Bear encounters have been on the rise and it’s important to know what to do when you encounter a bear, whether while out exploring nature or exploring your own backyard. Most of the bears in South Carolina are common black bears. Despite their name, black bears can range in color from black all the way to light blonde. Bears tend to be more active at dawn and dusk and are often on the lookout for food. Our tips for a bear encounter are based on behaviors common to the black bear and not more aggressive bears, such as grizzlies. Here are 10 tips for bear safety this season, should you encounter a bear.

  1. Stay calm and do not make sudden movements.
  2. Back away and give the bear plenty of room to move along on its way.
  3. If the bear doesn’t see you, quickly and quietly detour away.
  4. If the bear does see you, try to help it recognize that you are a human and not ideal prey from as far away as possible. Talk loudly and wave your arms. Most black bears will avoid humans when given the chance.
  5. Remember that standing up is not necessarily an aggressive move for a black bear, they could be standing to get a better look at you. Continue to talk loudly and wave your arms and begin to slowly back away when possible.
  6. Never ever run from a bear. Even if the bear charges at you, don’t run. Bears can run as fast as 30 mph and can easily outrun you. When you run, you look like food. Read that again. When you run, you look like food. If a bear charges, stand your ground, raise your arms and shout. Many bears will bluff charge to see if you are prey. When you stand your ground, they will divert. When possible, slowly back away.
  7. Do not climb a tree or run toward a tree. Bears are excellent climbers and can easily out-climb you. Again, when you run, you look like food.
  8. If you have accidentally gotten between a mother and her cubs, triggering her protective instincts, lay down and play dead. Do not move until the bears have reunited and moved on.
  9. In all other situations except the situation in #8, remember to be loud, be large (raise your arms and stand tall) and stand your ground if you have a close encounter with a bear.
  10. If the worst case scenario happens and the bear attacks, fight back! Be aggressive, be loud, use any object you have or can grab to defend yourself. If you have pepper spray, aim for the bear’s eyes and nose (just don’t get the blow-back in your own face). Black bears are less likely to continue an attack on a human who fights back.

If you travel to other parts of the country, please remember that our tips here are specifically for the common black bear local to South Carolina. Other types of bears, such as grizzlies will react in different ways. If you travel to areas of the country where grizzlies are present, make sure to find out the safety tips specific to that type of bear.