The Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) can be found in Alaska, western Canada and northwestern USA from Washington to Wyoming. Eight feet tall on their hind legs and weighing up to 1,500 pounds, the Grizzly is a formidable animal to meet in the forest. So what do you do if you happen to come face to face with these majestic beasts?
Unlike smaller black bears, an adult Grizzly is too large to climb a tree successfully to escape danger. They will more often than not stand their ground. If cubs are nearby, a female Grizzly will defend them to the death and this is the most common cause of human fatality. However, a big Grizz will normally avoid contact with people.
If you’re camping, make sure you keep a clean campsite. Don’t leave food scraps lying around as this will surely attract a Grizz, and once the bear has arrived, he’ll soon realise there is nice fresh meat in the form of you inside the tent. Hanging food or scraps from trees at a height unattainable for a bear is one way of keeping your campsite safe, but the best way would be to seal scraps and food in plastic bags, and preferably inside hard, sealable containers.
If you come face to face with a mighty Grizz, it is imperative to not make eye contact. The temptation to gaze on these wonderful creatures may be strong, but the Grizz will take it as a sign of aggression. As the bear will normally go straight for the head, staring at a Grizz could mean adios cranium. Never run from a Grizz – they can run faster than you whether uphill or down, and nothing will make you soil your shorts faster than being chased by a roaring Grizzly.
So lay prone if face to face with a Grizzly. Put your face down in the dirt with your hands gripped around your neck. Spread your legs – this will make it harder for the bear to flip you over, even though leaving the testicles exposed will be a tough ask for a guy. Once the Grizzly has determined you are not a threat, it will normally take off and leave you whimpering on the forest floor.
Be responsible when in Grizzly country – make noise when travelling and remember to follow Rangers’ advice. If food is left at a campsite and a bear is enticed, it will often return to look for more. The bear can then become a threat to campers and Rangers may be forced to kill it. Remember that you are in their environment, so display respect at all times.
(Dave is a senior designer and partner at GritFX.)