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#181517 - 12/28/13 04:53 AM Yes, I know: Yet another question on bears.
MountainJoe Offline
newbie

Registered: 06/19/13
Posts: 10
Loc: Wasatch County, Utah
I have already asked a question on this forum on just about the same thing, but the details of my question have acquired bit more density. For Example:

Perhaps the most frequent of quotes is the fact that within the last some 100 years there have only been 80 or so deaths via bear attacks in the U.S. Impressive, comforting statistic, no? Well perhaps the incredibly small fraction of people in the U.S. who hike the the extent i enjoy fall under that same threshold of deaths. That is to say: i enjoy going off trail, using maps and compasses for guidelines, and exploring for miles. Other times i enjoy long backpacking trips and aspire to eventually save up enough money to quite my job and travel the natural beauty of the world, both off-trial and on. Sometimes by myself, sometimes not.

Most people who go on hikes will do a between a 1-hour hike to a week, maybe two week long hike. I feel the people at most jeopardy are those who explore the wild for much longer time periods and are by themselves.

Besides my family, there is nothing more important to me than being in nature and roaming freely in the great unknown. No greater sense of joy comes to me than when in that place. The great irony is that, for whatever reason, when by myself, in that place i find myself too petrified to even go 30 feet beyond my car for the given thought of an attack by some predator.
Whats worse is that for every article of reading i absorb about bear attacks there are several contradictions between them all. Few hardly differentiate the difference in behavior and proper reactions to black bears and grizzly bears. I even read one that said to climb a tree.

Sure the fear seems irrational. But does it seem so irrational if you're the kind of hiker who likes to backpack alone for days, often times off-trail? I feel like this makes the story a bit different.

Maybe im just looking for validation aid in nullifying my fears, or maybe just to hear logical input to further a more confident philosophy on the matter.

Any input is great, thanks.

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#181518 - 12/28/13 07:44 AM Re: Yes, I know: Yet another question on bears. [Re: MountainJoe]
bluefish Offline
member

Registered: 06/05/13
Posts: 677
I would first look up the statistics of how many bear related deaths there's been for thru hikers that complete the AT, PCT, and CDT. The cumulative miles without fatal incident are astronomical. Most of these hikers also do these hikes alone, as logistically its hard to plan such a long venture with others. As far as black bears go, I live in a town where they are seen on a regular basis and wandering in the woods off trail and alone is something I do without the least bit of fear. I've had them in my campsite sniffing around, seen them going about their business and observed them in the wild from the Sierra to Maritime Canada. Have you observed bears in the wild? Had an actual confrontation with a bear or other predator? Do you know someone who has been attacked?
It may be that there's something irrational in your fears that stems from something internalized, rather than an outside threat. Sometimes you do the prudent thing, as I chose on one trip in a narrow Wyoming canyon that had lots of Mountain Lion sign, I turned around. If you learn avoidance (when confronted with the actual presence of animals) and what to do with proper food handling, the risk is negated. To be paralyzed with fear shouldn't be acceptable. If it takes professional direction, I'd go there. Don't let it throw a cold bucket of water on your dreams.


Edited by bluefish (12/28/13 07:56 AM)
_________________________
Charlie

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#181519 - 12/28/13 11:01 AM Re: Yes, I know: Yet another question on bears. [Re: MountainJoe]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3865
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
The truth is the dangers of backpacking are way overblown. Movies and TV shows are obviously among the worst culprits of vastly exaggerating the dangers, which in truth are almost nonexistent for experienced backpackers.

I don't know enough to talk about Grizzly Bears, so my thoughts here are only about Black Bears.

I'll preface by letting you know that I backpack off trail a lot, much of it solo, and where black bears are known to be. I've overcome my fear of them and I'll explain how.

We know our fears are often irrational so that's the real issue you have to deal with. To allay our fears, even irrational ones, we have to be proactively rational. By that I mean we have to work at it.

In the case of black bears being proactive starts with preventing encounters first. The first thing you might want to do is call the Park Rangers where you'll be backpacking and ask if there have been any issues with bears there recently. If they tell you "No", than you know right up front that the bears in the area are well behaved and you'll not have any trouble.

Beyond that we all know being proactive in avoiding bears means taking care of your food and the scents they leave, there are lot's of sources of info on doing that, and making sure you give bears plenty of opportunities to know you're there. Using bear bells and making some noise vocally such as a shout out now and then works incredibly good at letting bears know you're around and giving them time to avoid you. From there you want to avoid sticking your nose into places where bears like to hide or bed down. Just doing these simple things will decrease your odds to almost no chance of even seeing bear.

