Most bear encounters are not documented, as they were just sightings with no immediate danger. However 13 states that keep detailed records saw a 23% increase in bear encounters from 2010 to 2012.
The bear population is growing and in some states like Florida both the bear and human population is growing. You can say we are living in the bear’s backyard, and that means a greater likelihood of a bear encounter. There have been literally thousands of instances where bears have frightened workers, shut down schools and wandered into neighborhoods.
Male bears tend to roam more than females, sometimes up to 100 miles looking for food. Yearlings or one year old bears tend to get into trouble because they are young dumb and fearless. They have devastated bee hives gotten stuck in fences and found themselves in livestock yards, barns and abandon buildings. Make no mistake young bears can be very dangerous and should not be taunted or allow yourself to get to close to them.
As mentioned before bears will travel up to 100 miles for food. Their sense of smell is extremely acute and things like frying bacon, cooking outdoors and open coolers or garbage cans can attract bears. When bears find a source of food in a populated area, they tend to lose their fear of people and then become extremely dangerous.
What do we do if we encounter a bear? First of all if you are inside, stay inside and call the local authorities. The police or fire department will contact the proper people to come and remove the bear. Do not attract the bear’s attention or taunt the bear, let the authorities take care of the bear. An angered bear can knock down doors and windows and if you agitate the bear it makes the job of animal control even harder.
If outdoors, do not turn and run. The bear does not naturally attack humans and is probably looking for food. Do not throw food at the bear, but if you have food out or were eating, leave the food there as that is probably why the bear appeared. Walk slowly backwards away from the bear. Maintain eye contact with the bear while retreating. Absolutely do not harass or try to pet the bear. When at a safe distance, then you can get inside your car or house and call the authorities.
If you live in an area frequented by bears store your garbage in bear-resistant containers or in your garage. If you are camping, close your coolers when not using them and store all food at night in your cooler and put the cooler in the trunk of your car. If hiking and camping hang your cooler or food from a high limb of a tree. At home especially during the spring when bears come out of hibernation, put away all food sources such as pet food bowls and bird feeders at night. If you have livestock or chickens, have them fenced in by study fences.
If you are planning to go into the woods to hike or camp, check with the local authorizes about the presence of bears. Most national and state parks in areas where there are bears require that you carry a pepper spray bear repellant. A bear repellant is more effective than guns, and it does not cause long-term or permanent damage to the animal. Most hikers or campers do not carry a firearm capable of killing a bear. Using a less effective firearm will only enrage the bear and make him extremely dangerous. It has been proven over and over that because of the bear’s extremely sensitive nose, bear spray is the most effective defense.
Pepper Spray bear spray is environmentally friendly, and it is registered by the EPA as an effective repellant for all species of bears. Tom Smith a wildlife biologist remarked during a study, “The ease of using pepper spray, it turns out, is more effective compared to the mechanical shortcomings of a gun and the hesitancy of some people to use lethal force. “Mr. Smith also said that when you use a pepper spray, you are conditioning the animal to stay away from people.