Myths You Should Not Believe About Bears
By Lynn Rogers 47 Years With Bears, And Myself

Myth #1: Bears are unpredictable.

Fact: Bears use body language and vocalizations to show their
intentions. Learning about bear behaviour can be beneficial to
people who live or recreate in bear country.

Myth #2: Bears can't run down hill.

Fact: Bears can run more than 35 Miles an hour, and they can do it
up hills, down hills or along a slope. To put that in perspective, that's
15 m/sec or 50 ft/sec - more than twice as fast as we can run. In fact a
bear can outrun a race horse over short distances but has little endurance.

Myth #3: A bear standing on its hind legs is about to charge.

Fact: Actually, a bear standing on its hind legs is just trying to
better identify what has caught its attention. As I'm sure you'll
agree, it's much easier to see, hear and smell things from a
standing position, than down on all fours.

Myth #4: Once a bear has tasted human food, it won't eat wild food any more.

Fact: Bears prefer natural, wild food unless it is difficult to find and
human food is too easy to get. Even the worst food conditioned
bears still eat natural foods whenever they're plentiful. Conflicts
usually increase when natural foods run out, a good time to be more
vigilant of bear attractants on your property, such as bird feed, pet
food, fruit trees, berry bushes, barbecue grease and compost.

Myth #5: Bear bells are the best way to avoid a surprise encounter.

Fact: It's best to alert bears of your presence by talking loudly,
singing songs or breaking sticks. Try to hike in a group, on
established trails, during daylight hours.

Myth #6: If a bear charges you, climb a tree.

Fact: Despite all their timidness on the ground, black bears seem to
feel more courageous in trees. Bears sometimes kill each other
by throwing their opponents out of trees. The bear below has the
advantage because the bear above cannot easily hang on and face
downward to fight back. Also the lower bear seems confident of these
advantages and some bears have even come up trees after people who
thought climbing was prudent. Grizzlies, too, can climb perhaps not
as quickly, but they have been known to attack people who climbed
trees to escape.

Myth #7: Bears are carnivores.

Fact: Although classified in the order carnivora, grizzly and black
bears are omnivores because they eat both plants and animals. Only
a small percentage of their diets consist of meat, which includes fish
insects and other mammals (the exact percentage is dependant on the
type of food is available in their habitat).

Myth #8: Bears have poor eyesight.

Fact: Bears see in color and have good vision similar to humans.
Their night vision is excellent and they are particularly attuned to
detecting movement. Like many animals, bears' eyes have a reflective
layer called the tapetum lucidum lining the back of the eyeball.
This layer reflects light back through the retina, allowing light to
stimulate light-sensitive cells in the retina a second time, thereby
improving night vision. This is what gives dogs, cats and many
nocturnal animals that distinct, bright green eyeshine when they
are flashed with a light at night.

Myth #9: Bears that wander into inhabited areas such as campsites,
rural towns or cottage communities are dangerous.

Fact: It is nearly impossible for a bear to make its daily excursions
without walking through someone's private property. Bears may
travel hundreds of kilometres in their search for food. If you
have stored your food and garbage properly, the bear will likely
move on. Remember, problem bears aren't born, they're made.
If bears are hanging around, something is attracting them.
Removing the attraction will usually solve the problem.

Myth #10: Shooting or relocating a 'nuisance'bear will solve the problem.

Fact: Removing the bear and not the attractant will only create an
opportunity for another bear to move in, creating a vicious cycle of
conflict and killing.

Myth #11: Carrying a rifle is safer than bear pepper spray.

Fact: A person's chance of incurring serious injury from a charging
grizzly doubles when bullets are fired versus when bear pepper spray
is used (Dr. Stephen Herrero). Those injured defending themselves
with bear pepper spray experienced shorter attacks and less severe
injuries than those who chose to use firearms (USFish and Wildlife
Service). Bears are actually attracted to pepper spray residue if it is
sprayed on the ground or on objects. Never spray it around a tent or
on yourself. When used defensively, pepper spray must be sprayed
directly in the attacking bear's eyes or nose.

Myth #12: One of the most dangerous encounters is getting between a
mother black bear and her cubs.

Fact: Because black bears can tree their cubs, it is rare for them
to attack a person in defence of cubs. However, if you are anywhere
near a mother grizzly's cubs, she might very well perceive you as a
threat. The chances are good that she will just bluff charge and stop
well short of physical contact. You need to do whatever you can to
show her that you are not a threat, otherwise the consequences
could be tragic. Be quiet, make yourself smaller and retreat.
"The biggest problem bears face is that they are demonized by
hunting magazines, taxidermy with unnatural snarls, and excessive
warnings written by government attorneys worried about liability
problems. Dr. Lynn Rogers.