So, now that you've already done a lot to avoid an encounter, you want to be comfortable with knowing that you've fully prepared yourself for an encounter and if a bear does come into your realm or you stumble into theirs you're ready and determined to deal with it.

Here's what I've learned about dealing with Black Bears. First off, carry some good backcountry bear spray with you. Keep it handy at all times. It works. Buck up and buy some to practice with so you know how it works (gain the experience) and then bring a fresh can with you on your trips.

In the case of black bears you don't want to get into a fight, so plan to back off if the bear is determined, but make sure the bear knows you'll fight if you have to. If it charges stand your ground, raise your arms, show your teeth, look as big and mean as you can and growl at the bear as loud and mean as you can. The bear will probably stop short and snort at you, then leave or go back to whatever it was interested in when it arrived. Most likely that'd be your food. That's when you want to make some noise to scare the bear off. Most likely the bear will leave but if the bear charges you again repeat the process of showing the bear you'll fight if it attacks. If the bear is hungry enough to stand its ground over your food let it have it. Keep backing off slowly until your a safe distance away.

If the bear does not stop and snort at you, which is a bears way saying "Get away or I'll kick your ass.", but keeps coming instead to kick your ass directly, spray it good right in the face. Try to get that spray right in the bear's nose and eyes, but especially that nose. Aim right for the nostrils and don't stop spraying until the bear stops charging. If the bear gets close enough to you be prepared to punch it in the nose as hard as you can. If you can grab a rock to smash its nose with do it. Keep trying to get the spray in the nose and eyes if you can. If the bear knocks you down fight like a banshee and kick, punch, and claw like mad and if it doesn't back off and has the upper hand in the contest play dead. Curl up, cover your head with your hands and arms and don't move. Let the bear win. Odds are it will go finish your food off and then leave.

Just knowing that you've done what you can for prevention and are ready to deal with an encounter will help allay your fears. From there it's your real life experience you want to lean on.

If irrational fears come to the forefront of your thoughts then you need to make a conscience effort to refocus your thoughts on all your experience and the reality that you've never seen, or seldom ever see a bear, never had a bad encounter with a bear, and have to no good reason to believe you will presently, and redetermine that you're going to enjoy yourself, not wallow in the fear.

While you're doing that distract yourself some more by making a cup of tea or something that you enjoy while relaxing and then focus on relaxing and enjoying it.

After a bit the fear will fade away and the reality of your experience stays in the forefront of your conscience and you feel comfortable with your situation.

I hope this helps some.

_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



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#181520 - 12/28/13 11:06 AM Re: Yes, I know: Yet another question on bears. [Re: MountainJoe]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
I'd say read Stephen Herrera's book on bear behavior. For a while you become a little paranoid, but, one of the things he differentiates is the difference between grizzly and black behavior - you never climb a tree with a black bear because they can climb very, very well. Grizzlies are generally too big and heavy and have claws that are not suited to the task.

In California, the only thing I worry about is injuring myself or becoming ill, hypothermic, or dehydrated. It is not reasonable to be afraid of black bears - respect them and keep your distance, and store your food properly. In the national parks, never leave your pack by itself - because your food is what the bears are really after. The times black bears here have injured people have generally been when they ignorantly leave food in their tent - RJ Secor notes in his book about the High Sierra that a hiker had to exit abruptly when a bear in Vidette Meadows (along the John Muir Trail) bit off his ear. Seems he used his food bag as a pillow instead of using one of the bear lockers to store it.

In Alaska, I would never go anywhere without other people - preferably well armed people - and bear spray. The black bears have been known to predate on people there. And the grizzlies have been known to as well.

In short - information is your friend. Bears have regional and species differences. I don't think you need to be so fearful if you take reasonable precautions based on information provided by the local jurisdiction - you won't need bear spray in Yosemite, but you will probably be encouraged to carry it in Wyoming, Montana or Alaska. Store your food as directed - in grizzly areas, cables are often installed for hanging food. Here in California the parks publish lists of bear canisters they approve.

_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#181523 - 12/28/13 01:20 PM Re: Yes, I know: Yet another question on bears. [Re: MountainJoe]
Rick_D Offline
member

Registered: 01/06/02
Posts: 2801
Loc: NorCal
Bears? Heck, mountain lions!

