4

Recently I walked through Dolomites in Italy, and there was a warning sign that this is bear-encounter area. There were tips on what to do in general. But one of tips was "if bear approaches you aggressively, don't move and be passive".

Bears in this area are brown.

Why? If bear wants to eat me or kill me, I would prefer to make it at least a bit more difficult to him. I know I will die anyway, so why wouldn't I at least try to die "like a manly man (TM)".

1
  • 5
    A brown bear does not want to eat or kill you. That is why your strategy is flawed and why people who actually know the bears in that area and are you know, trained on bear stuff, have given you written instructions about what would actually increase your chances of surviving an encounter with an angry bear. Do you assume you know more about how much load a bridge can bear or how deep a river is? Mar 16 at 20:37

4 Answers 4

10

Brown bears mostly just want to assert dominance. By being passive/playing dead it is more likely to "give up" and walk away than keep attacking. Per NPS...

Brown/Grizzly Bears: If you are attacked by a brown/grizzly bear, leave your pack on and PLAY DEAD. Lay flat on your stomach with your hands clasped behind your neck. Spread your legs to make it harder for the bear to turn you over. Remain still until the bear leaves the area. Fighting back usually increases the intensity of such attacks. However, if the attack persists, fight back vigorously. Use whatever you have at hand to hit the bear in the face.

An important note that this doesn't hold true for all kinds of bears. See the above link for more general info on bear attacks.

3
  • So there's a small chance I will have to make my ancestors happy, by kicking bear's ass? Oh my, oh my... My testosterone levels have never been this high. Haha just kidding, I really like how educative and well sourced is your answer. Thank you :)
    – user46147
    Mar 17 at 14:18
  • Are brown bears found in the Dolomites comparable to Grizzly bears found in North America?
    – njzk2
    May 10 at 18:08
  • @njzk2 in terms of response to bear attacks they are comparable
    – noah
    May 10 at 20:39
10

What you should do in a bear attack largely depends on the bear's behaviour, not the species of the bear. The old saying "if it's brown lie down, if it's black fight back, and if it's white say goodnight" is largely outdated based on what we know about bear behaviour but is still used by certain agencies. The National Parks Service still provides advice based on species stating:

Brown/Grizzly Bears: If you are attacked by a brown/grizzly bear, leave your pack on and PLAY DEAD. Lay flat on your stomach with your hands clasped behind your neck. Spread your legs to make it harder for the bear to turn you over. Remain still until the bear leaves the area. Fighting back usually increases the intensity of such attacks. However, if the attack persists, fight back vigorously. Use whatever you have at hand to hit the bear in the face. Black Bears: If you are attacked by a black bear, DO NOT PLAY DEAD. Try to escape to a secure place such as a car or building. If escape is not possible, try to fight back using any object available. Concentrate your kicks and blows on the bear's face and muzzle.

However they also note:

If any bear attacks you in your tent, or stalks you and then attacks, do NOT play dead—fight back! This kind of attack is very rare, but can be serious because it often means the bear is looking for food and sees you as prey.

Generally there are two main types of bear behaviour defensive or non-defensive (Curious or Predatory). Defensive attacks are the most common attacks especially with brown bears.

Parks Canada provides advice based on these two behaviours

Is it DEFENSIVE? The bear is feeding, protecting its young and/or surprised by your presence. It sees you as a threat. The bear will appear stressed or agitated and may vocalize.

Try to appear non-threatening. Talk in a calm voice. When the bear stops advancing, start slowly moving away. If it keeps coming closer, stand your ground, keep talking, and use your bear spray. If the bear makes contact, fall on the ground and play dead. Lie still and wait for the bear to leave.

Is it NON-DEFENSIVE? A bear may be curious, after your food, or testing its dominance. In the rarest case, it might be predatory–seeing you as potential prey. All of these non-defensive behaviours can appear similar and should not be confused with defensive behaviours. The bear will be intent on you with head and ears up.

