Worrying about stumbling upon a mama grizzly or an unsuspecting black bear in the wilderness isn’t an illogical fear drummed up by watching The Revenant one too many times. Bear attacks and encounters are on the rise. “As both human numbers increase and bear numbers increase, there are just going to be more encounters,” says Dr. Lynn Rogers, biologist and founder of the North American Bear Center. During the past two decades, most American black bear populations have grown both numerically and geographically. Sixty percent of U.S. and Canadian states and provinces report increasing populations.
But according to Rogers and statistics, this doesn’t mean you should worry too much. The odds of being attacked and injured by a bear in the wild are still around 1 in 2.1 million. That means you’re more likely to be killed by a bee sting or a dog than a bear.
If you do encounter a bear, you’re probably going to end up with a story — not a casket. Here are a few of the craziest, funniest, and scariest bear stories this year.
Runner Takes a “Left Hook” From Black Bear During Marathon
When New Mexico marathoner Karen Williams was three miles from the finish line of the Valles Caldera Marathon in June, she met an unlikely opponent on the trail. "… At the top of that little hill… a bear was charging me," she wrote on Facebook. "I raised my arms and yelled 'NO!' …Then I was on my ass and being raked with claws and bitten. I cried out in pain, and Mama bear did not like that, so she hit me with a left hook and bit my neck and started to try to shake me. I rolled into a ball and played dead. She went off about 25–30 feet… Mama bear kept glancing my way to make sure that I was still 'dead'.”
One Man’s Garbage Is Another Bear’s Treasure
Bears are known for digging through trash and wrecking campsites just to steal a little food. When a man discovered a bear hiding out in a dumpster behind a store in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, he didn’t let the bruin get away with it. He amusingly addresses the bear in an annoyed voice to exit the dumpster and leave. Begrudgingly, the bear listens, climbs out, and waddles off with a few sulking side-eye glances back to the trove of trash.
F*** Off, Bear!
Experts often suggest using your voice loudly, making yourself look as large as possible, and move away if you happen to come across a curious bear that wants to follow you. What you say to the bear is your choice, as this badass hiker clearly displayed with a few choice words when he handled this April encounter like a pro.
Boxing With a Black Bear
Rick Nelson, 61, was moseying around his neighborhood in Sudbury, Canada, when he came to fisticuffs with a mother black bear. The former boxer and bear hunter combined his skills when the 300-plus-pound bear came at him. Nelson gave her the old one-two — with his first punch landing in the bruin’s teeth. After the bear retaliated with scratches across Nelson's chest and face, he punched the bear right in the snout, sending her back into the woods with her cubs.
Downward Dog to Sniffing Bear
After finishing up a yoga session in her backyard, North Carolina resident Kristen Jones felt something sniffing at the back of her neck before giving her a lick. Thinking it was her neighbor’s friendly dog, she went to give it some attention. But when she turned around, she quickly realized that the large black bear probably didn’t want a pet. Jones documented the encounter in a Facebook post.
Boat vs. Bear
In a more benign encounter this month, a man kayaking on Hemlock Lake in New York found a large black bear swimming across the water. He captured the amphibious bear in a video that’s garnered more than a 35,000 views in just a few days.
Going Bear Grylls on a Bear
As the owner of a company that provides forestry services, Todd Moore is no stranger to bear encounters. But he wasn’t prepared for his most recent encounter in the bush, armed with only a machete as the beast prepared to charge at him. "My first thought was, 'How silly, only bringing a machete.'" Moore said in a CBC news report. "The rest of it was on the spot. What now, what now.” When the bear huffed, snorted, and “got its shoulders up like a cat," Moore made a quick decision. Instead of waiting for the bear to charge, he threw his backpack at it in hopes to distract it and rushed into a nearby lake. He waded in "three feet of water, two feet of loon poop" for the next hour while clutching his machete, until the bear decided to give up the fight.
Share Your Lap Lane
A huge black bear made New Jersey news after deciding that a family’s backyard pool was the best place to cool off and get a little exercise. After sneaking up on the sunbathing homeowner and scaring her into the house, the bear had the pool all to himself. After a 15-minute session swimming laps back and forth and splashing around, the bear moved on.