Monday, October 15, 2012

Everything You Need to Know About Bears...but were afraid to ask

I'm providing this excellent Bear advice for my dog, since she is inclined to attack bears 20 times her size.

Is that another Liza exaggeration?
No, it's math. She's 30 pounds and the bear she attacked was a 600 pounder. Fortunately, it was a NJ bear, bred for temerity. (If you missed that, go down one blog and find the you-tube video)

If you are surprised that NJ breds timid bears, go down even further.

Can your dog read blogs?
No. She never reads blogs.

However, if you'll read the blog, then when you happen to meet my dog, you can mention something you learned from this blog while giving her a treat.

What are the chances of blog readers running into this bear attacking dog?

She meets about 20 people a day, grab a calculator and do the math. I'm too tired. All I'm saying is that it's possible.


At first you may think my bear advice is just my sense of humor run amuck, but this is authentic advice I received when I attended a bear seminar presented by a young Ranger from Yellowstone Park. Yes, I’ve added my own, possibly humorous, observations to his advice. But this is what me and the young kids learned as we petted bear skins and toyed with claws and bear teeth.

Lesson One: When hiking on a trail, bring a whistle and a giant can of pepper spray. The whistle prevents you from startling a bear.

Liza translates for the kids: Bears evidently hate being startled when they are practicing yoga and will rip your head off for doing so.

If you don't have a whistle, sing very loudly, making up songs as you hike. The basic theme of all songs should be: ‘I have terrible taste; so don’t eat me.’

(Yes, I purposely wrote it incorrectly. I was thinking of my website--which looks like a 5 year old child designed it.)

Classic bear poop joke:

What’s the difference between black bear poop and grizzly poop?

Black bear poop will be filled with huckleberries.

Grizzly poop is filled with whistles and smells of pepper.

Lesson Two: Know your attacker: Grizzly or Black bear?

Quiz: Which bear is brown and which bear is black?

If you answered Grizzly for the brown and Black bear for the black …slap yourself on the head and go back to bear school.

Grizzly bears can be a variety of colors including black, and Black bears come in a variety of colors: brown, black, black with white patterns, and somewhere on the west coast, they are even pure white ones.

Clearly, a non-scientist named the black bear based on the first one they met, which I'm presuming happened to be black.

But I rather wish the bear had eaten the fellow because now things get complicated when the black bear is actually a 'white' black bear. Shouldn't a white black bear be grey?

We need a better word to call the sometimes Black bear. I'm sure
black bears have never referred to themselves as 'black-sometimes'. The bears would have a more accurate name to call themselves: which, if we could speak Bear, would translate to ‘Treeclimbers’ or“Berrylover’. In New Jersey, they probably call themselves ‘garbage eater’ or‘just-leave-me-alone’ bear.

Whereas the Montana Grizzly bear, aka ‘ursus horriblis’ calls itself ‘Always-ready-to-eat-meat’bear...or 'meateater' for short.

Back to the ranger's lecture:

Now the proper way to identify a grizzly from a black bear is by inspecting certain body parts.

No, not that body part!

The grizzly has a bump on the back of its neck and its nose curves up a bit.
Sounds a bit like Quasimodo with a pig snout.

Note: These disfigurements could have probably been fixed if only the grizzlies would restrain from eating their plastic surgeons until after they have their surgeries.

The black bear is less complicated: no bump, very straight nose, and it’s not as long as a grizzly.

Got it? Quasimodo vs. Anushka Shetty.

Lesson Three: Not all methods of identification are worth pursuing and some are downright ill-advised.

If you get really close to the bear, you will notice a black bears claws are not as long, but sharper than a grizzly. That is what enables them to climb a tree.

Grizzlies do not climb trees. They just knock them down. They also rip to shred people who get really close to them trying to observe their dull claws…which turn out to be dull, only when compared to the ‘TreeClimber’s.’

Lesson Four: Proper response to a Grizzly:

If the ‘meateater’ hasn’t seen you, quietly back away. (Try not to pray aloud, as in an hyperventilating“Oh God, Oh God, Oh God!”)

If‘meat eater’ has seen you, hold your arms out as if you are being held up in a robbery, look to the side and stare at ‘meateater’ from the side view. If you have impaired peripheral vision, make peace with God.

When the‘meateater’ charges you--how can it not when you’ve just made yourself into a human goal post?--don’t move until it bitch-slaps you with those four inch, not-so-dull-after-all claws.

Once you are struck, drop to the ground face down with your hands behind your neck.

Note concerning this advice: If you do exactly what was recommended, you will have a broken nose since that is the first body part that will be softening your fall. So I'm planning to modify my fake death spiral and let my hands soften my descension before I send the hands to the back of my neck where I doubt they'll do a bit of good if the bear decides to bite down on my neck. At least I will not have suffered the excruiating pain of a broken nose BEFORE the bear severs my spine at the neck.

