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efreysson
03-04-2013, 10:06 PM
Living in a country with no bears, I thought I'd ask some advice on the following scene:

A nine-man group is traveling through a forest with a horse and a donkey carrying their supplies. I want to spice up their journey a bit before the real trouble begins, so the thought occurred to have them run into a bear.

How is a bear likely to react to a group of people? They have spears and one has a light bow, but I don't want a fight scene; just a bit of a spook for the characters.
One in the group has some experience with hunting and would know the proper reaction to this situation.

Roger J Carlson
03-04-2013, 10:13 PM
Mostly, a large group would never see a bear. The bear would hear them long before and avoid them. Unless you're talking about a mother with cubs, most bears avoid people.

On the other hand, if your group ran into a wild boar...

Chris P
03-04-2013, 10:19 PM
Agree with Roger; the bear would be long gone, especially in the scenario you're describing.

The only time I've seen a wild bear up close is a mama bear with two cubs that was coming into my cousin's back yard to raid his trash and dig up his sod looking for grubs. The mama got curious seeing us moving through the windows (they supposedly have horrid eyesight but great hearing and smell). She came up, sniffed, then pounded once on the window then ambled away. She was still in the yard when we left (we didn't know it) and the cubs shot up the nearest tree and she just looked at us from 30 yards away while we screamed and scrambled into the car.

efreysson
03-04-2013, 10:31 PM
On the other hand, if your group ran into a wild boar...

Hmm. There's an idea. Do wild boars really berserk charge anything they don't like?

Is bear poop distinctive in appearance? I could have the hunter identify it, which makes the rest of the group a bit nervous. Then when everyone starts to relax... BAM, a boar runs out of the bush!

Maryn
03-04-2013, 10:35 PM
I'm not sure I'd go with a bear, because ordinary behavior for a bear would be to disappear once they hear your travelers. And they could not avoid making noise.

If you want a close encounter in a forest, a boar or wolverine is good, or perhaps a wolf pack or mountain lion. Or how about bees en masse? That'll spice things up!

Maryn, who's never seen any of those in the wild except bees, thank goodness

Maryn
03-04-2013, 10:37 PM
Hmm. There's an idea. Do wild boars really berserk charge anything they don't like?

Is bear poop distinctive in appearance? I could have the hunter identify it, which makes the rest of the group a bit nervous. Then when everyone starts to relax... BAM, a boar runs out of the bush!Type "bear scat" or "bear droppings" or "bear poop" into an image search engine. It's identifiable, but how much poop detail your reader wants to know is up to you.

Maryn, no expert

Snowstorm
03-04-2013, 10:39 PM
Roger's answer. ETA: and Maryn's

I've seen bear scat up close and fresh. The time of year was September 30. This pile was in the middle of a wilderness trail. It was still damp. The mound about two inches tall and almost five four inches across consisting of berry remnants. The small pale seeds were clearly visible in what appeared to be undigested dark red berries.

Drachen Jager
03-04-2013, 11:08 PM
Bears mostly won't attack a large party. But as others have said, a mama bear with cubs will often act in unpredictable ways, so will an adolescent, or a sick/malnourished bear, so it is possible for a bear to attack under those circumstances. I've encountered bears several times in the wild, and never had any of them show signs of aggression toward me.

One thing I just thought of, actually. It's more common for people with dogs to be attacked by bears, because the dogs will run off, smell the bear and approach it in their curiosity. When the dogs piss the bear off they normally come running back to master for protection, bringing an angered bear along with them.

Roger J Carlson
03-04-2013, 11:19 PM
One thing I just thought of, actually. It's more common for people with dogs to be attacked by bears, because the dogs will run off, smell the bear and approach it in their curiosity. When the dogs piss the bear off they normally come running back to master for protection, bringing an angered bear along with them.That could work.

