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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Ask A Bear: How Fast Can You Run?

Our resident bruin expert answers all your questions in our weekly feature, 'Ask A Bear.'

by: BEAR


Q: How long can a grizzly run at full speed? How much of a head start would a person need to outlast a bear chasing them? —Tarahumara Man, via email

A: Sigh. It seems like there's always some human who wants to figure out a secret way to best me on foot. Can't you just be happy that you're (sometimes) smarter than me and have access to modern plumbing? It'll have to do, because there's pretty much no chance you'll ever be faster than me.

It's well-known that I can reach speeds of up to 35 mph; some scientists think I can even go faster than that. What's less known is that I also have incredible endurance: On multiple occasions, scientists in Yellowstone have clocked grizzlies running 25-28 mph over a distance of two miles, and according to observers, I wasn't even breaking a sweat. I was moving at a "rolling lope." Another report clocks me running at 30 mph over a quarter mile, and notes that these are speeds clocked on asphalt (I might gain even faster speeds on dirt where I can use my claws).

The fastest clocked human speed is in the neighborhood of 27 mph, and this slow human (Donovan Bailey) couldn't maintain it for much more than a few milliseconds of his sprint. Even the more consistent Usain Bolt tops out at a pokey 23 mph over 100 yards, lasting a paltry 9ish seconds.

So even Usain Bolt and Donovan Bailey (two of the fastest humans ever) can't compete with me. You'd need a head start of over two miles, at which point you couldn't even detect me (but I might detect you). If you're in my zone of awareness and decide to challenge me to a foot race, you can't win.

So stick with what you're good at: Forget your feet and use your head instead.

—BEAR

Got a question for the bear? Send it to askabear@backpacker.com.

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READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star
bilbo baggins
Nov 28, 2013

hi

Star Star Star
bilbo baggins
Nov 28, 2013

hi

GSU
Apr 12, 2011

I have seen this bear speed and power several times in +40 years of backpacking. The most recent Oct. 4, 2010 YNP Slough Ck a cinnamon Griz ran full speed from the creek to the tree line +1/4mi at ~35mph. Hit the tree line up a 30deg slope crashing through the underbrush another +1/4mi and over the ridge. I was standing there with my puny bear spray in awe at the speed and power of this bear. It passed 150ft in front of my trail so fast I had no time for a photo. I live with dogs and horses this bear could easily run down both. On this trip also saw a Wolverine in GTNP location a secret, rangerís request. Fall hiking after the first heavy snow is fantastic for wildlife and solitude.

GSU
Apr 12, 2011

I have seen this power and speed several times over +40 year backpacking. The most recent Slough Ck YNP Oct.4, 2010 A +1,000lb cinnimon Griz ran from the creek to the treeline +1/4mi as fast as a horse. Hit the treeline continued up the +30deg slope crashing through the underbrush and over the ridgeline another +1/4mi no change in speed. I was standing with my puney bear spray in awe at the speed and power of this bear. It passed my trail 100ft in front so fast I missed a photo shot.
I also saw a Wolverine in GTNP location a secret at rangers request. Fall backpacking is fantastic for wildlife and solitude.

Charlie
Apr 08, 2011

You only have to run faster than your friends.

cameron johnson
Apr 08, 2011

Dear bear,

Would you like to be punched in the face?

Cheesy petes, Backpacker. Enough with the bear scat. We get it. Bears = scary/awesome. Please, no more.

Jessica
Feb 11, 2011

Let's test it out, Anonymous Commenter! We'll put you two miles ahead of a bear and see how long it takes him to get to ya! ;-)

But seriously- if you actually READ the information cited (http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online_books/yell/vol14-1-2a.htm), you'll find it's 100% factual.

Anonymous
Feb 10, 2011

you should really find accurate facts before you make an ass out of yourselves when you say "On multiple occasions, scientists in Yellowstone have clocked grizzlies running 25-28 mph over a distance of two miles, and according to observers, I wasn't even breaking a sweat" ..... when in fact it has never been recorded anywhere, in any way that a bear can and has ran over two miles .... the speed I have no dispute with .... just the distance

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