Still confused as to what you are supposed to do? Try this urban explanation:

Behave exactly as if the grizzly is an over-adrenaline police officer trying to arrest you after a long car chase. Down on your knees, face on the ground, hands to the back of your neck.

I know, you are thinking I was distracted by the adorable ranger with his blonde hair and blue eyes and cute little dimples that rewarded me every time I said something amusing….

Not true. I was going into bear country ALONE which would make me a prime target to be attacked and mauled, so trust me, I was paying attention.

Here’s the logic to his advice:

Grizzly bears are NOT stupid. If you drop dead BEFORE they strike you, they know they have not killed you and it really pisses them off that you have so little respect for their intelligence as to think they’d fall for such a stupid possum ploy.

In retaliation for the insult, they’ll stand on your back, crushing you with their massive weight and express their outrage in a somewhat lethal manner.

However, if you allow them one strike, and then drop dead, they’ll leave, being very pleased with their mighty self. (Evidently Grizzlies are vain about their ability to kill in a single strike.)

Now in the diagram the cute ranger had on the easel, I noticed that the hiker wore a backpack with a thick bar that protected the back of his head and neck. This bar looks like far greater protection than my whimpy hands would ever be.

Unfortunately, my backpack does not have a bear bar. In fact, my backpack is a rump pack protecting only my rear end. Contrary to common belief, that is not where my brain resides, so absolutely nothing is being protected.

Lesson Five: When camping in bear country, cook your meal at one site and then hike another mile away to set your sleep camp and then trek farther away to hang your boots and all food high in a tree, dangling on a rope.

Question Liza asked cute ranger: Does this mean I’m barefooted when the bear visits me in the middle of the night, and will the bear be pissed because someone has taunted him with food & shoes which he can’t quite reach?

Ranger just laughed and moved on to the next question, so allow me to answer:

Yes, it does/Yes it will. The bear will be angrier than normal, and normally they are looking for a fight. So running or fainting may sound like a really good idea to you.

However, you do not want to insult the intelligence of a food & shoe taunted grizzly. Nor can you run in your barefeet, because bearfeet will follow faster.

So throw you arms up in surrender, turn that cheek, and wait for the bear to strike you before you hit the ground.


1)Gently, plant your face in the dirt

2)Cover the back of your neck with your fragile, non-metallic hands.

3)Let us hope you slept with your steel rod neck protector backpack on, if not:

Rest assured your hiking buddy, who refused to take off his shoes and hang them on a tree, is presently running down the trail to safety. With any luck, he’ll let the rangers know where to pick up your remains…if the bear leaves any.

And on that cheery note, we conclude the Welcome to Yellowstone Bear Education Session.


  1. Funny post, but good advice. I like to ride and walk in the Colorado Rockies, and I have never seen a bear on one of those encounters. However, one came into the tent my BIL and several hunters were sleeping in. BIL shot it and the poor animal's dead body fell in a heap at the door.

    1. I think that's a reasonable ending to your story. Rocky mountain bears are not bred to be wimps. Good thing BIL shoots accurately in his sleep. Otherwise, having a bear in your tent goes badly. I imagine the other guys had an abrupt and alarming wake up moment.

  2. Ha, I've never really believe in that feign death stuff. Humorous post, Liza. I'd probably have a heart attack if I ran across one. Sadly, I love visiting national and state parks, so the chance is a bit higher than normal. :)

  3. Oh if you want to meet a non-lethal version, come to Denville NJ. We are stuffed full of them. Beside the 600 pounder that Jess attacked for no reason, today there was a cut little cub wandering on the road on our way home. Jess so wanted out of the car.
    Our police and park police are out in force. Evidently the bears can sense this winter is going to be hard and they are going to need to hibernate, so they are working hard to fatten up. (Which mostly means going through dumpsters and trash cans.)

  4. I live on the Vancouver Island--west coast of Canada. We have black bears there. and they are a huge pain! We has trouble with them this summer.
    It sucks because not all bears hibernate here because it doesn't get cold enough.

    1. Last year our bears never hibernated, but given their desire to fatten up this year, I think we are going to have some serious snow. Thanks for stopping by

  5. I avoid the woods like the plague and will continue to do so! Funny post, Liza. I consider myself warned! :)

    1. I don't know about your bears, but ours wander about main street these days. Today a little cub was playing on the road. Glad you thought it funny. Liza

  6. Very fun post. No bears here. In Germany we had wild boare. Not fun.

    1. Yeah, I would be more scared of a wild boar than our NJ bears. (they are wimpy. My 30 pd dog attacked one and it ran away)

  7. Great post and yes Grizzlies are vain - cause they know their grizzlies!

  8. Hi Liza,
    as usual an amusing post. You sure know what you're talking about. No bear here on this side of the world. But we do have manic drivers and loads of camel.

    1. Yeah, I have no advice about camels other than stay out of their spitting range. lol. And horses are preferable to ride.

  9. Replies
    1. Not as funny as yours was, but bears don't like to be interviewed.


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