How to

HOW TO SURVIVE A DATE WITH A BEAR

Illustration: MARK THOMAS

What would you do if you were hiking in the wilderness and came across a wild bear?

What would you do if you were hiking in the wilderness and came across a wild bear? Once it’s seen you, is it possible to avoid a mauling? “They are smarter than primates,” says bear trainer Ruth LaBarge, who’s been working with them for 48 years. “You can’t fudge it.” The Alberta, Canada–based wrangler has provided animals for Doritos commercials, the Dr. Dolittle movies and an upcoming HBO miniseries on explorers Lewis and Clark. Here, she tells us how to survive a grizzly worst-case scenario. 

1 KNOW YOUR SEASONS
“Bears are very intelligent and emotional creatures. They’re very cyclical. In the spring, bears are in breeding season and they’re not in their right mind. Their heads are not where they normally are. In summer, they’re in the feeding season and they go crazy if they don’t eat. In the winter, they’re in hibernation.” 

2 MAKE LOTS OF NOISE
“Brown bears seldom ever go looking for you. They’re not predatory in that sense. What happens normally with a grizzly is that they feel threatened—and by that I mean you are walking in the woods not making a sound. Being quiet in bear country is the most dangerous thing you can do. Bring a radio and blare it out.” 

3 CAUSE A STINK
“Carry bear spray. It contains cayenne pepper in a very strong concentration and it’s got a 20-foot range. It’s like being sprayed by a skunk. Instead of attacking, it thinks, ‘This stinks, get me out of here!’ ” 

“Being quiet in bear country is the most dangerous thing you can do.”
Bear Trainer Ruth LaBarge

4 STAND YOUR GROUND
“Bears will bluff charge you. They’ll lower their head, pin their ears back and scream at you. Stand your ground. If you do this, don’t make noise and don’t look them in the eye and they’ll go away. Except black bears. If it’s a black bear, then fight for your life—they’re very predatory animals.” 

5 PRETEND TO BE DEAD
“If you get knocked down, then it’s time to be quiet. You have to play dead. Don’t scream—that will only pump adrenaline into the bear. Instead, lie on your stomach and put your hands behind your neck, because that’s the first part of your body that a bear will go after. And if they roll you, keep rolling.” 

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02 2016 The Red Bulletin

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