Wildlife Damage Management, Internet Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Human–Wildlife Conflicts Volume 2, Number 2, Pages 194-199, Fall 2008. Published and copyright by Jack H. Berryman Institute. http://www.berrymaninstitute.org/journal/index.html


We conducted telephone surveys of wildlife professionals who work with large carnivores to ask their opinions about how people should respond to avoid being injured when confronted by a black bear (Ursus americana), grizzly bear (Ursus arctos), mountain lion (Puma concolor), or gray wolf (Canis lupus). The respondents agreed that the most appropriate response was to try to increase the distance between a person and the carnivore. In the event of an attack by a black bear, mountain lion, or wolf, most respondents said to fight back. Opinion was divided over the best response for an individual who was being attacked by a grizzly bear, but a slight majority of professionals said to fight back if the attack was predatory and be passive if the attack was defensive; however, respondents also noted that many victims would be unable to identify the bear’s motive. If a black bear came into camp, most respondents said that a person should aggressively encourage the bear to leave and to fight back against a bear that enters a tent at night, regardless of species. Respondents unanimously agreed that bear pepper-spray is effective in defending against an attack. While any encounter with a large carnivore can be fatal to the person involved, we believe that selecting the right course of action increases the odds that the victim can escape without injury.