Understanding How Black Bears React to Humans

If you’re booking one of the excellent bear tours offered by specialist wildlife travel companies, you should do some homework on your fascinating subject, including how these animals react around people within their habitat. When you embark on wildlife holidays like this, you are entering the world of the animals; you need to respect and appreciate how they think, why they react, and which bear is the most dangerous even what they may perceive when they see you.

Black Bears, in particular, are of great interest to nature lovers, but how exactly do these magnificent beasts react when encountering humans?

Be Safe in the Habitat

Firstly, it is important to note that when you’re on organised bear tours it is very unlikely you’ll see any aggressive behaviour from the animals. Despite having a reputation for being rather frightening, they rarely attack humans and are, in fact, respectfully fearful of humans – preferring to avoid them whenever possible. That said, it is sensible to be wary and to know the signs to look out for. Here are a few tips on what to expect when you encounter one in the wild.

Entering Bear Habitat

Black Bears in the wild may act aggressively if they perceive a threat in their immediate environment, most often reacting if they are defending a source of food, or if a mother is with her cubs. If a bear feels threatened, it may ‘pop’ its jaw or swat its paw at the ground – and these are both signs to be wary of. There may be lots of snorting and blowing and even a charge or lunge towards whatever is threatening them in an attempt to scare it away. A bear isn’t usually looking for a fight – merely to warn a threat that they are unhappy with its close proximity.

If there is ever an encounter that involves a physical attack, it is usually because the bear has been surprised. Black Bear attacks have been mainly linked to mothers protecting their young. On the rare occasion a bear approaches a human in a submissive manner, it is more often than not simply out of curiosity. It can also be an adult exercising its dominance and, if this happens, the advice is to talk to the animal in a firm voice and move out of its way as soon as possible.

For those on bear tours, it is far more likely to see the animals at a distance or be in a protected hide – both of which, by default, signify a respect of its personal space. There is never a need to approach an animal closely, so it should not feel threatened and feel the need to react aggressively.

For anyone embarking on bear tours, safety is always paramount in the organisation of the itinerary, however it certainly pays to be aware of any wild animal’s behaviour patterns.


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