A hiker has shared a video of himself narrating a frighteningly close encounter with three bears on a woodland trail, and demonstrating the best way to react if you find yourself in a similar situation. It’s not clear exactly where the clip was recorded, but the man says he is camping and came across the animals on July 14, during his first walk in the area.
In the video, which you can watch below, the man is alone, but keeps talking throughout the encounter, keeping his voice as calm as possible, to let the mother bear and her two cubs know that he’s human and not a prey animal. He walks slowly backwards along the trail, giving the animals space while watching for changes in their behavior.
“What I don’t want to do, as I’m walking backwards, is stumble,” he says as the adult bear slows down, but the two cubs continue to pursue him. The video ends with the animals still following close behind.
The National Park Service (NPS) advises hikers that the best way to avoid a bear encounter is to make sure they know you are coming in advance by making noise as you walk. It’s safest to hike in groups; bear attacks are less common when people are together, so talking and singing are good ways to make your presence known.
You should also carry bear spray and make sure you know how to use it in an emergency.
Different parks will have their own recommendations depending on the observed behavior of local animals, but if you stumble to come across a bear in the wild, the general advice is to talk in low tones. This will let the bear know that you’re a person, and help keep both of you calm. Remember that a bear is more likely to be curious than aggressive, though the chances of an attack increase greatly if a sow perceives you as a threat to her cubs.
You should never run, scream, or make other loud noises, as this can trigger the bear’s instinct to chase. Instead, make yourself look as large as possible and leave the area or take a detour. If that’s not possible, wait until the bear leaves of its own accord.
For more advice, see our guides what to do if you meet a bear and wildlife safety: eight tips for unexpected encounters.