Surviving a Bear Attack

Authorities sent warnings out this summer of an increase in bear attacks which included the states of Alaska, Michigan, Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho. What becomes immediately apparent in the excerpts provided below is that no two situations are the same, nor is the outcome, as CBS reports (also provided on video) when in Estes Park, Colorado on July 24, 2013, a huge black bear was caught on tape sauntering through the bar. No joke! Some of the patrons are convinced he wasn’t happy with what he found dumpster diving…

WFMY NEWS reports on September 10, 2013 (along with video footage) the people in the busy town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee watched in shock and awe as a black bear darted amongst them on the bustling sidewalk before he decided to use the crosswalk with dozens of other pedestrians.

The above accounts are just a few encounters that had good outcomes for everyone. But bear encounters are on the increase, and as reported below, some led to fatalities.

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Reported by KTVA Chanel 11 on June 8, 2013, Robert Wheeler, a 64-year old Fairbanks man, was killed by a black bear at George Lake near Delta Junction, Alaska while he and his wife, Roberta Wheeler, were hiking in to their remote cabin. Here is an excerpt of that fatal encounter:

Weaver was killed last Thursday evening as he and his wife, Roberta, were walking to their cabin on George Lake, a remote site about 35 miles southeast of Delta Junction.

“What we do know is they were boating back to their cabin, they saw the bear from the boat when they came to dock, yelled at it and it disappeared into the bushes,” Ipsen said. “They docked and were walking to the cabin when it came out of the bushes and attacked.”

Roberta Weaver ran to the cabin and called 911 on a cell phone.

When troopers arrived at the cabin to investigate Weaver’s death, they were alarmed by a cinnamon-colored black bear that snuck up on them, which was subsequently shot. DNA tests from the bears saliva found on the victim’s body later proved it was the bear responsible for the fatal attack.

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On April 29, 2013, the  Anchorage Daily News reported that troopers killed a brown bear that attacked a 48-year old Kenai, Alaska man who was bird watching on a beach north of the Kasilof River with his wife and three young children. The attack, troopers stated, was unprovoked. The following is an excerpt of what occurred:

Burke, who works at the Kenai National Refuge, gathered his family behind him as the bear charged, Selinger said. Burke used the bird-watching equipment he was carrying to fend her off.

“He was able to jam the spotting scope into the bears mouth while keeping his family behind him,” Selinger said.

The bear ripped the scope off the tripod and swiped at Burke’s forearm and ribcage, leaving him bruised but otherwise uninjured. No one else was hurt in the attack, troopers said.

Eventually, the bear broke off and moved away, but no before charging a few more times, Selinger said.

Burke got his family into their van and called 911.

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In some cases, bear attacks are brought on by man as reported by Fox News on June 8, 2013.

An apparently inebriated Alaska man was mauled near Eklutna Lake campground by a black bear when he fed it meat from a church barbeque. The man was lucky to get away with only puncture wounds and scratches, but he may be facing charges for illegally feeding wildlife. Here’s a excerpt of the story:

“Alaska State Troopers Spokeswoman Beth Ipsen says the man had been drinking and went for a bike ride, taking some of the food along. He came across the bear and threw it a piece of meat. When he offered the bear another piece, it attacked.”

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On September 10, 2013, the Anchorage Daily News, written bt Zaz Hollander,  reported that Jason Matson, a Rhode Island man was on a hunting trip in remote Brooks Range near McGrath, Alaska when he was mauled by a grizzly he had wounded and was tracking with a guide. McGrath is an area known for a large concentration of bears and in a state program to relocate bears a few years ago, 80 were were relocated from a small area near the community.

Here is an excerpt from the story the guide told the trooper who investigated:

The assistant, Matson, and another hunter saw the bear munching berries about a mile away and moved in a direction to cut it off. Matson shot the bear with a Winchester Magnum and the bear rolled into the bushes, where the party could hear it growling and thrashing. After just a minute, the bear popped out of the brush and ran away. As the party tracked it at a distance, they saw the grizzly cross a brook into more brush.

They waited about 90 minutes before going into the bushes after the bear, the guide told the trooper.

Suddenly, the assistant heard Matson screaming and the sound of the bear growling and thrashing in the brush, he told Waychoff. He was about 30 feet away. Matson got off one shot before the assistant yelled at the other hunter, “Shoot your gun!” in hopes of distracting the bear, he said. Both the assistant and the other hunter fired shots and the bear ran off.

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“Local Juneau woman tells of bear encounter” was the headline of an August 16, 2013 Juneau Empire report, written by Emily Russo Miller. The incident occurred while 36-year old Desiree Goble was walking home from her boyfriend’s house. The following is an excerpt:

“I saw four legs in the dark and thought it may be a dog, but then I realized it was a bear,” she said. “And it was huffing, and I could just hear his nails hitting the ground as it ran toward me. It took maybe a second before he was right on me.”

Goble said the bear swiped her in the leg with its paw as she was lunging off of the rock to run away.

“You’re not supposed to run, but my instinct — I ran,” she said, “and I screamed the entire time.”

She leapt into the bed of a nearby pickup truck for safety, but the bear kept pursuing her and clamoring around the vehicles. Luckily, a neighbor heard the commotion and helped divert the bear’s attention away. Goble said the bear charged the neighbor several times, but he was able to retreat into his house without being hurt. Another neighbor, whom Goble knew and was hollering for, scared the bear away by revving a truck’s engine and honking the horn, she said.

Meanwhile, Goble had made it safely into her friend’s house.

Ryan Scott, an official with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game described the black bear’s behavior as “atypical” in that black bears normally run away or “disperse” after bumping into people.

“That’s an oddity, but when she ran — and that’s just human nature — I suspect the bear pursued her because of that,” he said.

After interviewing people in the neighborhood, it was discovered that the bear had been rummaging through trash, and had become food-conditioned and habituated to humans.

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If you are outdoors in an area that has bears one of the best deterrents from attack is to make noise. Most bears will retreat from the sound of humans . This, however, changes should you come upon a bear with a kill who will naturally defend its food. Stay aware of your surroundings, and should you come upon a kill, get away from the area, but do not run. Running can trigger an attack. Another exception to a bear’s natural instinct to stay clear of humans is if you stumble upon a sow and cub. Faced with such a situation, back up slowly and remove yourself from the area.

The smell of food will attract a hungry bear. NEVER leave food near a campsite or on the trail.

The best defense in a bear attack is a gun.

When using pepper spray, aim at the bears face inside the range of 25 feet.

Should you encounter a bear, never make eye contact because this would be viewed a s a challenge by the bear.

If you encounter a brown bear, back up slowly. Do not run. If the bear advances and you do not have a weapon or pepper spray, drop to the ground and play dead while protecting your head and stomach with your hands and arms. Stay in this position for 10 to 20 minutes after the bear leaves before getting up.

If you encounter a black bear, different rules apply. If you are approached by a black bear, make yourself look as big as possible. Wave your arms and shout. If the bear charges, the best defense for  a black bear is to fight back, just as you would a large dog. Aim for sensitive areas like the and nose, using whatever is nearby that will inflict the most pain such as a large rock or a stick and stand your ground.

About David Morris

David Morris is the creator of the Survive In Place Urban Survival Course, the Fastest Way To Prepare Course, Urban Survival Playing Cards, Tactical Firearms Training Secrets, and other books, courses, and articles on preparedness, survival, firearms, and other tactical topics. He lives with his wife, 2 boys, and 2 dogs.

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