Pretty much covered already--huge distinction between griz country and black bear country, although black bear attacks do occur in Canada and Alaska they're vanishingly rare elsewhere.

In sunny California, mountain lion attacks and fatalities are infinitely greater than bear fatalities, as that last number is zero. Yes, they're a big nuisance in the national parks and populated woodland areas, especially in drought years like we're experiencing, but there's plenty of solid information on how to avoid the problem in the backcountry. In decades of hiking California, I've had one invade my camp--in Yosemite in the '80s. He didn't get anything but he didn't want to leave, either. Stupid bear.

Cheers,
_________________________
--Rick

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#181524 - 12/28/13 01:33 PM Re: Yes, I know: Yet another question on bears. [Re: MountainJoe]
aimless Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 2838
Loc: Portland, OR
... when by myself, in that place I find myself too petrified to even go 30 feet beyond my car for the given thought of an attack by some predator.

From what I can see, you already know this fear is irrational. In which case, no matter how many rational reasons we give you, they will not lay a finger on this fear. You will only overcome it by an act of will. This is never an easy choice.

Here is an experiment you can try. There is a chance it might help. You seem able to enter wild places much less fearfully if you are with someone else. Try getting out with someone, then having them leave you alone for progressively longer periods of time before returning. This is similar to what toddlers do in regard to their parents, venturing away, then coming back, each time acquiring some confidence to go a bit further the next time.

Good luck with your phobia. As you already know, the wilderness is worth the effort.

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#181525 - 12/28/13 01:44 PM Re: Yes, I know: Yet another question on bears. [Re: MountainJoe]
jimmyb Offline
member

Registered: 09/16/13
Posts: 276
All great information posted above.

First you must accept that EVERY activity involves risks of sorts. You must weigh sensibly if you are willing to accept these risks and live comfortably with your decisions. Most of the time we are processing these decisions with little distraction like simply choosing to get in an automobile and drive amongst distracted and drunk drivers. Not exactly what I consider a SAFE activity. When things like sharks, bears, wild cats enter into the picture the very thought of being eaten alive stirs up primal fears that are mostly irrational.

Second statistics, unless detailed, do not usually describe in detail the when, where and why's of the numbers.

Lastly statistics can many times be manipulated to say just about anything you want.

I would say the majority of healthy folks have some sort of fears. Not all the same and not to the same degree. It would seem this to be a superior form of survival tactic built in to the human psyche. If you judge your fears to be greater than the actual situation will support you will, as stated above, need to work on that issue first.

As for the fear of bears I would look first at why such events happen. Something rarely offered in general stats. Before entering into bear territory we always ask about recent events. Our last trip to Yellowstone we were informed of 3 recent events in the park that year. My first thought was wow seems like a lot. While chatting with the Ranger at the gate we discovered that all 3 incidents were traceable to poor human behavior. One was the third mauling for a very careless photographer. Another was a runner ignoring warnings of an off limits area containing a carcass from a recent Grizzly kill. My apologies I cant recall the third, but you get the idea. Having the additional information turned what seemed like "bears gone wild" into "well that makes sense". So armed with that information coupled with all our past experiences and knowledge we continued on and rarely gave it another thought. I would add that I am not at all surprised that bear encounters are happening despite the remarkable efforts of the Authorities in places like Glacier and Yellowstone to keep them from happening. If fact I am surprised there are not more. The majority of visitors IMO are just not taking the good advise of the Rangers in how to avoid bear contact. So many are your typical tourists, some thinking these wild preserves are versions of Disneyworld. I have seen shocking behavior that explains exactly why encounters take place cry

Sometimes the bottom line in accepting risk involves the degree of desire you have to experience a particular adventure. Be smart, be safe and enjoy the adventure.

jimmyb


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#181527 - 12/28/13 05:05 PM Re: Yes, I know: Yet another question on bears. [Re: MountainJoe]
Glenn Roberts Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/23/08
Posts: 1346
Loc: Southwest Ohio
Is the problem a fear of bears, or a fear of being alone? (You mentioned that "when alone" you are too petrified to head out onto the trail.)

Those are two distinct fears. If you're not afraid of bears when you're with others, what makes you afraid when you're alone? If you were headed somewhere bear-free, would you still be afraid to head out into the woods alone? If you'd still be afraid with no bears, try to figure out why.

