Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A photo of a black bear up a 40 foot tree Question: Do bears feed only at night?

            Answer: Bears tend to feed at dusk and dawn but it is not uncommon for bears to actively feed throughout the day. 

Question: Why do bears hibernate?

            Answer: Bears hibernate because of dwindling food supplies. Bears do not hibernate simply because the weather has turned cold or snow is falling. 

Question: Do bears always avoid people?

Answer: Bears will not always try to avoid people. A bear may approach people because it is curious, testing dominance, habituated, food‐conditioned or potentially predatory.

Question: Why do bears stand up, are they getting ready to attack?

Answer: A bear may stand on its hind legs to get a better look or to pick up your scent if it cannot tell what you are.

Question: Will making direct eye contact make the bear more likely to attack?

Answer: It’s important to watch the bear so you can assess the situation. In non‐defensive situations, look at and face the bear, stand tall and maintain an air of confidence.

Question: Is climbing a tree a good way to avoid an aggressive bear?

Answer: Both black and grizzly bears can and will climb trees. Black bears are very comfortable in trees and mothers will often send their cubs up trees for safety.

Question: Is running downhill a way to avoid an aggressive bear?

Answer: Both black and grizzly bears can run just as fast downhill as they do uphill, and won’t hesitate to, and can easily outrun even the fastest human.

Question: Will ammonia or moth balls prevent bears from getting into garbage?

Answer: No, household products such as these don’t work and may provide a unique scent or attractant. Keeping garbage in bear resistant containers or behind locked doors is the most effective way to keep bears out of garbage.

Question: Are menstruating women in greater danger of a bear attack?

Answer: There has been no evidence linking menstruating women and bear attacks, but consider soiled menstrual products a potential attractant and keep secure from bears.

Question: Is the advice to fight a black bear, play dead with a brown bear, good advice?

Answer: Your response should be based on the motivation of the bear. You must pay attention to the bear’s behavior to know how to respond.

Question: So to be safe, should I just lie down and play dead if a bear approaches?

Answer: Lying down is a last resort and should only occur when a defensive bear makes physical contact with you. It is rarely necessary and could trigger a predatory response from the bear.

Question: Do bears defend territories?

Answer: Bears defend personal space. Your goal is to give bears plenty of space. Even bears habituated to human presence have spatial limits. Females with cubs, even more so.

Question: Have bears developed a better sense of smell because they can’t see well?

Answer: Bears have good vision similar to humans and can see in color. Their night vision is excellent and they are particularly sensitive to detecting movement. 

Question: How can I rapidly assess how big a bear is?

Answer: You can rapidly assess the size of a bear by looking at its ears.  If the ears are large (and close together on the head) then this is a small bear, maybe a juvenile.  If the ears are small (and far apart on the head), then this is a big bear, maybe an adult.