How to Strike A Pose To Save Your Life

Make yourself look big? Play dead? Run? We've got your wildlife defense poses covered.

We hear all kinds of wildlife defense tactics—some are legitimate and some are ridiculous. We're setting the record straight.

Click through the slideshow below (and may the odds be ever in your favor):

Text and photographs by Madison Kotack

November 25, 2014

Non-Aggressive Grizzly Bear

When you encounter a non-aggressive grizzly, it's best to speak in a monotone voice and back away slowly.

Cross your fingers you catch a grizzly in this mood. It's aware of your presence and probably doesn't care. That doesn't mean you should set up camp: back away slowly with your arms in the air until you are at a safe distance from the bear. It's also a good idea to avoid eye contact and speak in a monotone voice.

Defensive Grizzly Bear

If you encounter a defensive, aggressive Momma grizzly, it's best to play dead.

You really wish you'd worn those silly bear bells now, don't you?

If you surprise a grizzly, you might trigger an aggressive and defensive reaction from it. Expect an especially aggressive reaction from a mother with cubs: grizzly mothers are highly protective and more aggressive than other bears.

The grizzly probably isn't going to eat you. Even if the bear charges you, do not run. Use your bear spray if you have it, and if not, try to stand your ground (wetting yourself is socially acceptable in this situation)—they charge to gauge your reaction.

If you are lucky, the charge will be a bluff, and you can begin to back away slowly. With grizzly mothers, it might be enough to separate yourself (the threat) from the cubs. If you are unlucky, the bear will knock you down, in which case you must lie stomach-down on the ground with your hands protecting your neck. Try to remain quiet while the bear determines you are not a threat.

Aggressive Polar Bear or Predatory Grizzly Bear

Consider yourself extremely unlucky if you encounter an aggressive polar bear. Do everything in your power to intimidate the bear: Look large, make noise, and throw things.

Consider yourself incredibly unlucky if you encounter an aggressive polar bear. As with any predator encounter: Do not run.

Do everything in your power to intimidate the bear. Make yourself appear larger (huddle in a group if you are with others), shout loudly, and throw objects (but not food) at the bear. If the bear starts to attack you, defend yourself however possible—punch and kick near the nose and eyes.

Likewise, if a grizzly bear appears to be preying on you rather than trying to scare you away, you should follow these steps.

Aggressive Black Bear

Black bears can usually be intimidated: Throw objects, make noise, and look large.

Black bears can usually be intimidated. Phew. Throw rocks and sticks (but not food), make loud noises, and look large. Do not run and do not climb a tree: black bears are better climbers than Alex Honnold.

Black bears rarely attack humans, but should one choose you, defend yourself as you would in the polar bear steps.

Rampant Moose

If you encounter a rampant moose, simply duck behind a tree or boulder

It is fairly easy to deter a rampant moose charge if you are in a wooded area: simply duck behind a tree or large boulder. Like grizzlies, a mother moose might become agitated if you stand between she and her calf.

Aggressive Mountain Lion

Make yourself look larger and get on higher ground if you encounter a mountain lion.

If you spend a lot of time in mountain lion country you have probably walked past one of these cats a dozen times without knowing it. They are observers, not attackers.

Should you encounter an aggressive lion, do not run and do not play dead. Make direct eye contact and defend yourself as you would a with a bear. Throw objects (not food), make loud noises, and look large. Backing away slowly to higher ground can also help you appear intimidating.

 Avoidance Is The Best Defense

Wildlife attacks are rare; avoidance is easy. Be sure to check a park's website for any wildlife advisories before embarking on a backcountry expedition and always travel with bear spray, bear bangers, and bear bells. These tools might seem bear-biased, but they will work on anything with a pair of eyes and a nose (or several—we heard one man's story about fending off an entire pack of wolves with a single bear banger).

Closures aren't the only alert to look out for: You might be required to hike in a larger group, like the grizzly advisory in the photo to the left (from Banff National Park). Larger groups tend to be louder, which minimizes your chances of sneaking up on a bear.

It is one thing to surprise wildlife, but it is another thing to invite it. If you travel with wet, odoriferous foods you are asking that grizzly to join you (or, er, have you) for lunch. Even dry foods require carefully sealed packaging.

Ultimately, wildlife attacks are a lot rarer than people think—especially when it comes to bears. Alaska Dispatch Times put it best: "People are 45 times more likely to be killed by a dog than by a bear, 120 times more likely to be killed by bees than a bear, and a whopping 250 times more likely to be killed by lightening than a bear."

So relax, take necessary precautions, and tuck these defense poses into the back of your mind in case you are incredibly unlucky. If you are that unlucky, do not even consider applying for these park lotteries.


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