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The NPS Has Spoken: Don’t Sacrifice Your Slow Friend to Escape a Bear

You may have heard that timeless piece of advice: To escape a bear, you don’t have to be fast—you just have to be faster than your hiking partner. Well, the esteemed National Park Service has finally come forward to speak on that old adage and would like you to know that pushing your slow friend in front of a bear is bad trail etiquette. 

“If you come across a bear, never push a slower friend down…even if you feel the friendship has run its course,” the National Park Service tweeted this week. The post has been viewed more than 350,000 times and has generated thousands of responses. While comical, it offers a valuable reminder: As the weather gets warmer, bears will start to get more active, NPS wrote, so it’s especially important to educate yourself now on how to react if you see a bear

For starters, if you’re camping in bear country, you should always make sure all scented items—that’s food, toiletries, scented hand sanitizers and trash like feminine care products—are stored safely overnight. Keep these “smellables” locked in a bear box, bear-proof canister, or bear bag, i.e., a bag you rig up in a tree so that it’s out of reach of wandering brown and grizzly bears. Make sure your tent is at least 100 feet away from those boxes and bags, and never bring food into your tent. (That’s good practice for keeping your tent floor clean and crumb-free, anyway.)

If you encounter a bear while hiking, give the bear plenty of space. Don’t run, scream, drop your pack or get between an adult bear and its young. Like dogs, bears may chase people or animals that flee from them. Don’t try to turn and run to escape a bear. Instead, wave your arms slowly, speak in a calm voice and back away to seek an alternate route. Never approach the bear—no matter how good the selfie might be. (Besides, bears are plenty capable of taking selfies by themselves, anyway.)

Hiking in groups and talking loudly amongst yourselves can be a good way to prevent a bear encounter. And if you’re worried the slowest hiker is you? Well, the NPS tweeted, “check in on the friendship before you head to the woods.”

Bears can run 30 mph. Better to back away slowly than to risk a chase. Image by Jami Tarris/Getty
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