We’ve all heard that when you encounter a bear in the wilderness you shouldn’t run and should instead try to stand completely still. And, as with most things involving big wild predators, it’s easier said than done. One group of tourists in the Chipinque Ecological Park in San Pedro Garza García, Mexico just gave us the perfect demonstration.
A black bear approached the group while they were hiking on the trail and they followed the guidelines and immediately froze on the side of the trail. The full-grown bear didn’t ignore them as most of them probably hoped but instead got up close and started sniffing them and even touching them with its paws.
The interaction went on for so long that one of the tourists had time to take out a camera and capture this scary moment. One of the women, who the bear seemed most interested in, even got the perfect opportunity for a selfie with the wild animal.
The woman did lose her cool at times but that’s more than understandable, given that she was receiving most of the bear’s attention. During most of the interaction, the bear wasn’t just near her and sniffing her, it even got up on its hind legs and started pushing against her while sniffing her hair and neck. The pushing didn’t seem aggressive but one can only imagine how it felt.
Several of the woman’s companions tried to distract the bear and get it to leave her alone without agitating the wild animal, but its interest was quite strong. After capturing the selfie, the woman tried stepping away from the animal which is when the bear even tried pulling her back to itself with its clawed paw.
Eventually, the bear did lose interest, however, as the eco park’s guidelines suggest. After sniffing and “inspecting” the tourists for a bit, the bear just wandered away, not paying them any more attention.
Former NBA player Rex Chapman shared the video on his page and wrote: “Oh. my. goodness. She’s a rock. I want this girl in my foxhole…”
Journalist Yashar Ali seconded his opinion, saying “We don’t see the lead up, but they handle themselves well. If a black bear is this close to you, it’s too late to scare them off unless they’re attacking you, then you should fight back,” Ali wrote. “Otherwise, stay calm..don’t run. Don’t do that with a grizzly if they attack you…play dead.”
Journalist Clarence Hill Jr. also added that “It’s one thing to be brave, its another to be poised under pressure. My God.”
What should you do if you encounter a bear in a similar way?
Most experts agree that standing perfectly still is one of the best things to do if you get approached by a wild bear. But is that all you can do? Here’s a quick breakdown of the standard guidelines for avoiding and safely surviving encounters with bears:
- If you can, don’t get close to their habitat. Many places are known habitats of wild bears. The Chipinque Ecological Park in San Pedro Garza García, for example, is well-known for being the home of a large population of wild black bears.
- If you do want to visit the habitat of wild bears, never do so alone. Strength in numbers is a thing – visiting places like the Chipinque Ecological Park in San Pedro Garza García can be awesome but you shouldn’t do it alone.
- Make some noise. Most wild bears will avoid large groups of noisy people. Sneaking quietly through bear-populated areas is the much riskier approach as you can accidentally stumble upon the animal and surprise it. And you don’t want to be close to a surprised wild bear.
- Pay attention to your surroundings. Listening to music while walking through an eco-park seems fun but it’s definitely ill-advised. If a bear decides to approach your group the way this black bear in San Pedro did, it’s in your best interest to notice the approach as soon as possible. It’s also important to look for any cubs or animal carcasses nearby – bears will act differently depending on whether they’re alone, with their cubs, or with their meal.
- Stand still and don’t intimidate the animal. If a black bear is approaching you non-aggressively the way this bear did, make sure you don’t look threatening yourself. Stand still, don’t make any abrupt movements, and just wait for the bear to lose interest.
- If a bear approaches you aggressively, you’ll have to evaluate the situation carefully. If you’re with a tour guide they should have briefed you on what you should do – different bears will act in different ways and the guide will know best what you’re dealing with. Depending on the situation you might have to slowly move away, run, talk in a firm and loud voice to show dominance, or even try pepper spray to dissuade the animal. Reading the situation and knowing what you’re dealing with is key to making the right choice here.
Fortunately, 99% of bear encounters are perfectly harmless as the animals are almost never interested in attacking large groups of tourists. Trails in eco-parks are designed to not get close to the bears’ dens and tour guides are (or at least should be) always well-trained for reading a bear’s behavior and acting in the right way. So, the main thing to always do is to follow your tour guide’s instructions and example.