How to avoid bear attacks on Himalayan treks

The Himalayan black or brown bears are more aggressive compared to the Grizzly bears of North America. They get easily agitated when startled. And are voracious pursuers. Talk to any local villager in Himalayas and you will hear stories of bear attacks to be the highest among wild animal attacks. There are no fool-proof ways of protecting yourself in case of bear attacks. But a few things can be kept in mind about how to act in case of a close encounter with a bear on a trek.

Be informed

Make sure you talk to your guide and local people to find out if you are likely to find any bears on the route or near your camp site. It is a good idea to have this information before you set out on your trek. So if a bear shows up at your camp site you will not panic.

Make yourselves heard

While trekking in dense forests, be sure to make some noise. Sing, talk, make your presence felt on the trail.  This will negate the element of surprise for a bear. Nothing can agitate a bear more than seeing a human show up close to its path. Bears tend to avoid an encounter with humans as much as we do. If they hear your presence, they will generally stay away from your path.

Let it not sniff you out

The next step is to bear-proof your camp site by protecting your food and any other items in your kit that may give off unnatural odours. These might include toothpaste, sunscreen, insect repellent and the likes. Sometimes a bear might show up at your camp site sniffing for food. So keep your food properly packed to attract the least amount of attention from the wildlife around.

Be in groups

Trekking is all about exploring. But when it comes to animal attacks you need to be on your guard. It is safer to trek in groups than alone. A Himalayan bear is less likely to attack a group of humans than a single trekker.

Don’t go close to a bear

I know it can be thrilling to see a Himalayan bear for real. But it is advisable not to go close to it. It might feel you are coming in its way. This could lead to the bear becoming agitated. Some of you will be eager to click pictures of the bear. Again, this is not a good idea. You might go closer to get a better shot which will make it easier for the bear to spot to you.

Even while you try the above to stay away from bears you might end up in a face off with one. Here is what you need to do if you find yourself in an encounter with a Himalayan bear.

When the bear is close

If you see a bear from a close distance, stay calm. If it doesn’t run away the moment it spots you, speak to the bear in a strong voice. Make sure your voice is calm. Do not stutter. Making a loud noise is a complete no no.

Raise your arms to make yourself look bigger.  The aim is to look intimidating and strong. Slowly back away without making eye contact with the bear. Do not turn your back at any point until you have withdrawn to a considerably safe distance.

When the bear charges

If the bear charges at you, whatever you do, don’t run. Outrunning a bear is impossible. They can easily catch hold of you. Running will only anger them. It will keep them interested in pursuing you.

If an encounter is inevitable, drop down to the ground and cover your neck and face with your hands to minimize blows on your face and skull.

Vaibhav Chauhan

Vaibhav Chauhan

Vaibhav was associated with Indiahikes as a Writer & Chief Explorer. He is an avid traveler with a passion for trekking in Indian Himalayas. With his roots in Shimla district of Himachal Pradesh, the love for the mountains is in his blood. When not travelling he likes to spend time interacting with like-minded trek enthusiasts and read books on travel and mountaineering.

6 thoughts on “How to avoid bear attacks on Himalayan treks

  1. Dont get me wrong but i think you left the most important point of all!Carrying bear spray ,duh.It can save your life ,what do you think?

  2. When a black bear attacks you should not drop down, instead you should fight back with everything you have got. It’s a good idea to play dead with brown bear though.

  3. Any thoughts about keeping food in bear canisters? Or hanging up food in bear bags away from camp? Does anyone do this in the Himalayas?

    1. Hi Lucie, that’s an interesting question. Nobody really uses bear canisters in the Indian Himalayas. We don’t encounters bears / wild animals often on most of our trails. So the concept of bear canisters is almost non-existent in India. But we might need something to keep our food from foxes, because we see of foxes taking camp food away on certain trails!

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