if you're the one who does make it on the news.


Anyone have other ideas or suggestions I can pass along to help a) make my friend feel better about going out on hikes/walks and b)to help keep her and her son safe when they do go out on walks/hikes?
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 02-25-2013, 03:47 PM
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Are there any courses in your area? I see a lot of people who are terrified attend one of the evening lectures available in Calgary and come out feeling reassured from the facts from an authoritative source. That may be worthwhile for her.

For those afraid of bears, I'd usually summarize into:
1. Always make noise when you hike, especially in places where animals might have a harder time hearing, seeing, or smelling you (tight corners, noisy stream, wind in your face, etc). If you're spooked, sing something.
2. Don't run. If you see a bear, hear something, or whatever, never ever run.

For if you do run into one:
3. Learn how to tell an offensive from a defensive bear encounter. Current thoughts move away from black vs. grizzly into just figuring out the type of encounter, rather than the type of bear which used to be used as a guess at the type of encounter. Learn what to do in both cases. There are excellent books and courses.
4. Carry and know how to use bear spray. It's a last-ditch only, but it can help. If you're unsure, find a course where you can shoot a dummy can. It can be a real confidence-builder.

Additional notes for planning:
5. Go with a larger group. You're less likely to see a bear, and much less likely to have a problem with one. 6 adults, and bears really aren't going to want to get involved. Find other parents who could use partners.
6.Don't carry bear bells. The only thing they scare off is hiking partners.
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 02-25-2013, 07:17 PM
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You've already listed quite a few good points. Your friend should read up about bears as much as possible. I've found the following books quite useful: Bear Encounter Survival Guide: by James, G Shelton and Bear Attacks:Their Causes and Avoidance by Stephen Herrero. Although, in some people, reading those books might scare them enough not to go outdoors but it hasn't stopped me and I've been solo hiking for 37 years. I've encountered black bears on numerous occasions and in grizzly country a good noise maker is your own voice and/or a can filled with rocks works really well. Sometimes, I like to carry a binocular or a small monocular to scan the subalpine for bears. But there is always that element of risk when hiking in bear country. I can't say it's anymore dangerous than driving on the highway.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 02-25-2013, 08:46 PM
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Always carry a bfk. There isn't just bears out there.




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post #5 of (permalink) Old 02-25-2013, 10:17 PM
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There's a video called 'Staying Safe in Bear Country' that you might be familiar with, having an wilderness type job. Although it's from 2001, it's still widely available online from bear safety organizations and so I would assume the advice is still current. A lot of what you have above is similar to my brief notes from the video:

[u]Two main attacks:</u> Defensive (they're wanting to remove a threat) and Predacious (you're food).

For both attacks: stand your ground.
• If bear continues defensively, play dead.
• If bear continues in a predacious way, fight back.

[u]Encounters:</u>
• Identify self as human by:
o Talking
o Slowly waving arms
o Giving scent if possible
• Increase distance
• Do not run

[u]Bear Approaches:</u>
• Stand ground
• Assess situation (defensive or predacious?)
• Remain calm, attacks are rare
• Do not run unless you can get to safety
• Prepare your deterrent

[u]Defensive Approach:</u>
• Stand your ground
• Appear non-threatening
• Talk calmly to bear (this can help calm your nerves too)
• If bear stops approach, increase your distance
• If bear resumes approach, stand ground
• Keep talking calmly
• Prepare deterrent
• If bear can't be deterred and attacks, fall to ground and play dead
• When attack stops, wait for bear to leave (remain still)
• If bear keeps attacking or starts eating, it's no longer defensive

[u]Non-defensive (predacious) approach:</u>
• Talk to bear in firm voice
• Move from bear's path
• If bear follows you, stop and stand ground
• Prepare deterrent
• Act aggressively, shout, look big, wack a big stick on the ground
• If bear attacks, use deterrent, FIGHT!!!


Here's a site that sells the video and you can download the main messages or the whole script:

http://www.macecanada.com/canada/product/video2.htm
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 02-26-2013, 02:08 AM
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My four step program to getting over a fear of bears:

1) Stop calling them bears
I prefer to call them forest cows instead. Based on all of my encounters with these animals, it is a much more accurate description and invokes less anxiety.

2) Knowledge
Three types:
- Statistics to show how rare it is to have a bad encounter with a forest cow (I like to compare the statistics for violent crimes per 1000 people to bear attacks per 1000 bears.)
- Practical advice about how to deal with a bear encounter. The above posts have some great info.
- Positive anecdotal stories from people who have a lot of experience (hikers, loggers, rangers, etc.)

3) Control
Learn how to use a can of bear spray. To feel extra secure, wield an air-horn or ice-axe in the other hand.