But, you know what, I've hiked solo and found that it's not the end-all and be-all of backpacking. It makes for epic stories, and a whole series of Colin Fletcher books, and that's great. I'm not knocking solo hiking in the least. But over the years, I've come to prefer having at least one companion, and often a group, to hike with. It's come to be a bit more fun for me, for reasons I can't describe.

So, if it's the being alone that bothers you, you can work to overcome it. But, don't obsess about it. Just find a couple of people to hike with, and enjoy yourself. (That is why we're out here, isn't it?)

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#181528 - 12/28/13 09:26 PM Re: Yes, I know: Yet another question on bears. [Re: MountainJoe]
ETSU Pride Offline
member

Registered: 10/25/10
Posts: 931
Loc: Knoxville, TN
My statistic professor quoted another person saying, "There are three types of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistic." With that said, I once freaked out a friend hiking one day when he asked about the statistical occurrence of bear attacks in the Smoky. I told him the truth then I said but you also got to keep in mind that someone has to be the that rare occurrence. grin I know I'm a terrible person.

In all seriousness when I'm alone I tend to be a lot more alert. When I'm with someone my alert level is down, but I still take same precautions at camp regardless.
_________________________
It is one of the blessings of wilderness life that it shows us how few things we need in order to be perfectly happy.-- Horace Kephart

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#181589 - 12/31/13 06:37 AM Re: Yes, I know: Yet another question on bears. [Re: Glenn Roberts]
MountainJoe Offline
newbie

Registered: 06/19/13
Posts: 10
Loc: Wasatch County, Utah
Originally Posted By Glenn Roberts
Is the problem a fear of bears, or a fear of being alone? (You mentioned that "when alone" you are too petrified to head out onto the trail.)

Those are two distinct fears. If you're not afraid of bears when you're with others, what makes you afraid when you're alone? If you were headed somewhere bear-free, would you still be afraid to head out into the woods alone? If you'd still be afraid with no bears, try to figure out why.

But, you know what, I've hiked solo and found that it's not the end-all and be-all of backpacking. It makes for epic stories, and a whole series of Colin Fletcher books, and that's great. I'm not knocking solo hiking in the least. But over the years, I've come to prefer having at least one companion, and often a group, to hike with. It's come to be a bit more fun for me, for reasons I can't describe.

So, if it's the being alone that bothers you, you can work to overcome it. But, don't obsess about it. Just find a couple of people to hike with, and enjoy yourself. (That is why we're out here, isn't it?)


The fear of being alone is derived from the knowledge of predatory instinct. A predatory animal is much more likely to attack a one party group as apposed to 2+.

One term i keep seeing tossed around is 'bear territory.' How would one identify that? Or cougar territory for that matter, as, when i think about it, i would much rather come face to face with a bear than a cougar ANY day. I wonder, would bear spray be useful against cougars as well? I understand that the main reason bear spray works on bears is that, not only does it irritate the nasal passage and eyes of the bear like it would anything else, but that a bears main method of navigation is with its nose. Could we say the same for a cougar?

And, this is an addition to another thread i have posted as well as an extension to this, but would playing a musical instrument be just as useful a notice to vacate to bears as shouting, i wonder? I would assume so but who knows?

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#181591 - 12/31/13 08:52 AM Re: Yes, I know: Yet another question on bears. [Re: MountainJoe]
ETSU Pride Offline
member

Registered: 10/25/10
Posts: 931
Loc: Knoxville, TN
Originally Posted By MountainJoe
Originally Posted By Glenn Roberts
Is the problem a fear of bears, or a fear of being alone? (You mentioned that "when alone" you are too petrified to head out onto the trail.)

Those are two distinct fears. If you're not afraid of bears when you're with others, what makes you afraid when you're alone? If you were headed somewhere bear-free, would you still be afraid to head out into the woods alone? If you'd still be afraid with no bears, try to figure out why.

But, you know what, I've hiked solo and found that it's not the end-all and be-all of backpacking. It makes for epic stories, and a whole series of Colin Fletcher books, and that's great. I'm not knocking solo hiking in the least. But over the years, I've come to prefer having at least one companion, and often a group, to hike with. It's come to be a bit more fun for me, for reasons I can't describe.

So, if it's the being alone that bothers you, you can work to overcome it. But, don't obsess about it. Just find a couple of people to hike with, and enjoy yourself. (That is why we're out here, isn't it?)


