Nationwide bear attacks: A closer look at bear safety

    11:04 PM, Aug 22, 2013   |    comments
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  • LITTLE ROCK (KTHV) - From Alaska to Michigan, bear attacks are making national headlines this summer, and while there are no reports here in Arkansas, we all know well that bears are part of the scene in the Natural State.

    Arkansas Game and Fish reported roughly three bear attacks in the past 25 years. In all those cases, everyone survived, but it was no doubt a frightening encounter that can happen closer to home than you might think.

    What would you do if you saw a bear getting a little too close for comfort?

    "Best thing to do is leave it alone and slowly back off," Ken Horton said.

    "Stay calm just stay put," another hiker added.

    "Oh, run like crazy, yeah," Miles Beyer threw in.

    It's a quick sampling from hikers at Pinnacle Mountain, which is one place you might see a bear.

    "Could you see one at Pinnacle State Park? Absolutely. Could you see one right in the middle of Little Rock? Absolutely," confirmed Myron Means, the Statewide Bear Program Coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

    He said the past few months represent prime time for bear sightings because the mama bears are letting their boys "disperse," so they can breed again.

    "So they're nomads; they end up wandering great distances a lot of times," Means said. "First thing that you do not do is panic and run. You don't want invoke a chase."

    Don't be afraid to make yourself known.

    "Stand your ground, raise your hands up high, make yourself look bigger than normal," Means said.

    Back away slowly and Means said you should be OK. It's alright to make noise, especially before you see a bear.

    "That can be bells that jingle on your feet; you can talk loudly if you're hiking with other people," Means said.

    "It would be fun to see one, it really would," Horton said.

    "From a distance maybe," Beyer added.

    Means calls these bears "walking stomachs." He said that one thing to watch at home is those bird feeders and cat and dog bowls. He warned that leaving food in them can be an open invitation for bears.

    Right now, Game and Fish estimates there are anywhere from 3,500 to 4,000 black bears across the state. While they can get out of their natural habitats, most live in areas like Ozarks and the Ouachita Mountains.

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