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What if I see a black bear?

bear_marsh_marigolds.jpg This is probably the most common question we hear. 

The standard answer nationwide is, "Speak calmly and back away slowly."  This is good advice.  It identifies you as a person, shows that you are non-threatening, and gives the bear space.

Is following this advice necessary to avoid an attack?  No.  

Those are polite actions that respect a black bear's comfort zone and help ease its anxiety.  It is the gentle way to separate.  More aggressive action would be more likely to increase a black bear's anxiety and send it running. 

Which action is safest?  If a black bear is more than a few yards away, it hardly matters.  Attacks are extremely rare despite what people do.  Fearful, unnecessary advice about what to do, or not do, when a person sees a bear is often given by well meaning people.