It’s that time of year when more and more people are spending time outdoors walking and hiking on the trails or spending time at a park on a beautiful fall day. But we also share the outdoors with wildlife.
Pennsylvania’s bear population has been increasing for decades, and at the same time, many people have moved into the areas where bears reside according to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania web site.
A bears behavior is sometimes unpredictable and every bear encounter is different. Many of the encounters happen when a bear learns there is easy to obtain food where people live.
What to do if you spot a bear:
It is always important to know what to do if you should encounter one. First and foremost, always be aware of your surroundings. If you know you will be in the area where bears frequent, make certain you are noticeable. Keep your distance and do not surprise a bear. Most bears will avoid humans. They will also often leave if they hear you.
Basic guidelines to follow:
If you should encounter a bear, there are some basic guidelines to follow. The following information is taken from the National Parks Service web site – Staying Safe Around Bears.
Once a bear has noticed you and is paying attention to you, additional strategies can help prevent the situation from escalating.
- Identify yourself by talking calmly so the bear knows you are a human and not a prey animal. Remain still; stand your ground but slowly wave your arms. Help the bear recognize you as a human. It may come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better look or smell. A standing bear is usually curious, not threatening.
- Stay calm and remember that most bears do not want to attack you; they usually just want to be left alone. Bears may bluff their way out of an encounter by charging and then turning away at the last second. Bears may also react defensively by wooﬁng, yawning, salivating, growling, snapping their jaws, and laying their ears back. Continue to talk to the bear in low tones; this will help you stay calmer, and it won’t be threatening to the bear. A scream or sudden movement may trigger an attack. Never imitate bear sounds or make a high-pitched squeal.
- Pick up small children immediately.
- Hike and travel in groups. Groups of people are usually noisier and smellier than a single person. Therefore, bears often become aware of groups of people at greater distances, and because of their cumulative size, groups are also intimidating to bears.
- Make yourselves look as large as possible (for example, move to higher ground).
- Do NOT allow the bear access to your food. Getting your food will only encourage the bear and make the problem worse for others.
- Do NOT drop your pack as it can provide protection for your back and prevent a bear from accessing your food.
- If the bear is stationary, move away slowly and sideways; this allows you to keep an eye on the bear and avoid tripping. Moving sideways is also non-threatening to bears. Do NOT run, but if the bear follows, stop and hold your ground. Bears can run as fast as a racehorse both uphill and down. Like dogs, they will chase ﬂeeing animals. Do NOT climb a tree. Both grizzlies and black bears can climb trees.
- Leave the area or take a detour. If this is impossible, wait until the bear moves away. Always leave the bear an escape route.
- Be especially cautious if you see a female with cubs; never place yourself between a mother and her cub, and never attempt to approach them. The chances of an attack escalate greatly if she perceives you as a danger to her cubs.
For more information on Staying Safe Around Bears, please visit the National Parks Service web site.