Know how to protect yourself from a bear attack

Bears are starting to emerge from their winter dens, and they’re likely to be both hungry and grumpy. Be ready to defend yourself if you run into a bear on a spring outing.

If you’re wandering around the woods, making noise and doing everything you should do to keep from startling a bear, chances are you won’t see one. But even the best precautions don’t always work.

But what if you’re hunting turkeys, and you’re doing your best to stay quiet?

If you startle a bear while you’re hiking or hunting, the first thing to do is to watch its body language. A stressed bear will pace or pant and swing its head. It might also huff or woof, and it may snap its jaws and slobber. These signals mean the bear is threatened. If you don’t leave it alone, it might try to defend itself. And even a small, 200-pound bear can defend himself pretty effectively.

Get your defenses ready. Pepper spray is the most effective defense you can find. But make sure your can of spray is no older than two years old. That’s the recommendation, and I don’t see any reason to question it. It might work if it’s three or four years old, but I don’t want to be the guy testing the hypothesis.

Take the safety off and hold it at the ready. If the bear stays put, back away slowly. Don’t turn your back on the bear. Don’t look the bear in the eye, either. Eye contact is a sign of aggression between bears.

If you can’t back away or if the bear charges anyway, stand your ground. It might be a bluff charge. Fire your pepper spray directly into the bear’s face and keep spraying until the bear turns away or until your can is empty.

Drop to the ground only if the bear makes contact with you. Lie flat on your stomach and lace your fingers behind your head. When the bear has decided he has shown you who is boss, he’ll go away. That may be easier said than done, but it’s all you can do in that situation.

But do all you can to avoid a confrontation. You and the bear will be better off for it.