Sacrificing a ‘slower’ friend isn’t the way to escape bears, NPS says. Here’s what is

As snow melts and spring approaches, bears will get more active. The National Park Service has some sage bear safety advice. 

As snow melts and spring approaches, bears will get more active. The National Park Service has some sage bear safety advice. 

National Park Service

As snow melts and spring approaches, bears will get more active. The National Park Service is sharing some sage bear safety advice.

“If you come across a bear, never push a slower friend down … even if you feel the friendship has run its course,” NPS wrote in a tweet.

The tweet garnered more than 17,000 retweets and over 146,000 likes by Wednesday, March 1.

“If not friend, why friend shaped?” the thread continued. “What about your other friend? Seeing a bear in the wild is a special treat for any visitor to a national park. While it is an exciting moment, it is important to remember that bears in national parks are wild and can be dangerous.”

The National Park Service shared official bear safety tips, but those engaging with the tweet seemed more interested in the bit about pushing slower friends into harm’s way.

“What if you’re the slower friend?” someone asked.

“Check in on the friendship before you head out to the woods,” NPS said.

Someone else asked: “What if they consider me a friend, but I just consider them an acquaintance? Then is it ok to push them in front of said bear? Asking for an acquaintance …”

The National Park Service wished this person luck in their attempts to build a lasting friendship.

“What if I want to push my friend over but it actually has nothing to do with the bear?” someone else asked.

“Let’s discuss,” the National Park Service said, sharing a gif of a character from “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” savoring the smell of a thick binder labeled “conflict resolution.”

Another person joked: “Why would I have to push them down if they are slower? I’ll just out run them. Now a friend faster than me …”

“Avoid awkward conversations about where the relationship is going?” the National Park Service replied.

In fact, if you do come face-to-face with a bear, you really shouldn’t run at all. That includes pushing your slower friend toward the bear to make a break for it.

That’s because they’ll act like dogs and chase fleeing animals. You also don’t want them to see you as a prey animal, the NPS public service announcement says.

How to avoid a bear attack

Here’s what you should do instead, according to the National Park Service:

Identify yourself as a human and not a prey animal by talking calmly, and stay put. Slowly wave your arms. The bear might come closer or stand up on its back legs to get a better look or to smell you, which is usually a sign of curiosity and not aggression.

Don’t scream or make any loud or high-pitched noises, since the bear might think it’s the sound of a prey animal. Pick up smaller children, and make yourself look as big as possible, including moving to higher ground if you can.

“Stay calm and remember that most bears do not want to attack you; they usually just want to be left alone,” the guidance says. However, they might bluff to avoid an encounter by charging and turning away at the last second.

Don’t try climbing a tree. Black bears and grizzlies can both climb trees.

Brooke (she/them) is a McClatchy Real-Time reporter who covers LGBTQ+ news and national parks out west. They studied journalism at the University of Florida, and previously covered LGBTQ+ news for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. When they’re not writing stories, they enjoy hanging out with their cats, riding horses or spending time outdoors.

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