Another thought is if your party is traveling on other lands, perhaps the bear is being tracked by a different hunting party and stumbles on your party. The bear could startle your party without actually attacking it in its efforts to escape the hunters.

jclarkdawe
03-04-2013, 11:46 PM
Way too much of this depends upon the breed of bear, and it's living proximity to people. Lots of bears in the Northeast will go right onto your porch to eat bird seed. I see a fair number of bears without really trying.

Last fall I was riding my horse, when Kee stopped, playing make you look. So I look and there's a bear off in the woods about a 150 feet, right on the edge of a swamp. The trail follows the edge of the swamp but inland about 100 to 200 feet.

Bear starts ambling off, and Kee follows, staying on the trail. Bear starts trotting, Kee does the same. Soon we're galloping down the trail, the bear is galloping along the swamp, and I'm not sure this is what any of us really want to be doing, except for maybe Kee. Finally bear hooks a left into the swamp and that's the last we see of him.

I don't think any of us were exactly afraid of the other, but we all had some level of curiousity.

Bottom line is bears will avoid humans when they want to, but if there's a reason like food or just cause, they will approach us. And when they approach us, people give a wide variety of actions.

I wouldn't find a bear interaction unreasonable in a story. Grizzlies are more prone to attack, black bears are more prone to just looking.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Torgo
03-04-2013, 11:52 PM
Seems a good opportunity to repost this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FOK0-MgAYM).

ETA: link should work now.

ironmikezero
03-05-2013, 01:15 AM
As I recall, we've had a similar discussion re: bears... Ah, yes - found it... (search is sometimes your best friend)

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=225487&highlight=bear+droppings+bells

CrastersBabies
03-06-2013, 08:27 AM
Just one story. My brother lived near the mountains in SW Colorado. He was sitting on his deck reading when he saw this shadow come up over him. Turned and saw a freaking big-ass bear. My brother had NO idea what to do, so he dropped his book, stood up, and tried to make himself look as big as he possible could. (He's already 6'6".)

He said the bear backed up and took off. Wasn't at all interested in him.

Who knows if what he did worked, or, if the bear just wasn't interested in humans.

The only time I'd guess a bear might really be a huge danger is if there are cubs around. That is not something I would ever frack with.

Canotila
03-06-2013, 10:18 AM
Hmm. There's an idea. Do wild boars really berserk charge anything they don't like?

Is bear poop distinctive in appearance? I could have the hunter identify it, which makes the rest of the group a bit nervous. Then when everyone starts to relax... BAM, a boar runs out of the bush!

Not usually, though if they feel cornered they can do a mock charge.

Most boar only fight if pushed by a hunter. Even then they try to run. How far they run before turning to fight varies. For some it's 5 feet, others never stop running.

Both boar and bears are good moms though. You could have your hunter guy see young boar just off the path and take a shot at them. It wouldn't be unreasonable for mom to charge if she was nearby.

I'd also buy it if you had unseen bear cubs on one side of the path and mom foraging on the other. If the hikers pass between the two she'd possibly charge. Maybe stay to fight, maybe charge right through them to her cubs.

Polenth
03-06-2013, 11:55 AM
Most animals will run away from a large group, including predators and wild boar. The whole thing with boars charging is greatly exaggerated. They charge if cornered, but they don't seek out people to attack. I live in a boar area and most people have never seen one (the exception was one decided to graze on the roadsides, and people assumed it was an escaped pig because it was so peaceful).

More likely would be a night attack. Not on the humans, but the animals may try to get at the food supplies while people sleep. Bears and wolves are both known for this. They'll run once the party wakes up and chases them off, but chances are things will get broken and supplies ruined.

JulianneQJohnson
03-06-2013, 12:04 PM
I was thinking along the same lines. A bear will walk right into a group of sleeping campers if it smells food, and that is very startiling to wake up to.

blacbird
03-06-2013, 12:43 PM
I've encountered bears encountering people, several times, the people being me. The flavor of bear matters. American black bears are more apt to be encountered, in part because there are more of them, but also because they are less skittish about humans. Even so, the times I've run into them, almost literally in a couple of cases, the bear was as startled as I was, and reacted much as I did, by scooting away to safety.

