Bear Encounter Dos and Don'ts

Jul 26, 2017

The recent sighting of a mama bear and her three cubs near Lane Community College’s main campus has officials urging caution.  As KLCC’s Brian Bull reports, there is conflicting advice on how to handle a bear encounter.   

A 2015 Flickr photo shows a mama black bear with two cubs. In mid-July, LCC workers saw a mother bear and three cubs in the vicinity of the main campus.
Credit Phil Horton /

Coming across a bear in a residential area – let alone the forest -- can be a startling event.  Often the animal is just hungry, and can be dispelled with a loud, calm, and firm voice.  

A mature black bear takes a stroll. People are advised to talk, sing, or laugh loudly to discourage head-on encounters.
Credit Ryan Snyder /

But myths persist, such as how running downhill or climbing up a tree will elude a bear.  And what works for one type of bear may not for another.   

Michelle Dennehy of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says there are many practical tips shared on their website, but among the most important…

“Stop.  Don’t continue to approach it.  You want to give any bear you encounter a way to escape, so step off the trail…slowly walk away.  Just give the bear space to leave," advises Dennehy.  

"If it’s a mama bear with bear cubs, the bears will tend to be more aggressive, so if you see bear cubs you do want to leave that area, because it likely means that mother bear is around.” 

A bear climbs atop a dumpster, looking for food.
Credit Jim Mullhaupt /

There are an estimated 30,000 black bears living in Oregon.  If any start appearing in neighborhoods, it could be because they’re attracted to garbage, uncleaned grills, or bird feeders.  Wildlife officials say cleaning or removing these items can stop tempting bears into areas where people live.

Copyright 2017, KLCC.