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Kili Chai Nov 18th, 2017 17:30

How to encounter bears in the Himalaya
Hi there fellow Mikers,

Having had a couple of close encounters with bears in the Himalaya (all in Himachal Pradesh), I wanted to ask if anybody around here knows anything definitive on how to engage with these furry friends.

I've searched the interwebs and was surprised not to find any guidelines on such encounters. Are the rules similar to meeting European and North American Bears? From what I understand, the Black Bear is really the only one one should be concerned about around here, given the fact that their Brown cousins are critically threatened & rare.

Standard (Western) bear advice would dictate that you show dominance and try to shoo the (black) bear away with loud noises and menacing gesturing. Apart from if cubs are involved obviously, when one would do better not to run into these guys at all. This advise is pretty much also what I gathered from shepherds in the region, who naturally have plenty of experience to share.

Can anybody confirm this / have you observed this to work?
What about when a bear is quite far away and not coming closer, is it still advisable to start trying to shoo it? What do I do if I meet a momma bear with cubs?

In hope of unbearable amounts of advice, (couldn't resist)
Kili Chai.

kmalik Nov 18th, 2017 19:30

I don't know where you got that "standard" advice. First of all, black bears are very shy and avoid human contact. So, the encounters are serendipitous rather than planned - unless you go to a zoo.

I have had multiple black (not to mention brown) bear encounters where we surprised each other at fairly short distances. In each case, we stayed calm (outward appearance only :D) and the bear went around us.

This shooing it away advice is poor. The only time you need to make noise, make yourself look bigger (but not act aggressively like throwing stones) is when the bear is taking an interest in you. Even then, it is not a dog that you are shooing away but instead you are simply trying to make yourself look like an unattractive target. In a closer encounter, one should not look directly in the eye as that's considered aggressive - so looking sideways is advised. If it does make contact - you must fight back as black bear attacks are predatory in nature.

This changes with brown (grizzly) bear, but that's a different thread as there are no brown bears in India.

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