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What to Do When Attacked by a Bear


If a mountain lion attacks, stand your ground. If a grizzly bear attacks, play dead--unless it wants to eat you, in which case, fight back.

Got all that?

Enjoying a taste of nature without getting tasted yourself can be a complicated matter in the West, but wildlife biologists suggest some general precautions:

* Make loud noises while hiking.

* Don't travel alone.

* Keep a respectful distance from wild animals. This can be farther than one might think. Last October in Glacier National Park, a grizzly charged 150 yards across an open meadow to maul a hiker.

Other advice is specific to each predator.

The mountain lion is a reclusive animal, most likely to attack if it senses you're an easy meal. Don't run. Face it and try to appear larger by waving your arms, then back away slowly.

If the lion acts aggressively or attacks, you should fight back with anything handy--rocks, sticks or bare hands.

Grizzly bears are not so easily intimidated. If you surprise one, talk quietly and back away slowly, unless it seems to agitate the bear. Avoid direct eye contact.

A bear may make a bluff charge. Don't run, which could trigger its instinct to chase. If it attacks, drop to the ground and play dead.

Some hikers carry guns for bear defense. In the national parks, where guns are not allowed, some hikers carry an aerosol can of pepper spray, marketed specifically for warding off bears. It has worked in some instances, but "it's not a magic bullet," Glacier National Park ranger Gary Moses says.

Black bears are usually smaller and shyer than grizzlies, but have been known to attack people. Biologists say most recommendations for grizzly encounters hold for black bears, though it may be easier to scare away a black bear.

With both species, the rules for surprise encounters don't apply when the bear is stalking you as a potential meal. In that situation, experts recommend fighting back vigorously if attacked.

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