Fall is a great time for hiking, and these walks in the woods are more fun when we bring our dogs to experience nature with us. But in some parts of the country, it’s the time of year when bears are out foraging for food, trying to fatten up before the long winter. Bears and dogs can be a volatile combination, and an encounter can quickly turn into a confrontation. Here are some tips to help you stay safe in these situations.
- If the bear has not seen you: Quietly and quickly leave the area, but never run—you’ll look like prey. A bear can run faster than 30 mph—it will easily outrun, outclimb, and outswim you.
- If the bear has seen you: Keep your dog close and calm if the bear stays 15 feet or more away, avoiding sudden movements. Respect the bear’s critical space, do not approach it, and try to turn and leave how you came. If you must continue, take a detour and give the bear plenty of space.
- If the bear’s behavior changes: You’re too close, so back away—give him all the room he wants. Speak: use a normal tone of voice and move your arms.
- If you have an encounter at close range: Stand upright and make yourself as large as possible. Don’t make direct eye contact—speak in a calm, assertive, and assuring tone as you attempt to slowly back up and get your dog and yourself out of danger.
- If the bear moves toward you: Wave your arms and make a lot of noise—most bears will back off quickly. Throw an object on the ground (your camera, for example), as the bear may investigate it long enough for you to escape. But never toss food towards a bear or attempt to feed it.
- Give the bear a way out: leave an escape route open for him.
- If the bear charges: If you know the bear has an escape route AND you are sure it’s a black bear, stand tall and look it directly in the eye: yell at the bear and tell it to leave—make sure your bear spray is at the ready. Never use this strategy with a grizzly bear; you will need to use your bear spray instead.
Learn more about what to do in a bear encounter with your dog.