First of all, yes, black bear attacks are exceedingly rare in Maine. Officially, the state only has a record of three people being attacked in 30 years, though that that number is actually closer to six, based on our own reporting.
But now that spring is around the corner, the state’s roughly 30,000 black bears are starting to come out of their dens. That means that there’s a greater chance you could run into one.
Here are a few things you need to know to avoid a confrontation.
1. Pay attention
If you’re hiking, stay aware of your surroundings. That holds true even if you’re about to walk in your backyard. “Just look before you walk outside,” says biologist Jennifer Vashon of the state’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
2. Walk in groups
Most bear attacks happen to one or two people. So if you’re walking with a group through an area you think has bears, try to stick together.
3. Keep your dog on a leash
And if your dog is off-leash and runs toward a bear, don’t try to break them up.
4. Don’t approach the bear
“Back slowly away and say, ‘Hey bear,’” Vashon says. “Use a calm voice.”
5. Get big
If the bear starts to follow you, make some noise and wave your arms around. “You can start throwing things at it, trying to intimidate it, make loud sounds,” Vashon says. “Make yourself look as big as possible.”
6. Fight the bear — seriously
“If the bear continues to act aggressive and makes contact with you, you fight back with everything at hand,” Vashon says. “When people have survived black bear attacks, it’s usually when they’ve fought back.”
Bear spray works — make sure it contains an ingredient called capsaicin — but if you don’t have that, use whatever you can find, like sticks, rocks or a knife. Godspeed.
Have any bear encounters to share? Post them in the comments.