By 10/14/2014 Read More →

Black Bears, Be Aware and Be Prepared

Have you even encountered a black bear in the wilderness?  Would you know what to do if a black bear crossed your path?  Black bears, be aware and be prepared!  Let's go over some facts about black bears.  The population of black bears in North America is estimated to be 600,000 and half of those bears live in the United States.  Black bears have a straight face and flat shoulders, they do not have a shoulder hump like grizzly bears do.  Black bears are generally black in color, although in the western states their color can vary tblack bearo brown, cinnamon, and blonde.  Adult black bears can weigh from 125 pounds to 600 pounds.  Black bears can run up to 30 miles per hour.  Black bears can climb trees and also know how to swim.  Black bears are omnivores, they eat food from plant and animal origins.  Their diet mostly consists of berries, grasses, insects, and nuts but they are also known to prey on fawns and turkeys.  Bears will also scavenge on any dead animal that it may find in the wilderness.  A black bear has color vision and its sight is very similar to human sight.  Chances are that if you can see a bear, the bear can see you.  A black bear will get up on its hind legs in order to see and smell better when something gets its attention.  This is not an attack stance, bears are very curious and it is easier to look around when up on its hind legs.  A black bear in attack mode will swat the ground with it paw and snort or pops its jaw.  It may lunge towards you to scare you away.  Black bears do not normally attack humans, but it is known to happen.  It is best as a human to educate yourself about black bears to be aware and be prepared.

My Personal Encounter with a Black Bear

I am writing this article because I experienced an encounter with a black bear on May 7, 2014.  Let me tell you what happened…

Ed and I were hunting turkeys during spring gobbler season here in Central Pennsylvania.  We were set up inside the woods along a power line since we observed some turkeys in the area a few days earlier.  Ed was sitting about fifty yards above me and he was calling a gobbler to come our way.  I was sitting behind a tree focused on the gobbler, listening as he came closer and watching for him to come into sight.  I heard a noise behind me, but I figured that it was a squirrel so I did not turn around.  I continued to watch and wait for that gobbler to make his appearance.  I heard the noise behind me again, and it sounded closer.  I turned around and saw a black bear walking straight towards me.  I motioned for Ed to look behind me and the bear did not stop.  I jumped up and got behind the tree, raised my shotgun, and clicked the safety off, just in case.  I was not calm.  I was scared!  I was shaking, breathing hard, and tears were welling in my eyes.  The bear saw me when I jumped up, and it skidded to a stop.  I prayed that he would run away.  He looked at me, then he ran back about ten yards and stopped.  He turned around, looked at me again, and bobbed his head back and forth.  I tried to yell, but no sound came out of my mouth.  Even though I was equipped with a semi-automatic 12 gauge shotgun loaded with 3 1/2" magnum shells, I was terrified.  "Please, please dear God, make this bear go away" was the only thought running through my mind.  The bear ran about 100 yards towards the road and stopped agai011n, turning to look at me from a distance.  A truck was heading up the mountain road and scared the bear.  The bear ran back up the mountain, ran past me, ran past Ed, and never stopped.  I took a few minutes and pulled myself together.  The turkeys that we were attempting to call in were gone, no more gobbles in the area.  We walked over to the skid mark, where the bear stopped when it saw me jump behind the tree, and I took a picture.  The red "x" in the picture is where I was when the bear stopped, we found it was 17 yards from me when we checked the distance with our range finder.  I have read many articles on black bear encounters since May 7th.  I have chosen to educate myself to be aware and be prepared in case I cross paths with a black bear again.

Steps to Follow During a Black Bear Encounter

I did not do anything that I should have done during my black bear encounter.  I panicked.  My encounter turned out to be a safe one, but these are some of the things that I should have done. 

1.  Stay calm.  Do NOT run, and do NOT attempt to climb a tree.  Stay calm, and back away slowly.  If you are in a group, stay together.  Do not split up. 

2.  If the bear sees you, talk in a calm voice to identify yourself as a human.  Continue to slowly back away. 

3.  If the bear does not flee, stand tall and yell at the bear.  If the bear stands up on its hind legs, remember this is NOT an attack stance.  The bear is just getting a better look at you.  Remain calm and get your bear spray ready if you are equipped with it.  Continue to yell and wave your arms as you back away. bear_spray_bottles

4.  If the bear enters its attack mode and begins swatting the ground and snorting, it may bluff charge you to chase you away.  Do NOT run!  Remove the safety lock from your bear spray and continue to back away slowly.

5.  If the bear charges, wait until it is in range to dispense the bear spray.  Point it directly towards the bear's face.  The bear should flee when it encounters the deterrent spray.

6.  If you do not have bear spray and the black bear charges you, throw your backpack down to try to deter his attention.  Throw rocks or sticks at the bear.  If the black bear makes contact with you, continue to fight, aim to hit the bear in the face, eyes, or nose.  When the attack is over, remain on the ground and be still until you are certain that the bear has left the area.

Respect Black Bears and Educate Yourself

Black bears are strong, smart wild animals and should be treated with respect.  Most black bears will recaution beartreat when they cross paths with humans, but it is still important to do your part to be aware and be prepared.  The bear that I encountered in the spring is still in our hunting area according to reports from our neighbors, and there is also a momma bear with two cubs roaming around.  I purchased a container of bear deterrent spray to carry during archery season to be on the safe side.  If you choose to purchase deterrent spray, be sure to educate yourself on how to use it.  Become familiar with the location of the safety pin and carry it in a holster that is easy to reach in case you encounter a black bear.  Black bears are beautiful animals that are usually harmless, but it is best to be aware and be prepared while you are in the wilderness.  Look for signs of black bears in your area and talk to your neighbors to find out if they are seeing any black bears.  Thank you for reading, good luck hunting, and remember to respect back bears and educate yourself for personal safety.



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Amy Sward

About the Author:

Hello, my name is Amy and I have lived in Central Pennsylvania all of my life. I was born into a family of outdoorsmen, hunting and fishing have always been part of my life. My dad started taking me hunting with him when I was a little girl. He also taught me how to fish for trout in local creeks. The first day of deer season and the first day of trout season were like holidays in our household. My grandfather enjoyed trapping and as a teenager I often went along with him to check the traps. Raccoons, red fox, and grey fox were harvested from the traps in the woods and muskrats were harvested from the traps by the Juniata River. I have many fond memories of trapping with my grandfather. I have enjoyed hunting small game and hunting whitetail deer in rifle season over the years. This year I am branching out and trying some new things. I went duck hunting in January and enjoyed it very much. I went spring gobbler hunting in May and loved it! I purchased a crossbow and will be entering the woods for white-tailed deer during archery season for the first time in October. I enjoy sharing my love of the outdoors with my family. Camping and kayaking are popular activities. I love to hunt and fish with my three nephews and my grandson. My two granddaughters enjoy fishing and hopefully they will show interest in hunting in the future. They love to go spotlighting for deer, and hopefully someday they will love to go hunting for them also.
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