Is a survival knife sufficient as defense against black bear?

7:19 a.m. on October 30, 2014 (EDT)
Alexander @Picard
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Is a survival knife sufficient as defense against black bear? I can't bring a gun 

8:49 a.m. on October 30, 2014 (EDT)
g00se
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Short answer: No


Several places sell bear spray:

https://www.trailspace.com/gear/counter-assault/bear-deterrent/

10:02 a.m. on October 30, 2014 (EDT)
ppine
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Definitely not.

Your best defense is your brain, followed by bear spray. Thanks to Goose.

10:41 a.m. on October 30, 2014 (EDT)
Rob R
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By all means, bear spray.  Save the knife for splitting firewood.

1:12 p.m. on October 30, 2014 (EDT)
Seth Levy @Seth
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Agreed with all of the above. To expand on ppine's excellent summary - your best first line of defense is to be "bear-aware." Don't camp near dens, don't store food in your shelter, reduce food aromas near where you camp, and don't feed bears. Of course, others have varying experiences - but these practices are generally regarded as effective in avoiding bear encounters. Travel safe!

1:20 p.m. on October 30, 2014 (EDT)
denis daly
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honestly Seth just hit it out of the park...I live in bear country what he says is exactly it...Use your head and you will be fine...Bear spray is overkill.

2:18 p.m. on October 30, 2014 (EDT)
Patman
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I also spend 99% of my backcountry time in black bear preserves…In my opinion the fears are largely unwarranted and the threat overstated. Like all have said, good practices are key.

Statically speaking (from my personal experiences) encountering a really badly behaving black bear in the southern apps is unlikely and the chance even reduces more as winter comes. The mast crops have been eaten by now and activity is decreasing.

So you've piqued my curiosity Alexander: where you going?

2:20 p.m. on October 30, 2014 (EDT)
Patman
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Oh yeah...if you wanna read a tale of bad practices check out this old trip report of mine from a few years ago:

 

https://www.trailspace.com/forums/trip-reports/topics/129405.html

 

3:04 p.m. on October 30, 2014 (EDT)
KiwiKlimber
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Trying to fend off a black bear (or any kind of bear) with a survival knife doesn't seem like a smart move to me. Remember, they have 5 "survival knifes" at the end of each of their paws and a whole lot more force behind each of them. 

A better tactic would be to know the recommended protocol for encountering black bears. I live in PA, where aside from Maine, has the largest black bear population in the Appalachians. I can recall only 3 encounters with black bears spread out over the last 13 years, including one this summer. It's best to practice the scenario or run the scenario through your head a few times before going into the woods, so you don't panic if you do encounter a bear. 

3:22 p.m. on October 30, 2014 (EDT)
Sean Van Cleve
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While we are on the subject, I have never considered carrying bear spray in the east... from Maine to North Carolina. I am a neat freak about cooking, keeping a clean camp, consolidating my smelly stuff, keeping from surprising them in dense forest, etc. I sometimes worry about previous campers nasty habits. I respect bears tremendously, but I don't have a fear of them that keeps me up at night. 

I routinely question my system and philosophy, and this begs the question:

'Am I a fool for NOT carrying Bear Spray?'

3:58 p.m. on October 30, 2014 (EDT)
Alexander @Picard
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I am just going camping in Canadian provincial parks

4:27 p.m. on October 30, 2014 (EDT)
g00se
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Sean Van Cleve said:


'Am I a fool for NOT carrying Bear Spray?'

 

I don't think so. I think, as Seth said, foolish behavior is the greater concern.

6:37 p.m. on October 30, 2014 (EDT)
Bill S
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There are 2 kinds of bears you may encounter in the Canadian parks:


DSC_0072.jpg

and
DSC_0020.jpg

If you climb a tree to escape the first one, it will just shake the tree until you fall out or it knocks the tree over, and then eat you. The second type will climb up the tree, then sit on a branch to eat you.

Actually, the Canadian parks (both Parcs Canada and the provincial parks) have good briefing programs that all visitors should attend and pay LOTS of attention to. In both cases, do NOT hang around an area where a bear has hidden its kill (they do not like anything or anybody trying to take their food), and do NOT get between a sow and her cubs. Making noise as you hike alerts the bear to your presence, and the majority of the time, the bear will move away, often without your even knowing a bear was there. Running away will clue the bear into you as prey to be chased - stay still and "look BIG". Griz ("brown bears") may make bluff charges, but yelling at them usually will let them know you are not prey.

