Recently some brown bears appeared in my region.

Should we encounter one, is it a good idea if we opened a jar of honey for the bear so we would have time to leave?

  • 23
    Where in the world are you? Feeding bears is usually a bad idea unless you're trying to attract them as part of a conservation project; but how bad an idea (e.g. legality) depends on jurisdiction and population
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 24, 2020 at 18:18
  • 52
    Maybe you don't, but you're endangering all humans in the area for the foreseeable future, by teaching the bears that people are a source of food
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 24, 2020 at 19:01
  • 5
    @ab2 The black bear is really only a thing in America, even the name is Ursus americanus. If OP is in Hungary, it can only be a brown bear.
    – pipe
    Commented Oct 25, 2020 at 13:46
  • 14
    Unless it’s name is Pooh, please don’t.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Oct 25, 2020 at 15:03
  • 9
    Would the bear wait for you to get out the honey jar and unscrew the lid? Or would you have one ready? How many jars of honey are you considering packing? Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 11:19

3 Answers 3


No, not a good idea at all. The bear is now used to people and food together and will seek people. This will not end well for the bear and may very not end well for the next people it encounters.

"when your life is in danger"

Respectfully, your life is not in danger and feeding bears can put other people's lives in danger later. If your life really was in danger because you are an active target of attack - say you were too near to some bear cubs - the bear would most likely not pay any attention to the honey and would attack you. Consider also that carrying food around in bear country is likely to attract them.

The general idea with a bear is to back away slowly, possibly speaking to it, and not look it in the eyes.

This video is for North American bears.

From looking this up a bit, 1, 2 3 seems like you are indeed dealing with brown bears, i.e. pretty much a what we would call a grizzly, not black bears (a relatively easy way to tell is that big hump on the back, right behind the neck). If it was an actual North American grizzly this would mean:

  • they don't want to hurt you and will only attack if they feel threatened or are surprised.
  • they can however kill you just by hitting you to warn you off
  • don't fight back, play dead, they are not predatory and will probably lose interest.
  • don't run, it triggers predation. They look slow but can easily outrun you. One was pacing me, for whatever reason, running on the other side of a ditch while I was doing 30-35k cycling down a road - they're fast.
  • your best bet for safety is to make sure you don't surprise a bear. They will get out of your way. An example of a good way to surprise a bear is to arrive downwind of a fast river on a bear fishing or eating berries. They can't smell you because of the wind direction, the river covers up your noise of approach and they are busy eating.
  • so, walk in a group if possible, make noise. Good moment for a boombox (not headphones), enjoy some music!

Bears are however not sharks and certainly not crocodiles. They are smart enough to avoid humans under nearly all conditions (unless they associate people with food, which is why the honey idea is bad in practice) and have very limited interest in you as something to eat. Be cautious but appreciate the possibility of their presence: they're a bit of wild nature that could hurt you but you are much more likely to be be hit by a car while walking. An encounter is a good story to have folk buy you a beer once COVID is gone ;-) I've seen 4 or 5 myself on foot/bicycle, not counting ones I've seen from a car.

If you are truly concerned, and if you have access to it, buy some bear spray. It's about $20-30 where I live (Canada) and lasts 3-4 years. Note that, at least in Canada, there are tons of regulations about transporting it (don't bring it in a plane).

p.s. One last thing, which is counter-intuitive. Leave the dog at home, or leash it, unless it's trained for bears. A not uncommon occurrence goes like this: dog finds bear, barks at it, bear charges, dog runs back to master with bear in pursuit.

Some extra reading. Good, but they tend to mix blacks and grizzlies together in the grizzly coverage.

  • 8
    A couple of things to note about bear spray: it's not the same as pepper spray for use on humans (possibly longer range, stronger); don't bring it to the UK if you ever visit - with no bears here its only use would be a weapon and having it is a fairly serious offence. (+1 for the answer)
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 24, 2020 at 19:04
  • 2
    @gerrit desertcart.ro/products/24312834-guard-alaska-bear-spray ;-) Seriously, with 6000 bears in Romania, about same density as our 15000, I certainly hope they'd have it for sale. Or Hungary. Not so much need for it elsewhere in Europe. If they don't have it, you can disregard that part, but bear spray is the thing to avoid bear problems, much better than guns. Commented Oct 25, 2020 at 8:45
  • 2
    Another way of making sure you do not surprise a bear is to wear a bear bell. Here is an example of use (from an otherwise unrelated but excellent video).
    – hlovdal
    Commented Oct 25, 2020 at 11:46
  • 3
    I’m interested to know where you’ve seen so many bears on bicycles - explains how’s they can be so fast
    – sam_smith
    Commented Oct 25, 2020 at 12:06
  • 15
    I would appreciate if you replace those smilies (or whatever they are called) with words. They are hard to work out even when showing up and not all computers do show them.
    – Willeke
    Commented Oct 25, 2020 at 18:52

When the bear is actually dangerous is when it is angry or frightened, and if it is angry or frightened it won't care about your silly jar of honey. Dare I say you're thinking too much like a city person? Your mindset is completely wrong. This is not like a clingy housepet that you're trying to distract for just long enough so you can leave the house.

Imagine if the roles were reversed. If you a bear suddenly startled you and it dropped a bag of money in front of you so it could get away, would you care about the bag of money at all?

  • 14
    I don't know, I think if I discovered that a bear was carrying around a bag of money, that would probably startle me even more than seeing a bear in the first place. Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 6:24
  • 4
    ...yes, I would care about the bag of money, I would take it as solid evidence that I am most certainly dreaming.
    – gerrit
    Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 7:55
  • I think a more accurate example would be if the friend you need to run faster than dropped that bag of money.
    – Haem
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 9:51
  • @Haem That works too.
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 12:50
  • 2
    @Gergely That's the point you aren't understanding. Your assumption is bear = always dangerous whether or angry or not. What you aren't understanding is that the only time you actually want the honey out is exactly the time when the bear doesn't care about the honey. Every other time you're just training it to follow you, and other humans around.
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 16:21

There are some other good posts, but one thing I haven't seen brought up is that bears are thought to have the best sense of smell in the animal kingdom, possibly 7 times as good as a blood hound, 2100 times as good as a human.

So carrying that jar of honey around with you might just entice a bear to follow your trail and get at the honey. Just sayin'...


  • Thanks. You know, I wanted to have an idea other than just asking how could I defend myself in the woods. People are better pointing at errors than answering open questions.
    – Gergely
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 7:21
  • And thanks for the informative article on the smell of bears.
    – Gergely
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 7:23

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