Recently, bear activity has been on the rise in upstate New York, specifically in the Adirondacks. It's not unusual, but the activity has been so frequent that parks have deemed many trails and campsites unsafe - which means that both campers and hikers should be aware before they set out into the Great Outdoors.
There are many animals that pose a threat to humans, but bears aren't usually one of them. Their private nature doesn't mean they should be underestimated; there are roughly 11 bear attacks per year in all of North America. This also depends on the species of bear, as some are more likely to be aggressive than others. Black bears, for instance, are naturally curious but will likely run from humans when spooked. Grizzly bears are more aggressive and will bluff, or stand their ground, in the event of a human encounter. Knowing what can do can help to not only save lives, but help bears maintain their distance from humans as well.
"A Fed Bear Is A Dead Bear"
This is an old saying that sadly rings true. Bears might seem cute and cuddly but, unfortunately, the teddy bear versions everyone grew up with are not true to life. Bears, no matter the species, are still wild animals and as such, should not be fed. Secure all food while camping and do not leave trash while hiking.
This includes leaving bird feeders and pet food out, as they can become accustomed to frequenting backyards and campsites, which is why parks will often close temporarily. Once a bear begins associating a human with food, they become conditioned to expect it and can become a threat if that happens.
Once a bear shows any signs of aggression or fearlessness, it could be put down by Fish and Game officers to prevent the situation from progressing.
What To Do If You Stumble Upon One
Whatever you do, do not run from a bear. This is pointless and reckless because a bear can cross an expanse of 20 feet in only seconds. Running also triggers a bear's natural instinct to chase its prey, thus escalating a losing situation.
There are far greater risks in the wild that far outweigh that of bear attacks, including being stung repeatedly by a swarm of hornets or contracting West Nile from a mosquito. However, in the event that a person does stumble upon an unsuspecting bear, there is a proper protocol.
For starters, carrying a whistle or bear bell is a smart idea when walking in bear territory - the noise will alert the bear and surrounding wildlife to your location, thus helping to prevent an encounter in the first place. If you find yourself face to face with a bear, begin talking in a slow, calm manner with hands up to de-escalate the threat. Don't yell at the bear initially, scream, or make any sudden movements, the point is to remain as a non-threat. In most cases, the bear will walk away or bluff, and then run.
Knowing A Bear's Reactions
If a bear stands on its hind legs, it's curious, not threatening. Bears may also make clicking or popping sounds with their jaws, yawn, or begin drooling - remain calm, continue talking, and don't make sudden movements.
Once the bear has calmed down and appears to be uninterested, move sideways and slowly, away from the bear, or wait until the bear walks away on its own. If the bear has cubs or begins following you, the situation requires serious action - in this case, a person should stand their ground. You can do this by making yourself appear bigger and talking to the bear in a stern, solid voice.
In the unlikely event of an actual attack, responses vary: For grizzlies, lay on your stomach with your hands behind your head, elbows protecting your ears, and play dead. For black bears, an escape to a safe location is advisable, but do not play dead - instead, fight back by any means possible, aiming for the bear's face.