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National Park Service Imparts Sage Advice on Bear Encounters

Many Americans have been fighting cabin fever during COVID-19 by visiting our beautiful National Parks. They provide an opportunity to get outdoors while still practicing social distancing. Unfortunately, all that hiking makes it harder to distance yourself from one of nature’s greatest killing machines: bears. That’s the problem with going outside. That’s where the bears live. But the National Park Service has provided sound, helpful advice on what to do if you encounter one, including something important you should definitely not to do.

The agency says you shouldn’t push down your slower friend so you can escape.

The National Park Service has offered some handy tips for its visitors, many of them new to the parks, on what to do if you come across any bears (which we first learned about at CNN). Much of the advice is counterintuitive. It’s very important you don’t run away if you see a bear. They will chase a fleeing animal. And both black bears and grizzlies can also climb trees.

If you come across a stationary bear, you should slowly move sideways while keeping your eyes on the animal. Most bears mostly want to be left alone and won’t attack you. So it’s important to make noise indicating you are a human and pose no threat. (And against a bear you definitely don’t.) When you do start to slowly walk away stop and stand your ground if they begin to follow.

But the agency’s leading tip is also both it’s funniest and arguably most important: don’t push your slower friends down in attempt to save yourself.

There’s an old joke about two friends camping. One morning they awake to find a grizzly heading towards their site. One friend jumps up and starts running when he realizes his buddy hasn’t moved. He’s tying his sneakers. The first friend stops and yells, “What are you doing? You can’t outrun a bear.”

And the second friends says, “Yeah, I just have to outrun you.”

This has always been the most important story I’ve heard. Because I am petrified of bears—and I do mean petrified. They are impossibly large, powerful, and fast. If a horror writer invented them we’d all laugh at how unrealistic they sounded.

My plan for any accidental bear encounter has always been to outrun anyone else unlucky enough to be nearby.

But apparently that’s dumb because running is the worst thing to do. Sacrificing your loved ones is the second worst thing.

Featured Image: Nat Geo WILD