The fear of being alone is derived from the knowledge of predatory instinct. A predatory animal is much more likely to attack a one party group as apposed to 2+.

One term i keep seeing tossed around is 'bear territory.' How would one identify that? Or cougar territory for that matter, as, when i think about it, i would much rather come face to face with a bear than a cougar ANY day. I wonder, would bear spray be useful against cougars as well? I understand that the main reason bear spray works on bears is that, not only does it irritate the nasal passage and eyes of the bear like it would anything else, but that a bears main method of navigation is with its nose. Could we say the same for a cougar?



I just assumed when you see bear crap, you're in their territory. smile
_________________________
It is one of the blessings of wilderness life that it shows us how few things we need in order to be perfectly happy.-- Horace Kephart

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#181594 - 12/31/13 09:24 AM Re: Yes, I know: Yet another question on bears. [Re: MountainJoe]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By MountainJoe


The fear of being alone is derived from the knowledge of predatory instinct. A predatory animal is much more likely to attack a one party group as apposed to 2+.

One term i keep seeing tossed around is 'bear territory.' How would one identify that? Or cougar territory for that matter, as, when i think about it, i would much rather come face to face with a bear than a cougar ANY day. I wonder, would bear spray be useful against cougars as well? I understand that the main reason bear spray works on bears is that, not only does it irritate the nasal passage and eyes of the bear like it would anything else, but that a bears main method of navigation is with its nose. Could we say the same for a cougar?

And, this is an addition to another thread i have posted as well as an extension to this, but would playing a musical instrument be just as useful a notice to vacate to bears as shouting, i wonder? I would assume so but who knows?


Any creature with mucous membranes will find the pepper spray to be a painful (irritant doesn't cover it) experience. Go ahead - try a little dab in the corner of the eye, see what happens, multiply it by "a bunch" if you use bear spray in quantity full in the face....

In areas where it's "blind" hiking, through tunnels of brush or thick trees, or in areas where the trail is but a tiny shelf on a cliff face, it can pay to sing and talk loudly. The goal is not startling a dangerous animal. A hiker I ran into in Sequoia NP once told me the story of hiking a section of trail blasted into granite on a vertical face, and coming upon a bear and a cub going the opposite direction. They stood looking at each other for a time, hiker not wanting to turn around and be followed by a bear, and bear not wanting to approach - no room to pass! The bear finally broke the standoff by climbing up a tiny crack and the cub followed her up to a tiny ledge about 20 feet overhead. The hikers passed and the bears crawled back down the crack and continued on their way. A startled bear is not so amenable... injuries related to bears in Yosemite have been solely due to foolish behavior such as keeping food inside a tent. The bear comes in to get the food and is surprised by screaming people, and defends itself before running.

Neither bears nor cougars navigate with their nose, I think, but they would hunt with them.

Using bear bells, btw, is dangerous - it will lead to yelling if you come across me on the trail. Possibly random swinging of a trekking pole. They do nothing but annoy other hikers.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#181602 - 12/31/13 11:57 AM Re: Yes, I know: Yet another question on bears. [Re: lori]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3865
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Quote:
Using bear bells, btw, is dangerous - it will lead to yelling if you come across me on the trail. Possibly random swinging of a trekking pole. They do nothing but annoy other hikers.


laugh

I used to carry a stainless cup with a couple biners attached on the outside of my pack so they'd clank a bit while I was moving. I quit because the cup was heavier than I needed and it didn't really make much noise anyway. Now I just make a little shout out every now and then.

I don't think I could stand the clanking of big bell either though. That's defeating the purpose of "Peace & Solitude".
_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



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#181605 - 12/31/13 12:58 PM Re: Yes, I know: Yet another question on bears. [Re: lori]
jimmyb Offline
member

Registered: 09/16/13
Posts: 276
Quote:
Using bear bells, btw, is dangerous - it will lead to yelling if you come across me on the trail. Possibly random swinging of a trekking pole. They do nothing but annoy other hikers.


I would agree, they really don't project enough noise to be effective but I have a small set of bells that are hardly audible I tie on only in Grizzly country which helps remind me to make noise along the trail. When we are hot and tired after a long hike the last thing I really care to do is expend precious energy calling out. We have gotten a few looks from folks the Rangers call "bear bait" when we are making noise but it doesn't bother me much in that its not my life that will be compromised by traveling down the trail quite as a mouse. It may be just me but hiking with big brown bears amps up the intensity a bit and I feel the extra precaution of making some noise is worthwhile.

