Published on Sep 18, 2011
Look around. Humans own this planet. We are an Apex Predator. As far as the big cats, grizzlies, and sharks go, our highly developed brain has put us on top of even these fearsom predators. North America used to be a scarry place to hike around. Large Black Bears, packs of timber wolves, and mountain lions could all hunt you down in the woods and make a meal out of you...unless you had a gun...which most people did.
Now, the East Coast is relatively a safe place. Wolves and lions have been hunted to extinction and Black Bears rarely survive long enough to grow big enough to go after humans.
So, no, I am not afraid of bears or any other creature that looms. Thanks to our pioneering ancestors, I don't even have to carry a gun to feel safe. I hike quiet and relatively fast through the woods. I don't run. In the animal kingdom anything running is actually "fleeing," thus exhibiting behavior of prey. I'm also a 200 pound animal. There aren't many of those out there.
The result? When animals see me, they run away. Period. All 30-40 bears I've seen have took off running in the other direction. This has proven true even in areas considered to have highly habituated populations.
Myth: Mamma bear will defend her cubs.
Fact: Mamma bear will defend her cubs if she feels like she won't get hurt in the process.
One cub in a tree...uh oh, where's momma...two cubs...where is she...three...oh, there she is in the other tree. Wait, what is she doing? Climbing down? Shit...find rock...oh, nevermind, she's running away. If I didn't have a Mountain House Lasagna w/ Meat Sauce meal in my pack, I'd be having a cub sandwhich for dinner. (Absolutely 100% true story of an encounter in the Shennandoah Mountains)
I've heard about hikers being bluff-charged by Black Bears. I've heard of bears swiping at campers. I've never had these experiences. I also don't act like most campers and hikers. Here's a list of bad ideas and behaviors I don't recommend:
- Running away
- Acting like a wimp
- Letting a bear eat your food
- Letting a bear dominate your territory (anywhere you happen to want to be at the time)
My honest-to-god plan for a bear attack is this:
- Beat the bear to death with my fists or any weapon I can find.
The way I see it, this plan could end in 3 ways:
- Bear Kills Me
- I get mauled, bear runs away
- I kill bear, become legend
Here's the thing though. If you're ready to beat a bear to death, you're not going to be exhibiting prey-like behaviors. In fact, the opposite. The bear will most likely run away.
The alternative, of being a pussy and running away, could only end in 2 ways:
- Bear Kills Me
- I get mauled
My plan statistically has better odds of survival and has the added advantage of in all likelyhood avoiding an attack alltogether.
Black Bears eat anything, therefore, if it thinks it can eat you, it will eat you. Males can eat their cubs. Some eat deer if they can catch them. They seriously eat anything and everything. The only chance you have of not being attacked is not looking like food. What better way to not look like food than to look like the Apex Predator that you are?
Endnote: A bear can kill you, it just doesn't know it. Taking on this mentality doesn't mean you can mess with bears like an idiot. If you actually end up in a fight with an adult bear, it will most likely result in your death. The second most likely scenario is that you beat it hard enough that it decides you aren't worth it. You probably won't kill it. The important takeaway is that your only chance for survival is to fight it off and preparing for that scenario mentally will make you appear to be less of a target.