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After a hiker is attacked by bears in the local mountains, a reminder on staying safe if you meet one

Brittany Martin

A man hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains, just east of L.A., was attacked by a pair of bears. While he sustained no significant injuries, it was a pretty close call—and we can only imagine how scary the situation must have been. The weird thing is, bears around here generally don’t do that.  

 “They typically are non-aggressive,” chief Larry Giannone, director of public safety for Sierra Madre (near where the attack took place), told ABC News.

The attack in the Angeles National Forest shut down the Bailey Canyon Wilderness Park and the trail to Mount Wilson while Fish and Wildlife officials attempted to locate the aggressive bears.

We can’t know what provoked these particular animals to attack in this situation, but it’s a good reminder that we do share the forest with a population that can do serious damage to humans and pets if you happen to cross them. While most bears are not looking to harm a human, if you’re going hiking or camping, be sure you’re prepared should you encounter one. 

The National Park Service has a full guide to bear protocol which is worth a review before heading out to the woods. They suggest you do your best to stay calm and identify yourself to the bear by speaking in low, soothing tones—the sound tips the bear off that you’re a human, not interesting or delicious prey—and avoid screaming or making anything the bear might perceive as bear-like noises. Pick up any small children or animals with you, and move slowly sideways, out of the bear’s way.

While attacks are extremely rare, they do happen. In local forests, the bears are typically black bears, and the NPS recommends that if one makes a move against you, your best bet is to vigorously fight back, concentrating your blows on the animal’s face and muzzle. Take shelter in a car or building if you can. It’s important to note that the advice is the opposite of what you may have heard about attacks by brown or grizzly bears; in those cases, your first line of defense should be to lay flat on your stomach, hands covering your neck, with legs spread. Stay as still and rigid as possible and the bear is likely to give up, whereas fighting back against a grizzly or brown bear is likely to provoke them more. 

Wildlife is part of what makes exploring our natural areas great, but just like with coyotes and mountain lions, it’s important to find a way for humans and bears to co-exist as peacefully as possible.


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