Black Bear Protocols – Quick tips from the National Park Service
This is what we tell volunteers when they are working on the Blue Ridge Parkway:
- If you encounter a bear, remain watchful. Do not approach it. If your presence causes a bear to change its behavior (stops feeding, changes its travel direction) — YOU ARE TOO CLOSE! Being too close may promote aggressive behavior from the bear such as running toward you (bluff charge), making loud noises or swatting the ground. The bear is demanding more space. DO NOT RUN, but slowly back away while watching the bear. Try to increase the distance between you and the bear. The bear will probably do the same.
- If a bear persistently follows you or approaches you without paw swatting or vocalizing, try changing your direction. If the bear continues to follow you, stand your ground.
- If the bear gets closer, talk loudly or shout at it. Act aggressively and try to intimidate the bear. Act together as a group if you have companions. Make yourselves look as large as possible (for example move to higher ground). Throw non-food objects such as rocks at the bear. Don’t run and don’t turn away from the bear. Don’t leave food for the bear; this encourages further problems.
- Most injuries from black bears are minor and result from a bear attempting to get at people’s food. If the bear’s behavior indicates that it is after your food and you’re physically attacked, separate yourself from the food and slowly back away.
If the bear shows no interest in your food and you are physically attacked, fight back aggressively with any available object—the may consider you as prey!