Brown (grizzly) bear encounters are less common, but more dangerous. They are very protective of both cubs and of food/territory.

My house is literally across the street from a huge city park, of several square miles in extent, which is entirely wooded, and perfect bear habitat. And I do mean literally. My property abuts on the park property, and I go walking there in the summer with regularity. Both the major types hang out there, and I've had numerous black bear encounters or sightings in my very yard. No brown bear for me yet, but neighbors have both seen and encountered them.

We've had two people killed locally by a brown bear in the 22 years I've lived in Anchorage, Alaska, and three or four other injuries. Which exactly equates to the number of people killed and injured by moose during the same time (not counting traffic fatalities, of which there have been several, through running into a moose). No black bear killings that I'm aware of, though they are certainly capable of it.

As for your scenario of a group of people encountering a bear, it is almost a certainty that the bear will run off. Bears are not stupid. They're not likely to cause much trouble to a group of humans, unless they are trapped and can't possibly avoid it. The proper protective reaction for humans would be to make a hell of a lot of noise, which would probably happen by reflex.

We also have the third flavor, the vanilla bears, who live way up north in the Arctic, and who are unafraid of anything. People have been killed by them, but unless you are a real aficionado of ice and snow, you won't encounter them. As an aside, polar bears don't hibernate in winter, the way the black and grizzlies do.

caw

efreysson
03-07-2013, 02:05 AM
I'd also buy it if you had unseen bear cubs on one side of the path and mom foraging on the other. If the hikers pass between the two she'd possibly charge. Maybe stay to fight, maybe charge right through them to her cubs.

That could work. Maybe have her run through the group and give everyone a scare, but just keep going to her cubs. Would she then shoo the cubs into the forest and away from the people, or stand her ground and roar at the intruders until they left?




As for your scenario of a group of people encountering a bear, it is almost a certainty that the bear will run off. Bears are not stupid. They're not likely to cause much trouble to a group of humans, unless they are trapped and can't possibly avoid it. The proper protective reaction for humans would be to make a hell of a lot of noise, which would probably happen by reflex.


I could also just have a bear be briefly visible in the distance as it runs away.
Might a bear nap in the day, and be awoken by the arrival of the group?

Also, does bear poop look distinctive from other animal droppings, so the hunter could recognize it for what it is?

Beachgirl
03-07-2013, 02:36 AM
On the other hand, if your group ran into a wild boar...

*shudders* I spent some time working as an environmental scientist in South Florida and ran into wild boars frequently. In fact, as soon as I found signs of boar out in the field I started looking for the nearest tree to climb.

The males are the worst and are the ones we always worried about the most. Mamma boars could be pretty aggressive when they had babies around, but most of them I encountered were just curious. I had one walk up to me and stand on my boot while she sniffed at me. It was behind a fire station and I did notice a big barbeque smoker behind the station, so I'm betting the firemen had been feeding momma boar to get her nice and fat and she was just checking me out to see if I had any food on me.

Captcha
03-07-2013, 04:01 AM
Bears mostly won't attack a large party. But as others have said, a mama bear with cubs will often act in unpredictable ways, so will an adolescent, or a sick/malnourished bear, so it is possible for a bear to attack under those circumstances. I've encountered bears several times in the wild, and never had any of them show signs of aggression toward me.

One thing I just thought of, actually. It's more common for people with dogs to be attacked by bears, because the dogs will run off, smell the bear and approach it in their curiosity. When the dogs piss the bear off they normally come running back to master for protection, bringing an angered bear along with them.

Do you have a citation for the dog thing? I was told the exact opposite when I was treeplanting in northern Ontario (black bear country). Every camp of treeplanters was expected to have at least one or two dogs; the understanding was that the dogs would bark and scare off bears before they could do much damage in the camp. Even little dogs were considered to be effective - it was the noise, not the actual threat.

