In most encounters, bears will avoid humans. If you encounter a bear in the field and it does not avoid you, you need to determine if the bear is exhibiting predatory or aggressive/defensive behavior. In most situations, grizzly bears act defensively to protect their personal space, a food source, or their offspring. A defensive bear often displays stress behaviors such as moaning, woofing, jaw popping or paw swatting. Remember, the bear is acting aggressively to defend something and if you are not perceived as a threat, the bear should usually leave the area. 

If you encounter an aggressive/defensive bear at close range:

  • Try to remain calm, slowly back out of the area, and have a defense ready. 
  • Never run away from the bear.
  • Do not challenge the bear with any aggressive body language or direct eye contact.
  • If the bear begins to approach, stand your ground and use bear spray or weapon, if available.
  • If the bear makes contact or is about to make contact, drop and cover. Lay flat on your stomach while interlacing your fingers and placing them on the back of your neck.  Do not fight back.
  • Once the bear feels the threat is neutralized it will stop attacking.
  • Make sure the bear has left the area before you try to move.
Unlike defensive bear attacks, a bear that is acting in a predatory manner is NOT defending anything.  Predatory behavior is when a bear appears to be intensely interested in you or deliberately approaches you without displaying any stress behaviors. If a bear enters your tent, it is behaving in a predatory way.  In a predatory bear attack, you should fight back by any means necessary; do NOT drop and cover!
If a bear is acting in a predacious manner:
  • Do not back away from the bear but instead stand your ground.
  • Act aggressively towards the bear.
  • Make yourself look as big as possible by holding your arms out, using your coat and standing on a log or rock.
  • Yell at the bear in a loud firm voice.
  • Use branches and rocks to deter the bear.
  • Use bear spray or a weapon to protect yourself.
Game and Fish has more information and videos about bear safety on our Bear Wise website to help you stay safe.

Dusty Lassester
Bear Wise Community Coordinator


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