4) Desensitization
Three main tasks:
- Observe as many forest cows as you can: Zoos, from the car, from boats, etc.
- Observe as many people in the forest as you can: Especially people who walk around in the woods without any form of protection (and still manage to survive!)
- Spend a lot of time in the woods and realize that bears do not lurk around every corner.
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 02-26-2013, 06:32 AM
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I have never met an aggresive forest cow yet, however I have seen the results of a forest cow grazing through a large patch of blackberry bushes and realize that the bfk is not going to bother said cow.
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 02-26-2013, 08:43 AM
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In my experience, I'm be more wary of the big kitties than the forest cows

All good points above. Most important things are to be aware of your surroundings and make noise, e.g. talking (far less annoying than bear bells). My husband and I call out "Hi Mr. Bear" every few minutes, especially when vision is obstructed by thickets, trees, etc.
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 02-26-2013, 09:30 AM
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I don't know if this is worth telling your friend, but I hunt black bears every year and the hardest thing about it once I'm into bear country is getting one to not run away as soon as it smells, hears or sees me.
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 02-26-2013, 09:49 AM
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Quote:
quote:felixthecat Posted - 02/26/2013 : 09:30 AM I don't know if this is worth telling your friend, but I hunt black bears every year and the hardest thing about it once I'm into bear country is getting one to not run away as soon as it smells, hears or sees me.
Do you prefer the taste of bear over cow?
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post #11 of (permalink) Old 02-26-2013, 10:31 AM
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You can tell a lot about forest cows just by looking at them, same as you would with humans. Many of the same rules apply.
Does the cow look healthy and well fed?
Fur long and shiny or patchy and sparse?
Is it young and curious?
body language
anxiousness looks the same when it comes to cows
if it appears anxious it may be protecting food or young
cows do not disguise their motives, if they are pisssed you will know it.

Prey behaves in certain ways. I am fairly certain fear has a chemical signature that when coupled with behavioural traits, such as flight will attract more attention from predators.
Like when a pretty girl smiles at a boy, it might mean nothing but he will have to check it out. Point being don't act like prey.
If Timmy Treadwell can live for 13 years in the grizzly maze, before one of them had enough of him. Speaks volumes to how non aggressive they really are when in a resource healthy environment.
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post #12 of (permalink) Old 02-26-2013, 11:16 AM
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It's a little backward calling a bear a forest cow. I can see the humour in it but if it's meant to actually quell some people's fears, there's a problem. Let's call them what we know them to be and not lessen the fact that they can be many times more dangerous than a domesticated cow (seems silly that has to be said). People need to get comfortable with being in a bear's environment and not by calling them something less than what they are (apologies to cow's around the world). Ask anyone who's been mauled by one if forest cow is a fitting name.
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post #13 of (permalink) Old 02-26-2013, 11:41 AM
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I was out picking berries in the fall season one year and noticed
two grizzlies that were beginning to follow me. I immediately climbed
a tree way up to about thirty feet above the ground.
I waited for the two furs to go away.
Instead of leaving, the bears began digging at the roots of the tree I
was in to try and tip it over.
They traded places on the digging endeavor to rest a bit. One would
dig and the other would try and push the big tree over.
Finally they quit, but then they stood facing each other and seemed
as though they were communicating and coming up with another plan.
Well, one of them left and the other stood guard...........Darn!
Quite a spell went by and the other bear returned with a beaver under
each arm. He put them down at the base of the tree I was in and the
beavers went to work falling the tree.
I figured that was the end of me, but when the tree started falling, I
jumped to another tree and the bears had to move the beavers over
to this tree. Once again they managed to fell the tree and I jumped to
a different tree. This kept up for several hours and the only thing that
saved me was the fact that beavers always fall trees toward water.
Later that day they finally fell one that reached a river and I managed
to swim away to safety.
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post #14 of (permalink) Old 02-26-2013, 11:46 AM
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"Do you prefer the taste of bear over cow?"

I don't know, do you like chicken over turkey?

I like a nice beef steak now and again, but bear meat when well taken care of from a two or three year old bear is nice and mild and is made to be married with garlic and onion. The ground meat makes awesome meat patties, spaghetti and lasagne, but unground meat cuts are very good in roasts and stew.
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post #15 of (permalink) Old 02-26-2013, 12:12 PM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by Hemlock

It's a little backward calling a bear a forest cow. I can see the humour in it but if it's meant to actually quell some people's fears, there's a problem. Let's call them what we know them to be and not lessen the fact that they can be many times more dangerous than a domesticated cow (seems silly that has to be said). People need to get comfortable with being in a bear's environment and not by calling them something less than what they are (apologies to cow's around the world). Ask anyone who's been mauled by one if forest cow is a fitting name.
I think a lot of people have also been sold a false bill on bears lately. In an attempt to quell fears, people go the other way and turn them into teddy bears. I constantly hear people tell me 'bears are more afraid of you than you are of them', and while that might have been true in places where humans were strange and dangerous, it certainly isn't true on a regular basis. I've had groups see a bear a ways over, make some noise, and then become concerned when the bears don't start running away. In a lot of places people hike, bears are aware of and accustomed to people, and while not interested in starting anything, aren't afraid either, and more likely to notice a person and continue on with whatever it was doing than run in fear.
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