If you’ve only watched the first half of Grizzly Man, you probably think a bear would make a nice buddy for your son. If you watched the whole movie, you know better. Even though the chance that any of the 3 species in the United States will go after you or your kid is slim (odds are about 1 in 2.1 million), it’s still better to know what to do about Yogi besides offer him a pic-i-nic basket. Here’s the short version of what to tell your kid in the event of a bear fight.
Politely Introduce Yourself
According to the friendly rangers at the National Parks Service, one of first things to do if you encounter a bear is to start talking calmly. This helps them understand you are a human and not the smartest deer they ever ate. Slowly wave your arms in a jumping jack motion, but don’t get spastic. And know that if a bear stands up, it’s most likely curious and trying to get a better look. It doesn’t think it’s people.
Spread out a coat and keep the hiking pack on. Anything that makes the body look large is good. Because they’re half the size, kids should think about moving toward higher ground to help their stature. Their pack can also protect them in a worst-case scenario. That would be the one with the biting and the clawing and the “Oww, it hurts, Mr. Bear.”
Threat Displays Vs. Real Threats
If a bear huffs, growls, snorts, salivates, or slaps the ground, it is not necessarily a sign of imminent attack. These are “threat displays” that communicate dominance to scare you away. Your kid should be familiar with this move — it happens every time they interrupt you during Monday Night Football.
When To (And When Not To) Play Dead
Know that 2 different bears have 2 different approaches:
- If attacked by a grizzly bear, cover up and play dead. Lie on your stomach with feet spread wide so it’s harder for the bear to roll you over. Make sure to clasp hands your hands around the back of your neck to protect vital arteries.
- If attacked by a black bear, do not play dead. Instead, fight and focus attacks on the bear’s eyes and snout. Use whatever weapons are around. Hopefully, some hikers left a broadsword on the trail.
Keep Facing Forward, And Move Side To Side
When you’re trying to get away, it’s important to never turn your back on the bear. Instead calmly side-step or back up. Don’t run. If the bear starts to follow, stop and stand your ground. Bears respect confidence, right?
Stay Out Of The Trees
Almost all bears are great at climbing trees, especially black bears, who often keep their cubs up there while they’re foraging. Yes, it is adorable.
Get Away From The Cubs
If you see a cub, just assume that its mother is nearby. If your kid is caught in between the mother and the cub — the worst situation in all bear encounters — the only thing to do is try slowly backing out of path between them.
When In Doubt, Douse ‘Em
Pepper spray isn’t just for sexual predators — it’s for animal ones too. If you know that you’re going to be in bear habitats, your first line of defense can just be a long-range can of specially formulated whoop ass. This is probably best left in the hands of older kids, not their younger, vindictive brothers.
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