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Most bears are cautious and usually flee from people, but a small percentage of encounters result in an attack. The majority of injuries are caused when a bear reacts defensively because it feels threatened, for example if it has been surprised, disturbed or provoked. Sometimes a bear that has got used to obtaining food from people may behave aggressively. Minimising the risk of an attack is largely about avoiding such situations. By using simple preventive measures, the chance of encountering or attracting a bear can be greatly reduced. If you do meet a bear, knowing what to do can have an important influence on how the bear reacts.
Avoid sudden encounters
Although bears will usually try to avoid people, sometimes they might not notice us, for example when resting or feeding or if our approach is hidden by the terrain, vegetation, wind direction or other noises. To avoid sudden encounters that could provoke a defensive attack, keep alert in and around forest, especially in the morning, evening and at night, when bears are more active, but also during the day in dense vegetation or near food sources. Look out for tracks or other signs of bear presence - if they are fresh, increase your vigilance. If visibility is restricted it can help to talk, whistle or otherwise give bears advance warning of your presence. Bears are more likely to avoid you if you travel in a group on marked footpaths during daylight hours. More ...
Avoid attracting bears
Smells from food and refuse, but also compost or waste water from cooking, are strong attractants. To avoid attracting bears to hotels and residences in forested areas, food and refuse should be stored so that bears cannot get to them, for example by using bear-proof bins. Normal containers can be shut in a garage or barred cage or protected with an electric fence. Refuse containers should be emptied as often as possible, so that refuse does not build up and smell more. Fruit in orchards near houses should be picked as soon as it ripens and any rotting fruit cleared away. When camping, keep your campsite clean and free of attractants. Clean cooking areas and dishes as soon as you have finished using them. Do not cook inside or near your tent and consider not keeping food next to you at night. Avoid very odorous foods such as bacon and canned fish. Severe injuries have been caused by bears that were encouraged to take food from people, so do not approach or feed bears, even if they look tame. More ...
How to react in an encounter
Even encountering a bear at a short distance rarely leads to an attack: it is more likely that the bear will flee. But if you see a bear and it doesn't leave immediately, what you do next can greatly influence how the bear reacts. Stop and quickly assess the situation. If you have unexpectedly encountered a bear closer than 100 metres, carefully try to increase your distance from the bear. Do not run: this could lead to pursuit. We do not recommend shouting at a female with cubs or at a bear that is not aware of your presence, because this could provoke an attack. Never approach a bear, even if it seems to be calm. More ...
In the unlikely event that you are threatened or attacked by a bear, the best way to protect yourself from injury is to use bear spray. This contains a derivative of red pepper oil, which causes temporary inflamation of eye, nose and lung membranes. Discharging the spray forms a protective cloud between the user and the bear. Independent research has shown that this is a more reliable defence than firearms. It should be a spray specially intended for use with bears, not a self-defence product for use against dogs or people. More ...
Only play dead if a bear actually attacks. If a defensive bear charges towards you, it may be a bluff charge, but if physical contact is seems imminent, the best thing to do is to lie down on the ground and play dead. Lie on your belly, legs slightly apart, and join your fingers behind your head to protect your face and neck. When the bear senses that you are not a threat it will usually leave. Keep laying still until you are sure the bear has gone away. More ...
Shooting in self-defence
There have been several cases in Slovakia when hunters have shot bears to defend themselves or a colleague. However, there have also been cases when hunters with guns have been injured by bears. Carrying firearms can give a false sense of security. Attacks can be very rapid and there might not be time to use a gun. In addition, if a bear is shot but only wounded, rather than killed, there is a risk of provoking a more aggressive attack. Preventive measures should therefore be used to avoid sudden encounters. More ...
Planned removal of bears
Bears which have become accustomed to obtaining food from people can behave aggressively and so represent a potential threat to public safety. In many cases this could have been avoided by the use of preventive measures, but once bears have learned bad habits it can be very difficult to dissuade them. This may result in the bear having to be captured or killed. To avoid the situation being repeated in the future, the attractants which caused it (refuse, poorly stored food, etc.) should also be removed or secured. More ...
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