Black people are getting outdoors and we love to see it. Fall is a great time to gather the crew for glamping, camping, and everything in-between. But a recent viral video also shows the dangers of getting out in the wild without proper preparation.
In the video, first shared on TikTok, a group is shown hanging outside of their cabin when a black bear approaches. Someone in the group films the bear as it continues to get closer to them while some keep talking to it.
“Hi cutie,” one of them says. Eventually, the bear arrives right at their door step, jumping over a gate that’s meant to protect their home. We don’t know how things turned out, but it’s clear mistakes were made.
Most of what they did, including making noises beckoning the bear, seems like an obvious misstep.
But ESSENCE wanted expert advice. So we sought the insight of a Black ecologist, Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant, who broke down exactly what to do in the face of a bear encounter as you gear up for your camping trips.
First, she says, “don’t make eye contact.”
When you see wild black bears, “immediately back away slowly. Do not run and do not turn your back on the bear (this is the main thing the folks in the video got wrong, they both ran and turned their back on the bear).”
While September and October are pleasant, cool months to kick it in the woods with the crew, those months also happen to be times when black bears are in periods of hyperphagia, when bears “are laser-focused on eating as much food as possible – of any kind – in order to put on as much body fat as they can to keep them alive during hibernation, which can last 3-5 months,” Wynn-Grant shares with ESSENCE.
Another tip before a bear gets too close? Always carry bear spray. “[I]t is best used when there is still significant distance between you and the bear, but if necessary it can be used in close distance. Spray – make a wall of the pepper – and then back away quickly,” she says.
Lastly, and we hope it doesn’t get this far, “if a black bear is attacking you (meaning, actually touching your body in a full on attack), you can fight back,” she advises. “If a grizzly bear is attacking you, lay down and play dead and protect your head and neck.”
You can see more of Dr. Wynn-Grant’s tips, and her exploration of the great outdoors, starting this Saturday on NBC for the premiere of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom: Protecting the Wild, as she makes history as the first Black person to host a wildlife show.