How to avoid getting mauled by a Himalayan Bear

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The last thing you want is to encounter a Bear in a Himalayan Trek. With an increase in Human Bear interactions the best survival tip is to avoid them. But then sometimes a surprise encounter with the Himalayan Beast may be unavoidable.

Bears don’t necessarily want to attack humans. They rather prefer to be left alone. But encroachment of their habitat has forced them to come in a face to face confrontation. Sometimes an abysmal ending for both human and bear.

To deal with surviving such situations, one needs to know more about them.

Habitat & Behavioral Traits

The Himalayan Bear prefers forested terrains and moist tropical forests. They are found at elevations of up to 12,000 feet. But, they will move to lower elevations as the weather gets colder. Their territories are usually less than 5 square kilometers, depending on how abundant their food supply is.

They are nocturnal, spending the day sleeping in a cave or a tree, and coming out at night to feed. In recent sightings, they have become more active during the daytime. This may be due to the scarcity of food source.

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Ali Md. Sofi (42) of Dara, Srinagar, survivor of a Bear attack – Credit; Abid Bhat|Al Jazeera

A Himalayan Bear is more likely to come in contact with humans. Because of this, they are more aggressive when startled. Bear attacks on local people in the Himalayan Villages is common. An agitated bear cannot be outrun. They are voracious pursuers and attack to mortally wound, even kill.

HOW TO AVOID A POSSIBLE ENCOUNTER WITH A HIMALAYAN BEAR

#1. Advertise your presence to the Bears by making noise

When trekking in the Himalayas make your presence felt by talking and singing. By doing this you announce your presence in the trail to the bear. It takes away an element of surprise that can startle a bear. By hearing your voice, the bear will stay away from your way.

#2. Trek in a Group and stay close to each other

Trekking in numbers has its benefits. A bigger group is noisier. The scent of multiple people should work in informing the bear of a human presence.

#3. Take information on Bear activity from Locals

Speak to local people about which places on the trail the bears are spotted frequently. This is useful to evaluate and opt for an alternate trail if need be.

#4. Keep a lookout for a Bear spotting while Trekking

It is wise to keep a lookout for a Bear. Use a Binocular for spotting them so that you can maintain a safe distance. Remember, Bears need their space. Respect that.

#5. Bear Proof the Campsite

Stash all your food items neatly to avoid giving away unnatural food odours. Do not leave any food item outside your tent. Avoid leaving chocolate wrappers, packed food leftovers unattended. This may attract a bear to your campsite.

#6. Make friends with Shepherd Dogs to act as a Watch Dog

Shepherd Dogs can be your saviour on a Himalayan Trek. They are easily found on the trail and are very friendly. By feeding them some leftover food they act as a vigilant Watch Dog. They will be the first to raise an alarm in case of a bear lurks close to your campsite.

 

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A real Bear encounter at Dachigam National Park, Kashmir, Pic. Credit: Tauseef Mustafa

 

HOW TO SURVIVE A BEAR ATTACK

#1. Identify yourself as a Human to the Bear

If you see a bear from a close distance, stay calm. Talk to the bear letting him know you are not a hostile animal. Stay grounded and wave your arm slowly. Let the bear recognise you as a Human. Keep talking to the bear in slow, calm voice. Do not shout or make sudden movements to startle the bear.

#2. Back away from the Bear cautiously

If the bear is standing still, back away by moving sideways. Avoid direct eye contact while doing this. This gives a non-threatening signal to the bear.

#3. Do not run or climb a Tree if attacked

You cannot outrun a Himalayan Bear. They consider running as an opportunity to pursue their prey. Likewise, don’t climb a tree. Bears are skilled tree climbers.

#4. Do not play dead, Fight back if attacked

If attacked and an escape is not possible, do not play dead. Instead, fight back! A charging bear attacks as it takes you as prey. Try fighting back using any object available. Aim your kicks and blows on the bears face and snout. This may disorient the bear and give you valuable time to make an escape. Himalayan Bear generally attack your face. If you cannot fight back, drop down to the ground. Cover your neck and face with your hands to cut blows on your face and skull.

 

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17 thoughts on “How to avoid getting mauled by a Himalayan Bear

  1. okk, now i am actually scared of the Kuppar bugyal hike. But thanks for sharing this. Cause we have decided to go and i believe its good to be careful beforehand. it was really informative, and helpful, although i really do not want it to be found helpful out there. u know what i mean!! but thanks.

    Like

    1. Thank you Prasad. Himalayan Bear behave very differently to their American counterpart. There is hardly any literature about Bears from our side. And still the amount of Bear attacks in the Himalayas is on a rise.

      Like

  2. Informative post. Also, I learnt one point which I would like to share. It is advisable to stand up straight and wave your forearms aggressively in air. This would form an impression that you are a more dangerous predator then the bear. This might confuse or scare the bear away. Holding a stick while doing will help the cause better.

    Liked by 1 person

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