4 Grizzly Bear Safety Tips to Avoid a Yellowstone Repeat

Jeanne Sager
12

grizzly bearAs if Sarah Palin toting her gun around Alaska on her TLC show hadn't made trips into bear country scary enough for Americans, the story of Brian Matayoshi, 57-year-old man killed by a grizzly bear at Yellowstone National Park while hiking with his wife this week, could force us all to stay home and hide out in our bear-free neighborhoods. But it's summer, y'all. It's the perfect time to travel the country, perfect time to see the national parks ... provided you come armed with a little knowledge of how to fend off a grizzly bear.

Most of the details of the fatal mauling in Yellowstone have yet to be released, but it seems that the couple who encountered the mama grizzly weren't prepared to fend her off. Sadly, we're left to learn from their mistakes to prep ourselves with some bear defense:

1. Don't RUN. The husband in this case told his wife to run away, and apparently she survived the attack. But bear experts will tell you that's the very LAST thing you should do. Bears can outrun you, period. Instead, experts advise you retreat slowly, speaking in a calm voice and avoiding eye contact.

2. Come Prepared. Sarah Palin toted out her bear gun on her show, but shooting at a bear can only enrage it further. A better option is to bring along "bear spray," a pepper spray that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says is most effective at deterring a charging bear. Most people who use pepper spray escape injury, and those who are hurt generally incur less serious injuries than those who come packing heat.

3. Avoid the Bears. The couple in Yellowstone actually encountered this angry mama grizzly not once but twice. The first time they saw her, they kept hiking. But experts will advise you clear out when you encounter a bear in her natural habitat. Their best suggestion? If the grizzly hasn't spotted you, "do a wide detour quietly and quickly downwind."

4. Play Dead. This is the one thing Marilyn Matayoshi did correctly. When the bear charged and there was no way to avoid it, she immediately dropped to the ground. The creature lifted her up by her backpack, then dropped her. The best bet is the fetal position, putting your hands up around the back of your neck to protect it. Even after the bear has moved on, remain in position to ensure they're truly gone.

Would you risk going into bear country if you knew how to handle a bear? Did this grizzly attack change your mind?

 

Image via ilashdesigns/Flickr

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