In many decades of wandering the woods in locations where there were bears present, I have never lost any food and never been threatened by either black bear or brown bear (in California, we do not have grizzly, although that is the State Animal and is on the State Flag). The grizzly at the top of this post (a sow) was quite content to mostly just ignore us. We met her and a number of others in Alaska. The black bear also paid little attention to us (that was Alaska). All of the pictures in this post were taken by me in the wild - no zoos, no cages.

The "scare" of bears is much exaggerated, IF you take some time to learn about their habits and, as noted above, be "Bear Aware".


GrizWood1.jpg

I'm not sure which of us was more surprised. But this boar was really more interested in pursuing his girlfriend. Just don't come between them.

8:10 p.m. on October 30, 2014 (EDT)
Joseph Renow @jrenow
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Apparently hiking poles and yelling are a good combination if you're desperate enough https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtsI1DOlVow

11:08 a.m. on October 31, 2014 (EDT)
Bill S
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Joseph's Youtube reference and another that appeared in the list alongside it reminded me to add one more important point. In bear country (and mountain lion country as well), it is best to travel in a group, and keep the group close together. The basis of this is the same as the "make yourself look large" idea. The group looks more formidable to the predators.

Another thing - when photographing animals like bear, lion, elk, and moose, I often use an experienced, trained guide and join or organize a group of 5 or 6. Guides in Alaska and Canada have found that flares are much more effective in getting bears to leave than bear spray. The bears will stay farther away from a flare than the range of a bear spray can (and wind doesn't blow the flare in your face like it does the bear spray). Be wary of fire danger, of course, though the areas where you will encounter bears in Canada and Alaska tend to be wet enough that the fire danger from a flare is minimal.

11:44 a.m. on October 31, 2014 (EDT)
FromSagetoSnow
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I'm much more concerned with avoiding the flu = much deadlier.

12:53 p.m. on October 31, 2014 (EDT)
madmarmot
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If you're attacked directly by a black bear there is something wrong immediately and unless packing a larger caliber are most likely not walking away from it. Black bears are skittish on a good day on being in proximity to you. If you startle them in an enclosed space, try to take their food, or mess with their cubs this is due to self-induced natural selection. Black bears literally don't want much to do with humans. Problems such as tourist feeding, garbage foraging, and further situations putting certain bears in an accustomed state to humans is more the problem. Yosemite and New Jersey are the areas, I reference for much of this. If you research the few direct attacks by black bears, they defy everything you ever learn about bear activity and habits. Though a newer tactic for mountain lion or black bear attacks is to fight back with anything and everything you have. So if a folding knife is all you have or a nail-file go nuts.

1:08 p.m. on October 31, 2014 (EDT)
Erich
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As has been said, knowledge o bear behavior is the number one defense. The key is to avoid an encounter. I would add to Bill's post that Grizzly AND Black Bears will make bluff charges. Remember that bears attack if they feel threatened in some way, or, in rare cases, if they see you as prey. The latter can be avoided is you don't run and don't smell obviously like prey. An exception would be if the bear is sick and cannot hunt or get prey they would normally get. While their is not a cognitive process that bears go through when determining whether or not to see a human as prey, it is important to remember that in the bear's case, it would be dangerous to attack something that might result in an injury. As Bill says, appear large and travel in a group. Don't mistake a bear's threats for an attack. Carry bear spray, stay bear aware, and you will most likely never see one.

7:58 a.m. on November 1, 2014 (EDT)
g00se
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Bill S said:

Joseph's Youtube reference and another that appeared in the list alongside it reminded me to add one more important point. In bear country (and mountain lion country as well), it is best to travel in a group, and keep the group close together. The basis of this is the same as the "make yourself look large" idea. The group looks more formidable to the predators.

Here's a story from September, where the group foolishly split up while being harassed by a bear. http://www.nj.com/passaic-county/index.ssf/2014/09/edison_man_22_found_dead_in_west_milford_after_bear_encounter.html

8:10 a.m. on November 1, 2014 (EDT)
g00se
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8:25 a.m. on November 1, 2014 (EDT)
LoneStranger
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Your brain is your best defensive weapon vs bears, but the problem is you have to use it even when you don't see any bears :)

I have yet to see a bear despite all the trips I take here in ME and NE. I see tracks, I see tremendous amounts of scat. The rangers tell me Baxter is filled with bears and I believe them because of the piles of poop all over the trails.

Still, I haven't seen any because they smell me more than my food and I try to remember to make noises. A group tends to make more noise naturally but solo it is easy to get into silent mode. When I realize I'm being too quiet I'll bang my sticks on rocks or even resort to singing if I'm pretty certain I have the trail to myself.

The bears around here want nothing to do with people. So long as you let them know you are there and don't accidentally surprise them they are invisible.