Or maybe your dogs were dealing with grizzlies, not black bears? I don't know...

Ariella
03-07-2013, 04:52 AM
I would be skeptical of a bear that stood its ground against a large party of humans. The three times I've run into bears while hiking or canoeing, I've been alone or with only one other person, and I wasn't making enough noise to warn them that I was coming. (These were black bears.) The bear always retreated, although one of them was rather casual and leisurely about it. Many stores here in Ontario sell bear bells, i.e. harness bells with a velcro strap you can attach to your person or your walking stick. Ever since I bought one, I haven't seen any more bears.

Bears hanging out in a dump or a campsite are another matter. When they're standing over a good food source, they're much more willing to stare people down. I would believe in a bear that tried to defend a large piece of carrion. If you want to add a plot twist, the dead thing could prove to be a person with an arrow in him, or something of that sort.

Dump bears can also produce some unusual scat. I once found the droppings of a bear that had eaten the colour comics of a newspaper. They must have been wrapped around some greasy food.

It's widely believed that sow bears with cubs are more likely to be aggressive, but I've also seen statistics somewhere showing that black bear attacks are actually more likely to come from boars. Most attacks seem to happen when the bear thinks the human was sneaking up on it and reacts badly, but there have been some cases of predatory behaviour, usually preceded by stalking and perpetrated against lone hikers in isolated places.

CrastersBabies
03-07-2013, 07:08 AM
As for your scenario of a group of people encountering a bear, it is almost a certainty that the bear will run off. Bears are not stupid. They're not likely to cause much trouble to a group of humans, unless they are trapped and can't possibly avoid it. The proper protective reaction for humans would be to make a hell of a lot of noise, which would probably happen by reflex.


When I was camping with pals, we came across a mountain lion. My friend told me to make as much noise as possible (scream, shout, make insane noises), and to wave our arms wildly. I've never seen a critter move so fast to get away. I didn't think about this possibly working for bears too. Good to know.

Literateparakeet
03-07-2013, 08:02 AM
Here's some fun research to keep you awake at night when you are camping! I haven't actually read these books, but I saw them all the time in stores when I was in Alaska...you could probably get them in Interlibrary Loan or of course buy one.

Alaska Bear Tales (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_14?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=alaska+bear+tales&sprefix=Alaska+Bear+Ta%2Caps%2C284)

Roger J Carlson
03-07-2013, 05:49 PM
When considering bear behavior toward humans, you also have to consider the human society.

Modern society throws away mountains of food, leaving it in cans outdoors at night. Bears are less likely to be hunted today. Yes, there is still bear hunting, but only during certain times and areas. Bears in urban or suburban areas are mostly to be trapped rather than killed. There's very little to associate humans with danger.

In a low-tech society (which seems to be the case in the original question), bears are more likely to be hunted for sport and protection. People can't waste food by leaving it outdoors to attract wild animals. There are also not likely to be laws protecting bears.

Since agressive bears would be the ones most likely to attack humans, they would be the ones killed first, creating a natural selection for bears shy of humans.

It wouldn't be impossible, of course, if the bear was distracted by something else (it's sick, has cubs, is being hunted, etc), but bears have excellent hearing and in most cases would hear a large group a long way off and avoid them.

ElaineA
03-07-2013, 06:11 PM
My bear encounter happened along the Rogue River in Oregon during the salmon run. There were hundreds of dead salmon on the river banks and the bears didn't care about any of us humans rafting down the river. Our raft got within a few feet of the bear (against my wishes, let me add!) and it barely looked up. You might be able to make use of that--a river encounter.

As for mamas and babies the mom is probably most dangerous when a human accidentally separates her from the babies. I'm always vigilant on logging roads, not wanting to cut between any unseen sets. Unfortunately, my dogs would rather hunt than alert so they've been dead silent on each wildlife encounter we've had. (Even squirrels and chipmunks. They don't bark until it's up the tree.)

dirtsider
03-07-2013, 08:41 PM
I used to go to a camp in bear country. We generally didn't have a problem with bears but were regularly warned if there had been a bear sighting. There were only two times I heard about bears in the area while we were there.

