September 12, 2019 3 min read

If you want to survive a bear attack, you’ll need a level head and nerves of steel. Grizzly bear attacks are on the rise in North America, and they’re expected to increase further as we keep expanding into their territory. Now more than ever, it’s important to know exactly what to do when a hike in the woods turns into a death match with a grizzly.

That’s why we’ve outlined seven life-saving steps campers and hikers need to take in order to make it out alive when up against a grizzly bear. You’re most likely to encounter grizzly bears when camping or hiking in the Pacific Northwest (Alaska, Washington, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho). If you live anywhere else in the country, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared to deal with a black bear attack.

Grizzly bears are known for the distinctive hump of pure muscle on their backs just at the base of their necks. They’re larger than black bears, and they’re much more aggressive. In other words, you’re much less likely to survive a bear attack if you’re up against a grizzly. Still, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family while camping or hiking.

1. Don’t Make Eye Contact

Grizzly bears consider eye contact a challenge to their authority. They will perceive you as a threat, making it much more likely that it will attack you.

2. Don’t Make Any Sudden Movements

If you encounter a grizzly bear, remain calm. Do not run away. Instead, stand up straight and back away slowly, speaking in a soft voice. If you have bear spray, reach for it slowly. If the bear decides to follow you, again, do not run away. Instead, stop where you are and ready your weapon.

3. Do Not Run Under Any Circumstances

If the grizzly bear charges at you, do not run! Stand still. This will stop it from charging. It may or may not attack you, but if you run, it definitely will attack you.

4. Use Bear Spray

Don’t go into the woods without a can of bear spray on you at all times. Bear spray is the absolute best piece of equipment you can carry in order to survive a bear attack. That said, while some National Parks allow bear spray, in more recent years, others have banned it under the belief that the preventative measures listed above should be enough to keep visitors safe. We think it’s best to have access to all of your options, and bear spray is without question the best option for surviving a grizzly bear attack.

Use bear spray while the Grizzly Bear is charging. The spray is most effectively used 40 to 50 feet away from the bear. You want to create a cloud of bear spray between you and the bear so that the bear will run into it with its eyes open as it charges you. If it works, and the bear stops, then you can get away. Bear spray is best kept in a holster or front pants pocket for ease of access. You will only have a few seconds to spray it while the bear charges.

5. Protect Your Neck

If the bear spray doesn’t work and the grizzly bear continues to charge at you, drop to the ground and assume the fetal position. Cover the back of your neck with your hands. Most importantly, don’t move.

6. Play Dead

If the grizzly bear attacks you, your best bet is to play dead. Once it thinks you’re dead, it might walk away, but it’s very important to continue lying still. Grizzly bears are known for making sure their victims are dead. Stay down for at least twenty minutes before getting up to escape.

7. Punch It In The Nose

Don’t attempt this except as a last resort. Playing dead is the best method when your goal is to survive a bear attack and make it back home, but if you can somehow do it, punch it in the nose. This can deter the bear from continuing to attack you. If it works, and you can pick yourself up, back away from the bear slowly and try the bear spray again. Never run from it.

Bear experts agree that bear spray is the best weapon against grizzly bears. Guns are of course much better than nothing, but a fully-grown, adult grizzly bear can survive a couple of bullets unless you’re a real marksman and get it in the head on the first shot. If you’re out hiking or camping in the woods, bring along some bear spray and a first-aid kit that leaves nothing out.