I love hiking!!! Especially right here in Durham, the trails at the Eno River State Park are varied enough that you get a different experience each time. I often travel to hike in other cities so I like to be prepared for the local wildlife. It’s good to know what animals share the trails with you- big predators, venomous snakes, and even large omnivores. Black bears are not local to our area but… if you were traveling…Would you know what to do if you came across a black bear while you were hiking?
Black bears actually tend to be nervous and easily frightened. Ask any keeper here and I’m sure they’ll have their own story about Gus running away from an enrichment object thrown into the yard.
According to the American Bear Association– You are more likely to be killed by a bee than a black bear, in fact 180 times more likely. Black bear attacks are very rare and when injuries do occur the reasons are typically because people were trying to feed, pet, or crowd the bear.
They advise that while hiking in bear country USE CAUTION. Make some noise- clap your hands or use a bell occasionally. Some sites suggest carrying bear spray (I would suggest spray over a shotgun any day) Be aware of dense vegetation, when approaching blind curves, and along streams. Surprising a black bear could result in defensive action.
Here is the American Bear Association’s advice if you do encounter a black bear:
-Stay calm- do not run (running may elicit a chase response) And black bears can run up to 35 miles an hour, they can also climb and swim very well.
-Pick up children and restrain dogs
- Avoid eye contact and talk in a calm soothing voice
- Slowly retreat from the area, do not crowd or block the bear’s way
If the bear is close you can stand tall with your arms in the air- to appear larger, deepen your voice and tone, continue backing away slowly.
Threatened bear behavior includes chomping jaws, lunging towards you, or stomping. However if the bear stands up- he’s actually curious or trying to get a better view/sniff. In either case – slowly back away.
Black bears have lost 60% of their historical range due to human encroachment. Encounters with black bears are inevitable but being educated and prepared can save the lives of many bears.