Ancient Pathways, LLC - School of Primitive Technology and Wilderness Skills Survival Courses [Flagstaff Arizona]

When You Meet a Bear

This article is taken from one of my recent survival columns at Outside Magazine. To read additional articles, visit   -Many thanks to colleague and friend David Cronenwett for sharing his wealth of backcountry know-how and insight into bears. 


What’s the most dangerous animal in the lower 48? How do I protect myself from it?
In my experience, other than running into a shady two-legged, the bear is the most dangerous large animal in the backcountry. Given much-publicized attacks by grizzly bears in recent years, I thought I would focus on them and spoke with wildlife educator and northern-skills expert David Cronenwett who lives in the heart of bear country in Montana where his job regularly takes him in sight of these amazing creatures.

This is the right, front foot of an adult black bear.

 David recommends, that if you run into a Griz at close range and they are not aware of your presence, then it’s generally best to quietly leave the area. He says that “if you bump into one that knows you are there, turn sideways slightly and avert your stare, since bears recognize a full-frontal gaze as a threat (predatory stare).  Talk to the animal in an unthreatening voice and pull your pepper spray from its holster….do not arm the can unless a charge is in progress.” 

Cronenwett, also states that “bears generally do not want to fight; it’s a dangerous waste of energy and most Grizzlies by far do not recognize humans as prey.  Sure there are exceptions, but most of the recent incidents have involved mothers with young and defensive actions.”  The vast majority of the time, a Grizzly will go the other way if given a chance. 

The top plaster cast is from an adult black bear. The bottom is from a black bear cub. Both are front feet.

 His advice from many years on the trail: “Keep a clean camp, make noise around blind corners and in brushy spots, hang/bear box your food, be alert (hugely important), understand how to recognize bear sign (rub trees, scat, tracks) avoid camping near carcasses, camp away from trails (since critters use them for the same reasons we do) and carry pepper spray.  The effectiveness of pepper spray is undisputed; practice “drawing” and arming it regularly.  This device isn’t perfect but far more effective and easier to use than firearms.  Taking a snoutful of pepper spray is a powerful deterrant to a charge.”

David’s wilderness skills training school that focuses on bear ecology can be seen at

Contact Information

Ancient Pathways, LLC
Colorado Springs, CO


Latest News

The New Knife-Only Survival Book is Now Available on Amazon!

The New Knife-Only Survival Book is Now Available on Amazon!

Ever wondered how to handle a worst-case outing in the wilds with only the clothes on your back and a knife? Each year in North America, there are countless cases of unprepared hikers becoming lost and having to endure an unexpected night in the elements, depending only on their wits and abilities. Written in a… Continue >>>

Newsletter Signup

Receive our wilderness skills emailers, survival school newsletters, and announcements.

Copyright©2002-2024. All Rights Reserved. The content of this Outdoor Survival Class and Bushcraft and Wilderness Course website is owned exclusively by Ancient Pathways, LLC. We specialize in outdoor survival classes, military training, desert survival techniques, survival gear, survival books & DVD's, outdoor survival equipment, bushcraft, firemaking, and many other outdoor survival adventures. Privacy Policy.

Outdoor Survival, Wilderness and Bushcraft Course Website Designed by Reliable Web Designs.