Close Call of The Week: Brown Bear Bluff Charges in Alaska

On a guided walk, this group got a very-up-close glimpse of a brown bear as it raced toward them. Here's what to do if this happens to you.

Photo: Donna Feledichuk via Getty Images

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Being attacked by a bear is many hikers’ greatest fear, but the chances of it happening are actually quite small. Like, 1 in 2.1 million small. Seeing an ursine in the wild might conjure gory images of Cocaine Bear or Grizzly Man. But before we get into this week’s video, remember: You’re more likely to be killed by a bee sting than by a bear.

With that said, it might be hard to focus on the numbers when a grizzly bluff charges you. The participants on a guided walk with the Alaska-based company Scenic Bear Viewing got to experience that firsthand.

This is not the first bluff charge Scenic Bear Viewing has encountered in its nine years of bear guiding. There are ways to prevent a bluff charge from turning into something worse, and the company says it trains the guides for this exact scenario.

“In this area, the bears have been visited by humans for over 30 years,” the organization said in the Instagram caption for this video. “It’s a part of their daily lives in the summer to see us every day of their 20-25 year life. These bears are not fed or hunted by humans. No harm is being done to these bears and we want to keep it that way. We take photos of the bears and leave no trace. We want the bears to stay protected. There has never been an attack in this area in the 30 years people have visited. We follow a strict set of rules while guiding and bring protection.”

What is a bluff charge?

When a bear bluff charges, it’s not in full-fledged attack mode. The National Park Service says a bluff charge is an attempt to intimidate or scare someone or something. You can tell when a bear is bluff charging because its eyes and ears will be up and forward, and after pounding toward you in big leaps, the bear will stop short or quickly turn off to the side.

What should you do if a bear bluff-charges you?

Try to stay calm. High-pitched squeals or screams might trigger an attack, and so might running away with your back turned to the bear. Hold your ground, speaking to the bear in a calm but firm tone and waving your hands above your head. In a bluff charge, bears are trying to get you to run and activate their natural chase instinct, so don’t play along.

From 2023