Surviving A Bear Encounter. What You Absolutely Need To Know.

Todd Orr. You may have recently heard of this modern day Hugh Glass’s story on the news or via the internet.

Todd Orr, was scouting for Elk in Madison Valley, a southwest Montana area. He knows that this is bear country, so as he’s moving along he’s yelling out, “hey bear!” about every 30 seconds to avoid surprising any bears near the trail.

About three miles in, he steps out into an open meadow and yells again.

After a few more steps he spots a sow grizzly with her cubs. The sow sees him and at first they take off running a short distance up the trail.

Unfortunately for Todd, the grizzly turns back to him and charges.

Despite yelling to deter the bear, she was almost on him in a matter of seconds.

Todd discharged a full canister of bear spray from 25 feet away to no avail. He says, “Her momentum carried her right through the orange mist and on me.”

Miraculously, he survives the attack despite getting mauled for what seemed like an eternity. Eventually the bear disappears.

Stunned, he picks himself up, and being able to walk, begins back down the trail towards his truck which was three miles away.

By the way, he’s half jogging at this point. He realizes that his injuries aren’t life threatening and that he’ll likely survive. He begins to thank God for saving his life.

And then, He. Gets. Attacked. Again.

Let me just repeat that.

He gets attacked again. By the same Grizzly.

I’ll let you google the rest of the story. Spoiler alert, he survives, but not only that, he takes a moment and shoots a quick video of himself, before driving to a hospital 20 miles away. The video went viral.

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast chances are (slim) that you may, one day run into a bear, or two. If that does happen, it may be an amazing encounter with you at a safe distance from the bear, and the bear being in a good mood or not hungry.

But just in case you find yourself a bit too close for comfort, below is some information you definitely should know.

Types of Bears by Region

Black Bear

There are three species of bears in the U.S. Most common is the American black bear (Ursus americanus). This species can be found in almost every state in the U.S.

Despite being called black bears, their coats can vary between shades of black, brown, and even white. They are known as the least aggressive and most fearful of the three types. Though, lately attacks have been more frequent than in past decades.

Brown or Grizzly

The grizzly, or brown bear (Ursus arctos) is common to the Northwest area of the U.S. They can be found in states like Montana, Washington, Idaho, and Wyoming.

Near the coasts this species are usually called brown or Kodiak bears. The smaller inland variety are what we know as grizzly’s due to their “grizzled” appearance. These guys are known to be more aggressive and are involved in more human attacks.

All are the same species, though some biologists are suggesting that the brown bears on Kodiak Island have lived in isolation long enough to be considered a separate subspecies (Ursus arctos middendorffi).

Polar Bear

Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) are the species least likely to be encountered as they live in their remote Artic environment. As far as American territories are concerned, they are found only in remote northern and western parts of Alaska.

They are the largest of all the bears, and will also attack humans.

What can provoke an attack?

There are typically two types of attacks on humans: defensive and predatory.

Defensive Attack

  • Defending their young
  • Defending a food source
  • A defensive attack if the bear is startled

Predatory Attack

  1. A predatory attack is very rare. In this instance the bear sees you as food and is actually stalking you.
  2. If this happens you have to make the bear think you aren’t worth the risk. 

How can you protect yourself from a bear attack?

Always be on alert. The best way to protect against a bear attack is to avoid getting too close to one. Be mindful of your surroundings at all times.

If a bear does attack you have different options depending on the type of attack and bear. 

  • Always carry bear spray (pepper spray for bears). It doesn’t always work but something is better than nothing. There is mounting evidence that sprays may actually be more effective than guns.
  • Gun. This one is debatable. Gun advocates swear by guns when it comes to bears. (I'd feel safer with a gun in the woods). However, there is a lot of scientific evidence that points away from this choice. It's a personal choice, but be informed.
  • Do not run! You don’t want to trigger a bear’s prey drive. Besides, they can run much faster than you.
  • If it's a grizzly do your absolute best to remain calm. Speak to it in a soft voice and slowly back away. Do not turn your back on it. Back away facing the bear. 
  • If it’s a black bear don’t bother climbing a tree either. Black bears are excellent climbers.
  • Play dead – drop into a curled up position preferably with your face to the ground and cover your neck with your hands. This works best with grizzlies.
  • Play dead for a while. Some bears have been known to wait around for a bit to see if their perceived threat is getting back up.
  • If it’s a black bear DO NOT play dead. Fight back like your life depends on it! Use whatever you can and aim for the snout or eyes.
  • Be like Todd and pray that you survive with minimal injuries. Having a strong will to survive is crucial here. If attacked, do you what you can to muster the spirit to get yourself some help.

Final thoughts

A bear encounter is probably one of the most amazing experiences anyone can have.

It is also the one time it’s ok to shit your pants. Really. No one can get mad at you for that so have at it. You can always shower off afterward.

We want to hear from you guys. Have you ever had a bear encounter? If so, how was it for you? 

In health, 


Disclaimer: This is not meant to be a definitive guide to bears or bear attacks. We did the research and feel that this article provides some common sense advise when it comes to bear attacks. Also, bears are awesome and so is Todd Orr.