Encountering a Black Bear



• Give the bear an escape route and try to not block that route.

• Do not run. (Unless you are certain you can reach safety, your car, for example). Black bears run as fast as a horse for short distances.

• Do not climb a tree. Black bears climb trees with great ease and often pull other bears out of trees by a hind paw.

• Try and avoid direct eye contact, but watch the bear. Back away slowly

• It may be difficult under the circumstances, but speak to the bear in a normal voice. Say something like, “Hey, bear. It’s just me.”

• If the bear continues to advance towards you in an aggressive manner, toss something – but, not food – on the ground (a ball cap, walkman) to distract the bear, giving yourself an opportunity to slowly leave the area.

• Look for any available weapon, in anticipation of a bear charge – a rock, stick or binoculars for instance.

• The vast majority of black bear charges are bluffs. Watch a YouTube video of a black bear bluff charge.

• If a bear charges, hold your ground and if necessary, fight back! Strike at the head and face of the bear.

• Better yet, use bear spray.

• In contrast to advice for most grizzly bear encounters, do not play dead. Fight with everything you have!



The most recent research I published analyzed 63 fatal attacks by black bears throughout North America between 1900 and 2009. There, the male bears, single bears, were the primary perpetrators. And the majority of the fatal attacks were predacious. The person was stalked, charged, killed, partly eaten and dragged off. Not the kind of thing you like to think about bears doing, and fortunately they don’t do it very often. We’re talking perhaps a million black bears in North America, and a couple of people being killed each year. From a statistical point of view it’s nothing, but if you’re on the receiving end it’s everything. – Dr. Stephen Herrero, Professor emeritus at the University of Calgary