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What to Do When You Encounter a Bear

How to Fend off a Bear in the Wilderness

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By Carrie Wilson, marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game.

Question:

I have a question about bears and kids. We live on 10 acres where we have a large garden, fruit trees, berry bushes and two horses. We definitely have bears that come around as our fruit trees (and those of our surrounding neighbors) have claw marks on them as evidence. My concern is for my six-year-old-son who enjoys playing outside. Although I keep an eye on him, there are times when he plays unsupervised.

My question is: If children encounter bears should they follow the same advice as adults - stand still, face the animal but don’t stare, make noise and try to appear as large as possible?

I understand to teach him not to run, but if a bear comes up close he would be so much smaller than the bear and so vulnerable.

There is no way he could make himself bigger than the bear or have a loud and deep enough voice to scare it off.

Shouldn’t I also teach him to back away slowly and get inside? Is standing there looking at the bear and calling for me the best thing to teach him? I need some advice on how to teach my child exactly what he should do.

Thank you. (Kelly, Crescent City)

Answer: I certainly understand your concern. According to Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Senior Wildlife Biologist and bear expert Doug Updike, children should follow the same procedures as those given for adults, which you mentioned.

Bears are more attracted to fruit, food and garbage, however, than to people, but the very best situation is that your children not find themselves in a vulnerable or unsupervised position in the event of a surprise visit.

If you have wild animals in your area, you need to closely supervise your children. Mountain lions and coyotes pose a much greater threat than a bear.

Still, the likelihood of having your child attacked by a bear, mountain lion or coyote is extremely low as wild animal attacks, while tragic, are not common.

For more on living safely with bears, lions and coyotes, please visit DFG’s Keep Me Wild Web site at www.dfg.ca.gov/education/living.html.

Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. She cannot personally answer everyone's questions but will select a few to answer in this column each week. Contact her at CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

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