10:55 a.m. on November 1, 2014 (EDT)
ppine
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We have covered a lot of this before. Canada has a high density of bears in the forested parts, and they have grizzly bears in the western part.

To all of those people that think bearspray is overkill, good luck.

I have had over 100 encounters with bears and some of them did not cooperate. Listen to people like Erich. Learn to avoid bears, make noise and at least carry bearspray. I sleep much better with firearms.

 

12:59 p.m. on November 1, 2014 (EDT)
denis daly
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ppine said:

We have covered a lot of this before. Canada has a high density of bears in the forested parts, and they have grizzly bears in the western part.

To all of those people that think bearspray is overkill, good luck.

I have had over 100 encounters with bears and some of them did not cooperate. Listen to people like Erich. Learn to avoid bears, make noise and at least carry bearspray. I sleep much better with firearms.

 

 Maybe you miss read the OP.He States Black Bears..Or did I miss something here...:)

2:17 p.m. on November 1, 2014 (EDT)
North1
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Unless your "survival knife" comes loaded with pepper spray or large caliber ammunition leave such imaginings to the script writers of the latest action movie. A knife is a close quarter weapon and if the bear of any species is that close to you then your days are already numbered. At best you will be injured, perhaps lethally, with a wounded and angry bear to contend with. There is nothing wrong with pepper spray as a bear defence. Learn to use it, though, before your trip. As for bears in Canadian provincial parks polar bears can be found in Ontario's Polar Bear Provincial Park. Personally, I figure that if you feel you have to arm yourself against the natural world you are entering for enjoyment then you are better off staying at home. Considering you are far more likely, statistically, to die in a car accident on your way to the park than be injured within its borders.

4:47 p.m. on November 1, 2014 (EDT)
speacock
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North1: "I figure that if you feel you have to arm yourself against the natural world you are entering for enjoyment then you are better off staying at home."

Those who also are packing (stuffed in the pack somewhere) should reconsider being in a wilderness in the lower 48.  You don't stand a chance.  If a predator wants to eat you - it will.  That's how they make their living.  The most dangerous predator in the woods is the guy you don't know about who  has a weapon and is concerned enough that he is probably jumpy about things that go boo in the night -- camping close to you.

Easy to check out via the Internet, the risk of a black bear or mountain lion encounter let alone one that injures or causes death. 

Compare black bear injuries/deaths over the last 50 years.  Many, like some rattlesnake bites, occur with a combination of a highly testosteroned motivated male, alcohol and female audience.

Mountain lion chewing on humans is almost insignificant. Home work is to google number of deaths in US in last 100 years. The eastern Sierra scientist have most of the mountain lions inventoried, collared and located.  Its not like there is a government conspiracy hiding the risk from the many enjoying the Eastern hiking approach to the Sierra.

There are people (in most mountain areas in USA) who live in cabins at least in the summer.  They wouldn't be there if there was a significant risk.  If there was a significant risk in the National Parks, I suspect they would not let you out of your car.

The big killers are deer and moose.  Oh, and bees and peanuts.  Gives new meaning to those peanut butter and honey sandwiches you pack for the kids.

9:34 p.m. on November 1, 2014 (EDT)
Jake W
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I've been camping and hiking in every province in this beautiful country and I can tell you.... 1)should you need to defend yourself against a bear you are better off removing a buckle from your backpack to fight him off with. He'll kill you faster that way. If a bear wanted to kill you, it would! 2)use common sense and this is a none issue 3)if you're still concerned, carry bear spray, purchase two, practice with one, that way you know how to use it properly

Have fun out there! (Oh, and which parks are you exploring?)

10:56 p.m. on November 1, 2014 (EDT)
denis daly
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This is what you Don't want to do...This happened in 2011 in my county in VA,,,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6j1ov4nHQO8

11:53 p.m. on November 1, 2014 (EDT)
Erich
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The OP said that he was going to camp in the Canadian PPs. Tweedsmuir, a very beautiful park, has the highest concentration of Grizzly bears in NA. I'm guessing Alexander is further east. As ppine says, this has been posted before, ad nauseam. A knife won't help you in a fight with any bear, at least not so much it matters. Your brain(remember that thing between your ears?) is your best defense. I would venture to say that on this planet, even today, more people eat people, than bears eat people. The natural landscape, with some caution, is safer than east LA.

9:47 p.m. on November 3, 2014 (EST)
andrew f. @leadbelly2550
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bring bear spray and common sense.  or, lacking common sense, read the basic information available about black bear and grizzly, and act accordingly.  (some species of bear are better dealt with by a loud display; others by sitting still and looking away, and hoping they don't rip you to shreds).  i have run into a few small black bear over the years and have found ignoring them worked best - they mostly wanted to bat around the bear barrel. 