Talk in a firm voice. Move out of the bear’s path. If it follows you, stop and stand your ground. Shout and act aggressively. Try to intimidate the bear. If it approaches closely, use your bear spray.

Handling an ATTACK
Most encounters with bears end without injury. If a bear actually makes contact, you may increase your chances of survival by following these guidelines. In general, there are 2 kinds ofattack:

Defensive

This is the most COMMON type of attack.

Use your bear spray. If the bear makes contact with you: PLAY DEAD! PLAY DEAD! Lie on your stomach with legs apart and position your arms so that your hands are crossed behind your neck. This position makes you less vulnerable to being flipped over and protects your face, the back of your head and neck. Remain still until you are sure the bear has left the area.

These defensive attacks are generally less than two minutes in duration. If the attack continues, it may mean it has shifted from defensive to predatory—FIGHT BACK!

Predatory

The bear is stalking (hunting) you along a trail and then attacks. Or, the bear attacks you at night. This type of attack is very RARE.

Try to escape into a building, car or up a tree. If you cannot escape, do not play dead. Use your bear spray and FIGHT BACK. FIGHT BACK! Intimidate that bear: shout; hit it with a branch or rock, do whatever it takes to let the bear know you are not easy prey. This kind of attack is very rare, but it is serious because it usually means the bear is looking for food and preying on you.

It is very difficult to predict the best strategy to use in the event of a bear attack. That is why it is so important to put thought and energy into avoiding an encounter in the first place.

You should be passive and non threatening when dealing with a defensive bear. A defensive bear can still exhibit "aggressive" behaviours including bluff charges which is likely what they are trying to refer to. Best advice for staying alive is preventing an encounter by making lots of noise, keeping food/attractants secure, and disposing of garbage properly.

5

Brown bear attacks tend to be defensive attacks, where the bear is trying to protect its cubs, territory or food. The bear usually isn't attacking you because it wants to eat you, but is trying to neutralize a perceived threat. By playing dead, a brown bear may not perceive you as a threat anymore, and may leave you alone. Fighting back may make the bear more aggressive, as it senses a greater need to defend against a dangerous creature in its territory.

Black bear attacks, on the other hand, tend to be predatory in nature - the bear is attacking you with the purpose of killing and eating you. Playing dead in this scenario won't help, it'll just make you an easier lunch.

The common saying about bears is, "if it's brown lie down, if it's black fight back, and if it's white say goodnight". Just hope you're not attacked by a polar bear.

3
  • 3
    Just hope you're not attacked by a polar bear. a very lost polar bear in the Dolomites!
    – Chris H
    Mar 17 at 15:23
  • 2
    The "black bear predatory" bit is oversold and so is fighting back. Black bears can be predatory and it can be useful to fight back in those circumstances. But the guidance generally goes to curl and protect your neck. If the attack is persistent and it's a black then you might want to switch to fighting back. Tricky? Sure. But better than this one size fits all scenario which can backfire quickly in the many cases where it's not predatory (cubs for example). Source: living in BC, with our 150k blacks and 12k browns. Mar 17 at 15:31
  • 2
    Also species id while being attacked is not trivial: many black bears are in fact brown-colored and that species outnumbers browns (grizzlies). Except in Europe where they are all browns/grizzlies. Mar 17 at 15:40
2

When faced with a brown bear ( in Wyoming, near Yellowstone ), while on hands and knees in a small tent ( middle of night) ; I gently but firmly said "shoo bear". I thought a loud noise might upset it. After repeating shoo several times he walked away. It was good that he had already taken anything he wanted out of the cooler chest he broke open. ( They do not like tomatoes or mustard). This may not have been the recommended action , but the bear was 10 ft away and the car was about 30 ft, I thought running was a low odds choice.

2
  • 3
    as a side note, in bear country, don't keep food in a non-bear-proof container, so close to your tent
    – njzk2
    May 10 at 18:10
  • The park ranger told us the bears had not yet come into the park that spring. When in Yellowstone ,we always kept food in the trunk. May 10 at 23:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.