Thursday, August 18, 2011

How to survive a bear attack

I have a great love for camping. There's always something about setting up a tent, throwing on a hoodie and laying on the ground to view all the stars in the night sky that has a calming and peaceful effect on me. But as anyone in Bear Country knows, one must take a cautionary approach when camping. So a few weeks back, in preparation for a camping outing with the husband, I brushed up on my bear knowledge. Not that I haven't read these things a thousand times or more, but it's almost enjoyable to look into all the ways you can meet your end on a dewy morning (I've always had an absurd fascination with things that can kill me). So given what I've gone through the past week, in the spirit of being helpful, I've decided to share some of these tips with you.

Now, first, just relax. You don't really need to go out of your way to avoid a bear, even if you've had negative interactions with them in the past. Bears aren't really built for drama and try to avoid it. Instead, they'd just like to amble along their way, eating berries and generally just being lazy in the summer months. Odds are, you won't even encounter a bear, not only is the bear usually two steps ahead of you anyway, there's also the fact that you just don't do many things that are interesting enough to catch the bear's attention. But make no mistake that this sort of aloofness is somehow an indicator of weakness. If the bear feels a need to, they will attack.

And bears hit very hard.

If you shock or surprise a bear in its own territory, it will respond to let you know who is really the boss. Do not get between a bear and something that the bear holds dear to them. Do not randomly jump out of nowhere and piss off the bear, because when bears are just looking for something like berries or a warm sunny spot to lay in and they are subjected to bullshit, they find that sort of thing to be kind of annoying. But this is not the usual scenario with bear encounters.

Keep in mind that most of the time, the bear is just curious. Bears are well aware of everything that goes on in their surroundings, and learn quickly (you may think you are offering up some new sort of contraption, but trust me, the bear has probably seen it used already). Bears are remarkable in that they learn the habits of humans and pick up on their patterns. Do you think that unopened can of beer is safe to leave on your table? Think again. The bear, through its interactions with humans, understands what certain things signify, even if there isn't an obvious giveaway (like scent) to tip it off. And man, you do not want to mess with a bear that's had a few. In short, the bears have been doing this for a long time, and they learn. So they understand these things, they've seen the patterns time and time again, they can often anticipate your steps before you even are aware of them, and it's probably not a good idea to underestimate them. Do not assume you are clever enough to pull one over on the bear.

So when encountering what is most likely a curious bear, do not lose your shit. No panic is necessary, simply talk to the bear in a rational tone and do not escalate the situation. Let the bear know you are there, that you are human, but do not draw too much attention to yourself in order to avoid becoming the bear's main focal point. The solution here is not to freak out and scream "AHHH A BEAR IT WILL EAT MEEEE" and run away. Do not try to do something as silly as bullshitting the bear that you're totally not camping, and instead just doing a study on bears when the bear fucking knows better, because it will not end well for you. Seriously, the bear has no patience for that sort of shit. Keep calm, stay honest, and eventually the bear, after knocking over your cooler and taking a nap on your tent in order to get its point across, will tire of you and leave.

But let's say you've ignored all the other advice and decided to piss off the bear.

And now you imagine that you have a tonnage of fury directed your way, and are fully aware that you haven't any tools to deflect it. So you pretty much have no choice but to use what is the only thing you have left - unhinged, angry emotional outbursts. Flail. Scream. But stand your ground. Bears will often do what is known as a fake charge in order to intimidate the intruder, as a means of testing their resolve. Any sign of weakness on your part could cause the bear to react, because at this point, the bear is sick of your ass. But rejoice! At some point, the bear will more then likely decide that you just aren't worth it, as it wasn't looking to be bogged down in camper drama. Camper drama is the worst. I mean, perhaps the bear really likes where it is and doesn't want to be forcefully removed by the authorities that run its nature reserve. Perhaps the bear is worried that it might get that sort of "bad bear" reputation among the campers and has to spend each day knowing that it will eventually be shot by the forest ranger. Or perhaps the bear just doesn't feel like dealing with your scared and defensive ass when there are lots of other tents to sleep on that aren't inhabited by people that will flip out and misjudge the bears actual intentions (wasn't that an unopened beer just sittin' out on your cooler? Just askin').

But even if you discount all the above advice, know this. Once you cause the bear to lose interest in you, or once that bear has decided that the potential harm from the situation maybe isn't worth mauling your ass, just let the bear go.

For real. There's really no reason to hide behind a tree and throw rocks at the bear while it is *awesomely* sauntering away.

If you got through an encounter with a bear without too much permanent damage, congratulations! Not too many people do, so perhaps the bear was feeling generous that day. But even so, you don't really want to rely on that and continue to poke the bear.

The second attack is usually more gruesome then the first.

*It's an analogy, bitchez.

**Although all of the above facts that aren't based in anthropomorphic assumptions are for the most part true, I'd rather you not use me as the bear expert. I mean, I pretty much wrote this because it amused the hell out of me to write it and if you decided to go strolling through the woods because of your new found bear knowledge and get dead, I'd feel pretty fucking bad about that.

***No bears were harmed in the making of this blog post.