Media Tipsheet – Bear Encounters

Note to Editors: The following is a media tips that includes an expert and resources at Colorado State University. The contact information for Bill Andelt is intended to provide resources to reporters and editors and is not intended as contact information for the public. The Web site listed at the end of the article may be helpful to your audience.

Bill Andelt, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension wildlife specialist, is a wildlife behavior expert. He can discuss bear behavior and what people can do when attacked by bears, as well as what they can do to prevent bear attacks. To speak with Andelt, call Dell Rae Moellenberg at 970-491-6009 or e-mail

Below are some tips prepared by Andelt for bear encounters:

  • Black bears generally avoid human contact, so wearing a bell is suggested when hiking to let the bear know you’re in the area. The main problem occurs when someone gets between a sow and her cub. The mother bear can become aggressive.
  • When encountering a bear, stand still and look as big as possible – if wearing a coat, open it up.
  • If hiking with more than one person, group together. Don’t look directly at the bear and back away slowly.
  • Never run or try to climb a tree, as bears are excellent climbers.
  • If the bear should attack, fight back as vigorously as possible.
  • Research indicates that pepper-spray bear repellents are effective for deterring an attack. Individuals need to make sure they stand upwind from where it’s sprayed because it will have the same effect on them as the bear.
  • Campers should carry bear-proof packs and suspend food from the branch of a tree at least 10 feet high and 4 feet from the tree trunk.
  • Campers should sleep a distance away from where food is cooked and kept. Campsites need to be as clean as possible and garbage kept in bear-proof containers or suspended with the food. Soap and hygiene products should be placed out of reach as well.
  • When hiking in the mountains, individuals are encouraged to avoid dawn or dusk because chances of meeting a bear are increased during those times. Always make sure that children hike with an adult, and leave dogs at home if possible.
  • If you have a potentially life-threatening situation with a black bear or if an injury occurs, contact the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
  • Bears encounter survival difficulties during drought years and, while some people may think that feeding them will help ensure their existence, the opposite is true. The bear will begin to identify their food source as coming from humans. If the bear has more than one human encounter, it will be destroyed.
  • Property owners who fail to remove trash, food or other bear attractants are subject to a $68 fine by Colorado Division of Wildlife.

For mountain and Front Range residents:

  • Pet food needs to be kept inside.
  • Garbage cans should be bear proof, emptied often and occasionally cleaned out with bleach and water.
  • Barbeque grills need to be cleaned often and stored in a garage if possible.
  • Hummingbird and other bird feeders should be kept well away from the house and brought inside in the evening.

For more information about managing conflicts with bears, visit the Web at