Myth#13: People traveling in bear country are often attacked.

Fact: Bear attacks are extremely rare. Although there are thousands
of human-bear encounters every year, only a very few result in
personal injury. Most bears will actually retreat before you are
even aware of their presence. It is still important, however, to
stay alert and know the BearSmart facts.

Myth #14: It is dangerous to go into bear country when menstruating

Fact: Current evidence suggests that menstruation does not increase
the likelihood of an attack by a black or grizzly bear, but tampons are
recommended over pads. They may be disposed of by burning and then
packing out the remains.

Myth #15: Play dead during an attack.

Fact: Playing dead will work if you're being attacked by a mother
grizzly defending her cubs. But it is the wrong thing to do if you're
being attacked by a black bear, if contact is made, fight kick, punch,
hit the bear with rocks or sticks or any improvised weapon you can
find, the best way is to do what your ma ma told you to do when you
were younger and that is punch them in the nose, and it should run
away. some people think they have been attacked by a bear when they
have just been tackled, they like to tackle each other to play, but people
are too tender for them to play like they do, so you might end up with
some scares or even a puncture wound, but nothing that's life threatening.

Myth #16 Never divide a mother and cub.
Lynn has not found any record of a black bear mother killing a human in
defence of cubs. Black bears live in wooded areas, so their cubs can climb
trees to safety if threatened. By contrast, grizzly bears live in more open,
treeless country where this escape route is not an option: some 70 per cent
of grizzly attacks are attributed to mothers defending cubs.

Myth #17 Bears love honey.
Bears rely on colonial insects for much of their diet. The hives of honeybees are
sometimes targeted, but the bears are after the protein-rich pupae, not the honey.

Myth #18 Bears roar Unlike cats and dogs.
Bears do not roar or show their teeth when threatened. Film producers
have mislead audiences by using bears trained to display unnatural
behaviours to enhance our fear. These animals are taught to stand up on
their hind legs and open their mouths wide in a most unnatural posture.
The sounds heard in films are added afterwards and are usually the distorted
roars of big cats.

Myth #19 Bears prefer human food.
If natural foods are low in quality or availability, bears may temporarily favour
human foods. However, when high quality natural foods such as emerging
vegetation, colonial insects, nuts or berries are abundant, bears prefer those.

Myth #20 Feeding bears makes them lazy.
Lynnís researchers have found that wild bears with access to supplemental
food still spend more than 98 per cent of their time foraging.

Myth #21 Fearless bears are dangerous.
If not threatened by humans, bears can associate specific locations with
food and become relaxed. There is no evidence that bears that lose their
fear are more likely to attack humans in fact, the opposite appears to be true.

Myth #22 A fed bear is a dead bear.
Campground managers developed this slogan to keep campsites clean. People
recite the rhyme as a mantra for all bear management, not realising that there
is no scientific evidence to show that food habituated bears need to be destroyed.

Myth #23 Bear hunting is dangerous.
Black bears are normally baited for several weeks to a spot where they can be easily
shot. There is no evidence that wounded black bears are more likely to attack people.

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A Cheat Sheet For Getting Bear Smart

With bears emerging from their wintery dens all over North America
I wanted to give you an easy-to-reference cheat sheet of 16 bear
smart practices to consider for life in bear country. Keeping bears
away from human food sources gives our bears a chance at a long
life. Unfortunately, far-too-often a food-conditioned bear becomes a
bear with a death sentence. Please save the life of a bear by sharing
this cheat sheet to your friends & neighbors via email or print it out
and send it in the mail.

1. Clean the grease tray out of your BBQ.

2. Store away your bird feeder during bear season.

3. Garbage should be secured inside or in a bear-proof bin until
it can be disposed of properly.

4. Keep smelly items out of your car, empty coffee cups, deodorant
sticks, and McDonalds wrappers attract bears.

5. DRIVING : Bear's do not wear reflectors, be cautious while
driving through bear country at night.

6. Use a telephoto lens when taking photos of bears.

7. Don't cause a "bear jam" by stopping on roadways to watch bears.

8. Got backyard chickens ? Use an electric fence to keep them safe.

9. Never approach a bear.

10. Never befriend a bear.

11. DRIVING : If you see a bear roadside, think,"Maybe there are
cubs" and slow down to avoid collisions.

12. Don't keep dog food outside.

13. AT HOME: Replace lever door handles with traditional
doorknobs. They're trickier for bear's to operate.

14. Don't leave your picnic cooler in the back of your truck.

15. Bears, like people, react to threats by evaluating their
potential danger, Act responsibly.

16. Bears can pry open vehicles to access food, don't tempt them.