Also I would rather a swat from a hiking stick than from the business end of a Grizzly bear paw. smile smile wink

jimmyb


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#181608 - 12/31/13 01:57 PM Re: Yes, I know: Yet another question on bears. [Re: MountainJoe]
aimless Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 2838
Loc: Portland, OR
A predatory animal is much more likely to attack a one party group as apposed to 2+.

This is entirely true. But since you bring up predatory instinct, my observation is that self-preservation is a far more primary instinct and this works brilliantly in your favor.

First, predators prey on other animals in order to eat. It is how they make a living. They generally don't do it just for fun or out of some primal need to attack things constantly. It puts food in their belly. This makes them very pragmatic about how they do their job. Easy prey is what they want. The easier, the better. And once they have a full belly, they're happy just to sleep or play with the kids.

Second, predators don't have hospitals or veterinarians to patch them up if they get hurt. They just lick their wounds and hope for the best. This makes them inherently cautious about picking a fight for no reason at all. Lose an eye in a fight and you have put your whole survival at jeopardy. Why chance it for no good reason?

Third, you are a large predator in the eyes of most other predators. It takes one to know one, as they say. This disqualifies you as a normal food source. To the best of my knowledge, the only two predators who have a known history of eating people when given a clear chance at them are Asian tigers and arctic polar bears. We only appear on the menu for most other predators when they are truly desperate enough to try anything.

Lastly, being a large predator makes you dangerous to tangle with at any time. That's really why they are twice as loathe to attack a group of two compared to an individual. It is because we are dangerous to attack. You fear being wounded or killed in a fight with a big predator? That's sensible. But the animals share that exact same fear. This fortunate fact makes you both want to avoid one another. You are doubly in luck, because the keen senses all predators possess in order to find their prey also allows them to be extraordinarily good at finding you and avoiding you!

The situations where all these facts in your favor are overridden and a large predatory animal will choose to attack you are extremely rare, can be learned, and can mostly be avoided by the application of that knowledge and a bit of foresight. For example, if you see a fresh cougar kill, leave it at once, don't hang around to gawk and take photos. Following a handful of obvious rules like this one should go a long way toward keeping you safe from a bad encounter.

But what you are experiencing is fear based on your imagining being attacked. It isn't based on a memory of being attacked. And once this imagined scenario becomes deeply lodged in your brain, it is hard to dislodge. But it is a fantasy, not a memory.

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#181610 - 12/31/13 02:26 PM Re: Yes, I know: Yet another question on bears. [Re: aimless]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
there was an encounter with a lion in northern california where a guy camping without a tent awakened to a lion standing over him with a paw on his head. the result of course being that he panicked - and then the lion took defensive action.

the real enemy of the wilderness enthusiast is always panic. it drives you to make stupid choices and that results in being lost or hurt. it leads to kneejerk reactions rather than rational ones....

the antidote is having a plan and basing the plan on good information.
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#181613 - 12/31/13 03:13 PM Re: Yes, I know: Yet another question on bears. [Re: aimless]
jimmyb Offline
member

Registered: 09/16/13
Posts: 276
Quote:
First, predators prey on other animals in order to eat. It is how they make a living. They generally don't do it just for fun or out of some primal need to attack things constantly. It puts food in their belly. This makes them very pragmatic about how they do their job. Easy prey is what they want. The easier, the better. And once they have a full belly, they're happy just to sleep or play with the kids.

Second, predators don't have hospitals or veterinarians to patch them up if they get hurt. They just lick their wounds and hope for the best. This makes them inherently cautious about picking a fight for no reason at all. Lose an eye in a fight and you have put your whole survival at jeopardy. Why chance it for no good reason?

Third, you are a large predator in the eyes of most other predators. It takes one to know one, as they say. This disqualifies you as a normal food source. To the best of my knowledge, the only two predators who have a known history of eating people when given a clear chance at them are Asian tigers and arctic polar bears. We only appear on the menu for most other predators when they are truly desperate enough to try anything.

