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The DAILY DIRT - The nitty and the gritty of outdoor news

Ask A Bear: Never Look A Bear In the Eyes?

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

Q: I heard that you are never supposed to look a bear in the eyes. Is that true?—Jim, Phoenix, Ariz., via email

A: Are you lookin' at me? I said, 'are you lookin' at me?! Do I look like a just a big, fluffy stuffed animal to you?!

I'm willing to let you off the hook this time, Jim, but it's true: Staring me in the eyes is decidedly not a good idea. I could perceive this as a direct challenge or an aggressive signal from you trying to communicate your dominance, which could lead to an escalation of our encounter—like a charge or even an attack.

While both black and brown bears are on record exhibiting adverse reactions to direct eye contact, this is especially dangerous if you find yourself in close quarters with a grizzly. Should that grizz be protecting a kill or cubs, you could be in especially big trouble; I'm unlikely to back down until I feel the threat against my food source or youngsters is over.

Loud, aggressive noises can be perceived the same way for grizzlies, but you should yell and shout at a black bear to scare it off. But if you make plenty of non-threatening human noises ahead of time, you probably won't surprise me in the first place, and we can avoid a nasty staring contest. Trust me: I almost always win those.

—BEAR

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

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S
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The last comment "Trust me: I almost always win those." Is not true at all, I feel quite comfortable with my .454 Causal Pistol which thankfully I can now carry in national parks. Bear Spray is the warning after that the pistol gets some play time.

Anonymous
Jul 26, 2011

The last comment "Trust me: I almost always win those." Is not true at all, I feel quite comfortable with my .454 Causal Pistol which thankfully I can now carry in national parks. Bear Spray is the warning after that the pistol gets some play time.

ryan
Jun 13, 2011

if you look into bears eyes in 2 seconds you will find yourself dead on the ground.looking into a bears eyes are courses to the bear.

ryan
Jun 13, 2011

dropkick
Sep 19, 2010

It might take the carcass and leave with it.

I've had encounters with lots of black bears over the years (but with only one brown bear),and I've lost a cooler, a camp trailer door, a wooden shed door, etc. to them. I've even had friends attacked by them, (one while he was using a chainsaw!) but I've only been really worried one time.

I was spin fishing (Salmon Fly hatch - Madison River, MT.) I looked across the river and saw two cubs playing in a meadow across the river. I thought "Neat!"

I planned to continue fishing and just move up river a little faster. Then I heard a rustle in the bushes behind me. I looked back, and saw the sow. It was in the huckleberry bushes above me.
Luckily she hadn't seen me, as I was directly between her and her cubs.

I quietly stepped down into the river, sat down and let the current help me move down river as quietly and quickly as possible.

-My story doesn't really have anything to do with looking a bear in the eyes - but I like to tell it. So any excuse...

Aaron
Sep 17, 2010

I had a black bear come about 20 ft from my camp and watch me cook. I'm a pretty big guy with 2 80lb dogs and my yelling and stomping and dogs growling (thankfully they are well-trained and did not move) just caused him to find a better vantage point. Sadly, the only way I could get him to leave was chucking a few rocks at him, which I felt bad about because I was essentially invading his territory. After I went to sleep, he spent about 2 hours trying to get my food out of a tree and tore up the bark and 550 cord pretty good. Moral is, don't cook tuna fish and mac right before hibernating season in the Shenandoah. And always find a good non-climbable tree to hang your food in.

BTW, love the Ask a Bear series!

Bradly Brackenbury
Sep 17, 2010

That is why I always carry Pepper Spray on me every time I go Backpacking. It is a last resort if nothing else works and it helped me with wolves and Bears.

Bradly Brackenbury
Sep 17, 2010

That is why I always carry Pepper Spray on me every time I go Backpacking. It is a last resort if nothing else works and it helped me with wolves and Bears.

Bill Stansbury
Sep 16, 2010

I had an encounter with a grizzly while hiking above the south fork of the Shoshone river in Wyoming. The Bear startled me as I was walking down the trail. He was about 30 yards behind me and to the side. I heard branches breaking in the forest, turned and faced him. I DID NOT LOOK HIM IN THE EYES. I kept my eyes to the side and slowly backed down the trail. He stood up and watched, but did not advance. Not looking him in the face and not running saved me in this instance.

Jerry W Doyle
Sep 16, 2010

Even if a hiker/backpacker makes sufficient noise to alert a bear in advance of the hiker/backpacker proximity, what good does it do if the bear is protecting a carcass? I can't see a bear leaving its kill because of the oncoming hiker.

Jerr
Sep 16, 2010

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