Know Your Prey: BC Black Bear Guide to Safe Hunting

May 21, 2014 | Black Bear

Seasoned British Columbian black bear hunting guides and hunters know that the only predictable characteristic of a black bear is that it is unpredictable. To have a safe and successful BC black bear hunting experience, a strong understanding of black bear behavior is essential. Get to know your prey. Our guide to safe BC black bear hunting has the facts you need:

Black bears can run up to 30 miles an hour.
From a distance, a black bear’s dawdling shuffle looks downright clumsy. But don’t be fooled; BC black bears can scale tall trees and cover ground at over 30 miles per hour. Be aware that the black bear will outrun (or out-swim) you in a situation where it recognizes you as prey.

“Prey runs away”.
If you turn and run away in an encounter with a black bear, the beast will assume you are prey. Stand your ground or back away slowly to show your status, and save yourself from a high-speed chase through the forest.

Sudden movements can ignite attack reactions.
Spot-and-stalk black bear hunting in BC requires close proximity to the target. Any sudden movements in its “personal space” can jolt the bear into attack. To avoid this potential situation, approach black bears with stealth. Do not flail your arms or weapons. Wear quiet clothing and watch out for loud, crunchy leaves in your pathway. Move slowly and quietly to stay safe and vastly improve your chance of success.

No two encounters are the same.
No two bears will react the same way towards you in an encounter, because each bear reacts in accordance with their previous experience with humans.

They can react in a variety of ways:

  • Turn and flee.
  • Sway the head, flick ears back.
  • Charge or bluff charge (wherein the bear veers off before connecting with its target).
  • Remain stationary and attempt to pick up your scent by sniffing the air.

This is the bear’s way of identifying who you are. From here, the bear could run away or display some of these behaviors:

  • Turn sideways to display its size and intimidate you.
  • Growl, huff, hiss, pant.
  • Walk with stiffened front legs.
  • Look directly at you (in preparation for attack).
  • Rapidly open and close its mouth. This is called jaw popping.

BC black bears use these behaviors to establish their dominance without fighting.

Hold your own in a black bear encounter with these tactics:

  • Stand your ground.
  • Remain calm.
  • Never turn your back to the bear. Remember, “prey runs away”.

While it is impossible to predict a black bear’s reaction in an encounter, you can recognize common behaviors and control how you respond to them. The more you know, the better prepared you will be to act appropriately.


Get to know your prey before striking out on a thrilling BC black bear guided hunt. Enjoy safer hunting experiences by anticipating and recognizing bear behavior in the field. Nothing beats the accomplishment of taking an unpredictable predator in a spot-and-stalk capture.

Bear safety knowledge is an essential piece of gear in your daypack. Our successful hunters and seasoned guides don’t leave home without it. Click here to learn more about our exciting black bear guided hunt packages!