Lastly, being a large predator makes you dangerous to tangle with at any time. That's really why they are twice as loathe to attack a group of two compared to an individual. It is because we are dangerous to attack. You fear being wounded or killed in a fight with a big predator? That's sensible. But the animals share that exact same fear. This fortunate fact makes you both want to avoid one another. You are doubly in luck, because the keen senses all predators possess in order to find their prey also allows them to be extraordinarily good at finding you and avoiding you!



goodjob Very well said and very true. Great post.

jimmyb

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#181617 - 12/31/13 05:27 PM Re: Yes, I know: Yet another question on bears. [Re: MountainJoe]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2742
Loc: California
I do not think fear of wild animals is irrational. But it is how you react to and use that fear that makes you paranoid or not. I think that backpackers who have no fear of wild animals either do not backpack much or have not had many encounters. Wild animals are unpredictable at times. Human habituated bears who no longer fear humans can be dangerous. Habituated bears live in wilderness areas where there is a lot of human use. In this case, you have to convince them to fear you. The information given by others is all good information. I personally feel that learning about animal behavior is very useful. Learning what makes them tick helps you to make better decisions about your own behavior when you run into a bear. I am not sure what I do personally makes much difference! But, if I run into bear sign when I am solo, I start a fake conversation with myself, two different voices, pound my trekking poles so that I sound like two people or at least some weird legged animal, and talk directly to the bear too! Hay, bear, you are on MY trail, get OFF!

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#181643 - 01/01/14 07:10 PM Re: Yes, I know: Yet another question on bears. [Re: MountainJoe]
BrianLe Offline
member

Registered: 02/26/07
Posts: 1144
Loc: Washington State, King County
Since you're "just looking for validation aid in nullifying fears", I'm going to take the liberty of replying without reading the many responses you've already had. Perhaps pointless this far in, but just in case ...

I've spent many months of continuous backpacking in a number of different states, and beyond just "what I think I know" is the sort of tribal knowledge of long distance hikers in general. That's a culture I know pretty well. I think it's near universal that folks find that the longer they spend on trail, the less they worry about bears.

Doesn't mean people are foolish enough to think that there's no risk, but that if you learn the basics of bear behavior (which btw varies by locale and species), the odds really are in your favor relative to other risks. After enough such time in the woods my sense of "what is dangerous" now better matches what actually is dangerous (driving or walking along roads, substantial water crossings, other people in limited contexts, and/or doing something dumb that leads to hypthermia or injury).

The other thing I'd say about bear-related deaths is that not only are the numbers pretty low, but they're even lower if you go in and pull out the kinds of situations that don't apply to a normal (and prudent, informed) backpacker; for example, situations involving bear hunters. The stats for backpackers are really quite good; much better chance of an early death due to inactivity from staying indoors to be safe from bears! :-)
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#181648 - 01/01/14 11:50 PM Re: Yes, I know: Yet another question on bears. [Re: aimless]
MountainJoe Offline
newbie

Registered: 06/19/13
Posts: 10
Loc: Wasatch County, Utah
Originally Posted By aimless
A predatory animal is much more likely to attack a one party group as apposed to 2+.

First, predators prey on other animals in order to eat. It is how they make a living. They generally don't do it just for fun or out of some primal need to attack things constantly. It puts food in their belly. This makes them very pragmatic about how they do their job. Easy prey is what they want. The easier, the better. And once they have a full belly, they're happy just to sleep or play with the kids.



I do not disagree with this aspect in the least, but there are situations, in all mammal instinct, humans, bears, etc., specifically within males, where a young male wishes to establish dominance and test his own abilities, per say.

This is why i feel like it is a very good idea to understand the difference in aggressive bear behavior and defensive bear behavior, and THEN how to react when confronted with such behavior. So this is where the lines become blurry. Knowledge is your friend, right? so...
For example:
It is clear that when an aggressive bear is charging/stalking you, you want to LET IT KNOW that you are not a fight worth fighting. Scream, throw rocks (not at but toward it), go completely crazy.
But When a defensive bear charges you, do you want to yell at it until it stops charging and then assume the "talk calmly and back away" phase? What i am saying is that the 'order of operations' seems a bit indistinct wherever i research the fact. I understand that each scenario is different, so i guess i am just trying to fully assimilate the consciousness and nature of bears.

These are just two examples.

As i said, the internet does not seem to distinguish all that well between what maneuvers are appropriate given the appropriate circumstance.

BTW: You all have been a very informal and great help, i appreciate it.


Edited by MountainJoe (01/01/14 11:52 PM)

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#181666 - 01/02/14 03:34 PM Re: Yes, I know: Yet another question on bears. [Re: MountainJoe]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3865
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Quote:
But When a defensive bear charges you, do you want to yell at it until it stops charging and then assume the "talk calmly and back away" phase?


