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Black bear standing in brush.

Conservation > Bear > Bear Aware Bear Encounters

Bears can be anywhere. Assume their presence and know what to do if you encounter one.

Plan Ahead

  • Be prepared to deal with bear encounters.
  • Carry bear spray in an accessible place and know how to use it.
  • Both grizzly bears and black bears pose a threat. In an encounter, the bear’s behavior, rather than its species, should determine how you respond.
  • In any bear encounter, your behavior matters. Bears respond to your actions.

During an encounter with a bear

  • Never run away. You cannot outrun a bear. Running may trigger a bear to chase.
  • Never approach the bear
  • Different situations call for different responses.
    • If you see a bear at a distance, the bear appears unaware of you and you can move away undetected, do so quietly when the bear is not looking toward you.
    • If you cannot avoid a bear that sees you, stand your ground and watch its behavior. Move away when it disengages.

Various encounter types and what to do

If a bear is not actively engaged with you (looking away, ignoring you, running away or retreating)

  • Give the bear space by backing away slowly from the bear and going in the opposite direction of the bear.

If a bear shows agitated/defensive behavior (huffing, jaws clacking, head swaying back and forth, bellowing, swatting the ground, and excessively salivating at the mouth)

  • Stand your ground, prepare your bear spray, and speak in a calm manner, until the bear retreats.

If a bear charges or appears ready to charge:

  • Stand your ground.
  • If it charges, use your bear spray, when the bear comes within 30-60 feet.
  • If the bear is going to touch you, go face down on the ground, cover your neck and head as much as possible, and deploy your bear spray in the bear’s face. If you do not have bear spray, play dead if it is a grizzly bear, fight back if it is a black bear.

If a bear follows you, or slowly, purposefully or methodically approaches you:

  • Stand your ground.
  • Get aggressive: wave your arms and shout vigorously.
  • Get spray out and ready.
  • Fight back if it makes contact.

If a bear enters or reaches into your tent:

  • Use your bear spray.
  • Fight back.


Staying Safe in Bear Country


This is the primary video in the Safety in Bear Country video series, and is a major educational tool for anyone living, traveling, or working in black and grizzly bear country in North America. It includes the consensus opinion of leading experts on bear behavior and its relevance to human safety. Viewers will develop a better understanding of bear behavior and how this knowledge can help them to minimize the chance of bear encounters and bear attacks. The video stresses that a much greater degree of co-existence with bears is possible if people understand and apply a few safety principles.