4:28 p.m. on November 5, 2014 (EST)
Bill S
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Sometimes, bears just want to get in the picture.


bear-photo-by-jim-lawrence-.jpg

5:33 p.m. on November 5, 2014 (EST)
pillowthread
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@OP: Let's say you get it; you're not laboring under the belief that a knife is sufficient bear defense. You're super educated and practice perfect bear BMPs. Still, you might look into the BigStick from LuxuryLite.com

The Texas Toothpick attachment. Maybe worth considering.

4:29 p.m. on November 6, 2014 (EST)
Alicia MacLeay @Alicia
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It's been said well above, but here is some more on this topic:

Also some books:

7:49 a.m. on November 7, 2014 (EST)
Alexander @Picard
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I also bring bear spray. the knife is used as last resort if bear spray doesn't work. My knife is big and very sharp. I hope that I will never use it

10:25 a.m. on November 7, 2014 (EST)
dirtwheels
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So many good answers here, but if you're an especially talented ninja you might could take a knife to a bear fight and win...but I don't believe in ninja's myself.

5:19 a.m. on November 10, 2014 (EST)
TJ1984
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Picard said:

I also bring bear spray. the knife is used as last resort if bear spray doesn't work. My knife is big and very sharp. I hope that I will never use it


I obviously know nothing about you or how adept you may be with a knife or in the wilderness. I quite like knives myself so I can see the attraction of having/justifying one.... but for your sake (and your loved ones), dont let a big knife embolden you into thinking you can take on a massive animal. Just be smart, and stay safe and do your best to avoid any confrontation where a knife even has the smallest chance of being a factor.

10:17 a.m. on November 11, 2014 (EST)
Erich
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In answer to the OP's original question, NO. Don't bring a knife to a bear fight. A knife is a close quarter weapon and you don't want the bear that close. He(or she) has twenty knives(claws) and lots of teeth and you will lose.

12:32 p.m. on November 16, 2014 (EST)
PaulaG @Paula Grubbs
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I agree with most of you and respectfully disagree at the same time. I think most people over think and worry about bears way to much.

I don't think humans are on the menu for bears. I think people panic and inadvertently do things that a bear sees as aggression and in turn become agressive. If you look at the staticis they don't support the idea of human meals for bears. 1.2 million visitors in October 2014 to GSM with 1300 bears. If bears had that many opportunities to eat a human they would be attacking people as they got out of their cars. The ultimate bear meals on wheels.

With the Great Smokey Mountians in my backyard it's a good place for spur of the moment day hikes. It's really not the place for you to be in the back country if you have a real fear of bears. We hiked a ridge trail to a popular bald 15 miles round trip we encountered 9 bears that day.

Look, listen, and smell. If you're aware of your surroundings and paying attention your not going to get into trouble.

I don't get all the bear spray. When you go to National Parks that has bear problems those rangers are not using bear spray. So why am I going into their home armed with spray they are not showing up at my house with human spray. We have a marine air horn in the side pocket on a pack. 2 times we have ever had to use it in all my years hiking. It scares the hell out of a bear and they will cut a trail.

We hike places where there are elk. I'm much more afraid of an elk then a bear any day.

1:09 p.m. on November 16, 2014 (EST)
Erich
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Paula, I agree that I think many people spend far too much time worrying about bears. I also think that there are a lot of people who think bears are fuzzy and cute. The NPS has recently come out to discourage people from taking selfies with bears. And I'll take a bear most days to a moose, but I consider both potentially very dangerous. As far as rangers not carrying bear spray in National Parks where there are bear problems, I would say that while this may be true in the areas you visit, in places like Glacier, Yellowstone, and others out west, bear spray is carried by any NP staff working in situations where a bear encounter is a possibility. Horns do work, but their situational use is different than one in which I would use bear spray. In my encounters with bears, at most, a little shouting is all that is needed. At night several times, I have frightened a curious bear off that was attracted by food smells.(No matter how diligent you are, there are always food smells when you prepare food.) I have never had to use bear spray, and hope that I never do. This is a last resort deterrent when an attack is underway. I see a lot of misinformation about bears come through the TS site as well as other sites. "Black bear sows with cubs do not bluff charge." "Black bears are not predatory to humans." Much of it is not based on broad experience, nor scientific fact. For the record, I have had a lot of experiences with bears, both black and grizzly. I enjoy seeing them from a distance but always travel with an eye and ear tuned toward encounters, with bears, moose, raccoons, snakes and all other manner of creatures that might make my outdoor experience less comfortable.

1:21 p.m. on November 17, 2014 (EST)
ppine
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Ignore the broad experience of others at your own peril.

June 7, 2020
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