I'm sure every encounter is different, but as a general rule a bear becomes defensive when it feels threatened. In these instances you want to give the bear a way out. From what I understand this is when a bear is likely to charge and stop, so you'd want to back off slow and calm after the bear stops charging.

From the most recent and comprehensive study I've read a black bear that is stalking you will ambush you, it does not charge and stop, it charges and gets you. It is almost always going to be a male bear, and it's not stalking you for food, it's doing because it's a mean assed bear. In those cases it's best to play dead.

That said, this is incredibly rare and almost never, ever, happens in the continental U.S.

It's worth noting that black bears have had about 300 years of being shot and injured or more likely killed with guns here in the U.S. The ones left understand the odds of being killed when a person is within sight. In Yosemite those odds are pretty low and the bears know it. In the Ozarks those odds are pretty high and the bears here know it for darn sure. Bears here are afraid of being seen by people and will generally do whatever they can to avoid you, so the best thing to do is give them every chance you can to do just that.

It's also important to understand that most of us here have no more real experience with bears than you do. Wondering Daisy has probably had more close encounters with bears than most the rest of us put together.

I've only had two. One was in the Sequoia NF and the other in the Leatherwood Wilderness in Arkansas. The bear in Sequoia was moving to lower ground at the end of summer and it saw me and didn't pay any attention to me, it kept on going where it was headed. The bear in Arkansas was hiding from me and I stuck my nose into its hiding place, which was a big crack in the side of a limestone bluff. I was on my hands and knees when I poked my head into the crack and the bear and I were face to face about 8 feet apart. When I realized the bear was there and staring at me I calmly backed out, quietly alerted the two others that were with me. We all grabbed our packs and quietly walked away. The bear never moved or made a sound.

I'll point out that I should have known the bear was in there. It was passing gas that was pretty hard not to get a whiff of and much fouler than any human might produce. I got several whiffs of it, and so did one of the others with me. We were too ignorant to know what it was. I won't make that mistake again, I assure you blush
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#181667 - 01/02/14 03:36 PM Re: Yes, I know: Yet another question on bears. [Re: MountainJoe]
finallyME Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
First off, most of the mountain ranges west of Salt Lake City, (and still in Utah) are bear free (or bearless, or bare of bears). Try hiking in these for a couple of times. The Stansbury Range is gorgeous. There is also some nice spots in the Oqquirs. Of course, there are mountain lions in both.
In all my hiking in Utah, I still haven't seen a bear. frown I have seen a lot in New Mexico, and a few in Cali.....but nothing in Utah. There are blackbears here....but not a lot.

My advice is to take another person, or take a dog. You would be amazed at what a dog adds to you psychologically when hiking alone.
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I've taken a vow of poverty. To annoy me, send money.

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#181669 - 01/02/14 04:12 PM Re: Yes, I know: Yet another question on bears. [Re: finallyME]
aimless Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 2838
Loc: Portland, OR
take a dog

This takes much more commitment, lead time and preparation than just going with another person, but on the whole it is great advice and it would pay long term dividends once the dog is well-trained.

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#188660 - 01/19/15 03:17 AM Re: Yes, I know: Yet another question on bears. [Re: MountainJoe]
Minx Offline
member

Registered: 11/22/14
Posts: 23
Did you ever get over the bear fear?
An interesting note for this old thread is that, statistically, you are actually safer from bears way out in the wilderness than on frequently crowded trails or in busy campgrounds. In these the bars have become familiar with people and know we always have easy food. Bad for us. "Send more tourists, the last ones were delicious." Bars way out in nowhere have that mutual fear of us spoken of earlier and still think we are probably too much of a fight to be worth it. We are not familiar to them. Of course, every once in a while curiosity might mess this statistic up, but generally.
Be safe, make a little noise, hang food, wash stuff and cook a ways away from camp, etc. All the regular precautions.

When I'm in bar-country, which we have a lot of here in Arizona, I generally pee a perimeter around my camp (a little ways off) and I always find myself laying awkward dead branches and stuff around my tent, between trees and such, especially when I feel exposed. My theory is that I will hear a Sasquatch (or bear) breaking thru the dry brush and wake up before it is upon me. Natural perimeter alarm. Don't really know if any of this works, I've just been doing it since I was a kid (a younger kid), and, well, I've never been eaten.

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