Preparedness for Black Bear Encounters on Remote Properties

Reader Contribution by Jamie Leahy and North Ridge Mountain Guides
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It was a starry night in chilly Bethlehem, N.H. I had just finished plumbing the water supply lines in our off-grid cabin and decided it was time for a well deserved dinner from our local market. They had recently started making their own bread, and visions of grinder sandwiches danced in my head.

I couldn’t wait to fire the wood stove in the tiny house, kick back with a few ambient air temperature brews, and put on my stylish flannel PJ’s.

As I drove down the “road” to the cabin, I noticed a pair of eyes in the distance. Was it our resident fox? Our eyes locked and as I drove closer it was clear: A large black bear was just chillin’ there, eating the wild blackberries on the side of the road like it was his job

I quickly drew from my outdoor professional database with wildlife, and mashed my gas pedal to the floor. Our resident bear “Mr. Fluffers” quickly turned and barreled through the brush.

With a 300-pound+ wild bear snooping around for food, you start to wonder if the ¼-inch plywood door you installed on your tiny house is bear proof. The answer to that question is a firm “no”.

If Mr. Fluffers decided he wanted to come in for a snuggle, I doubt a firm “Bad Mr. Fluffers” would sway him away. In all reality, Mr. Fluffers the black bear is a like a honey badger — he does what he wants.

I like to think that someday Mr. Fluffers could come over for a late night movie with his pic-a-nic basket and have a few cold beers. After a little while, he would invite over his bear cousin, Terry, and the party would really get started. We would all share some marmalade sandwiches and discuss the intricacies of the latest Sundance nominee.

What to Do When You Encounter a Black Bear

The harsh reality is Mr. Fluffers the bear is a dangerous, wild animal. So what do you do if you run into a black bear in the brush?

A post from The New York Department of Environmental Conservation says that with a black bear, you stand your ground. Don’t run or climb a tree. If they charge you, speak in low tone, be assertive, and don’t beat feet. Make yourself seem big by raising your hands, and slowly back away.

As crazy as it sounds to not run from a 300-pound wild animal, the pros say that running could make you a bear snack. Those suckers can run 30 miles per hour and climb way better than all but the best of the Granite State’s rock climbers.

If your sweet new bear-avoidance skills don’t work, fight back. Strike them in the head and nose with whatever you can. The good news is very few bear encounters lead to death.

Be Prepared for Predators

So now what should you do?  Get yourself some bear spray, and educate yourself in bear country. Word on the street (and actual data) is that bear spray is a better defense then the finest 12 gauge, double-barreled shotgun.

An article in the March 2012 issue of The Journal of Wildlife Management by Tom Smith and Stephen Herroro, “Efficiency of firearms for bear deterrence in Alaska“, will give you a good idea on the benefits of bear spray vs. firearms.

I must say that after locking eyes with this majestic animal, the mere thought of gunning him and his pic-a-nic basket down, would just break my off-grid heart. Learning how to live with bears is something all mountain folks will need to do. So take the time to learn about wildlife in your area — it just may save both you, and Mr. Fluffer’s, lives.

Jamie Leahyis founding mountaineer atNorth Ridge Mountain Guides. After a few years commuting to the White Mountains, Jamie and his girlfriend, Becky, decided it was time to move to New Hampshire’s White Mountains and follow their dream of building an off-grid, mini-homestead debt free. Follow him atWhite Mountains Off-Grid.

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