Bears live in the woods. Humans who encounter bears can surprise them, which is a bad thing. Bears will attack if startled, or if a maternal instinct to protect the young is triggered. You can avoid interactions with bears:

  • Always use a noisemaker (bell, whistle, your voice) when hiking -- use it nearly constantly when moving quickly (running or cycling)
  • Never leave food out at your camp site, hang food far from camp, and high up with a rope
  • Carry pepper spray (the special bear sized cannister, not the people kind)
If you do encounter a bear, you should be extremely cautious. If you encounter a rare predatory black bear (one of the more common kinds of bear in eastern North America).
  • Make lots of noise. Back away slowly. Do not run or climb a tree. Bears are excellent runners and climbers.
  • If the bear approaches you, throw a rock, try to look as tall as you can (e.g. hold a canoe paddle over your head), make noise, and try to scare the bear. Black bears are risk averse, and may decide you are too much trouble
  • Leave your backpack on. In a bear attack situation it can save you from injury.

Grizzly bears are more aggressive and less predictable. You have no chance of scaring away an attacking grizzly bear, and no chance of outrunning it. Lie down and play dead.