One was a young-ish bear that sort of just flopped down at the edge of one of the clearings and seemed to be lounging until we got the camp ranger to chase it off. (He just used a loud go-cart to do so, no guns required.)

The other was when two friends encountered one out on one of the paths late at night. They freaked and ran. Not sure what the bear did.

Another funny story that you might want to consider: wild turkeys. I had a friend out on one of the trails late at night on another occasion at the same camp. He heard something moving in the woods behind him and thought "Oh crap, bear". He turned around to find it's actually a wild turkey. So, he thought "This should be easy" and made some loud noise to scare it off. Only the turkey's attitude was "BRING IT!!" So now my friend's thinking "oh sh!t!!" since wild turkeys have a sharp spike on their legs they use in fights with other wild turkeys. (Think cock fights. Owners cut off the turkey's original 'equipment' and replace it with metal ones in sporting cock fights.)

In the end, my friend bailed, told us the story, and for some months afterwards, we would all joke that the turkey was stalking him for another round.

ironmikezero
03-07-2013, 09:05 PM
For those who keep asking about the appearance of bear scat... (admittedly a repost, but I can't resist)...


The National Park Rangers are advising hikers in Glacier National Park and other Rocky Mountain parks to be alert for bears and take extra precautions to avoid an encounter.

They advise park visitors to wear little bells on their clothes so they make noise when hiking. The bell noise allows bears to hear them coming from a distance and not be startled by a hiker accidentally sneaking up on them. This might cause a bear to charge.

Visitors should also carry a pepper spray can just in case a bear is encountered. Spraying the pepper into the air will irritate the bear's sensitive nose and it will run away.

It is also a good idea to keep an eye out for fresh bear scat so you have an idea if bears are in the area. People should be able to recognize the difference between black bear and grizzly bear scat.
Black bear droppings are smaller and often contain berries, leaves, and possibly bits of fur. Grizzly bear droppings tend to contain small bells and smell of pepper.

Nekko
03-07-2013, 10:56 PM
Type of bear and competition for food are big factors.

I live in the woods with black bears (which can be black, brown, or cinnamon in color). We see them throughout the summer. Have a funny story about a bear half in half out of my husband's little Toyota pickup pushing a Lifesaver candy across the dashboard with its tongue...

Black bears tend to be very passive, and like honey badger...they don't give a s**t.
Brown bears (e.g. grizzlies) can be more aggressive, but still would rather avoid people.

I've heard around dumps, when competing for food in semi-urban areas, bears, especially polar bears can be aggressive.

Yes, their scat is distinctive. Can only speak to black bears, but I assume they are all similar. A) large B) looser - not compact the way dog/cat scat is, but I don't mean runny C) as someone stated above, you will quite often find seeds and undigested hard berries throughout it.

Bears will come into a camp when people are sleeping if they smell food. If your traveling troop don't think to put their food up, or one person accidentally leaves something in their pack - in the tent, it is very possible that a bear will enter the tent and search for food, possibly injuring sleeping people. Once people wake up, the bear would panic, tear its way out of the tent, and flee. So not an attack per say, but might work for your chance encounter with a flare of excitement.

As for encounters with a dog: when our dog meets a bear around our house, he chases it until the bear ambles up a tree.(leading to my picture in my avatar) The dog then sits near the bottom, barking occasionally. However, last summer the dog and I were taking a walk and we saw a bear 200 yards/meters or so away. The dog went to chase, the bear ran a bit, then turned around and chased the dog a bit. When it stopped, the dog returned the chase. They did this back and forth a few times, each time getting closer to me. I finally yelled at them. The dog decided he was ready to return to our hike and the bear was happy to get away.

Good luck!

*Geri/Nekko who really DOES live in the woods with the bears!