Man learns why you never, ever pick a fight with a grizzly bear – no matter how small

Pair of grizzly bear cubs walking beside stream
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Summer is one of the best times to spot grizzly bears at US National Parks, and seeing one from a safe distance can be the highlight of your vacation. However, it's important to always give the animals plenty of space, and avoid disturbing or distracting them.

A video currently circulating on social media shows what happens if you ignore Park Rangers' warnings to keep your distance. In the clip, which was shared last week via Instagram account TouronsOfNationalParks, a man can be seen approaching a grizzly cub with one hand outstretched, seemingly trying to coax it to approach. Bears, like most wild animals, prefer to avoid such close encounters with people, and  the cub reacts by charging to drive him back.

The bear moves fast and the man is forced to climb onto his car roof to escape. Such an obstacle would prove no barrier if the animal was determined to reach him (it's a common misconception that grizzlies are poor climbers), but luckily for him, the animal seems satisfied that the threat has been neutralized. 

It's not clear exactly where this particular clip was filmed (it was likely not in the US), but as summer hiking season gets into full swing, it's a timely reminder to respect wildlife and give animals the space they need to behave naturally.

Even if they don't lash out, being approached and fed by people can lead to habituation, where animals lose their natural wariness around humans. This increases the chances of a negative interaction in the future, as the habituated animal is more likely to approach people and settlements in search of food. If deemed a risk to public safety, they may be relocated or even euthanized.  

Be bear aware

The National Park Service (NPS) advises hikers that the best way to avoid a bear encounter is to make sure they know you are coming in advance by making noise as you walk. It's safest to hike in groups; bear attacks are less common when people are together, so talking and singing are good ways to make your presence known.

You should also carry bear spray and make sure you know how to use it in an emergency.

Different parks will have their own recommendations depending on the observed behavior of local animals, but if you stumble to come across a bear in the wild, the general advice is to talk in low tones. This will let the bear know that you're a person, and help keep both of you calm. Remember that a bear is more likely to be curious than aggressive, though the chances of an attack increase greatly if a sow perceives you as a threat to her cubs.

You should never run, scream, or make other loud noises, as this can trigger the bear's instinct to chase. Instead, make yourself look as large as possible and leave the area or take a detour. If that's not possible, wait until the bear leaves of its own accord.

For more advice, see our guides what to do if you meet a bear and wildlife safety: eight tips for unexpected encounters.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.