Bear Safety


What Should I Do if I See a Black Bear?

Seeing a black bear at Lassen Volcanic National Park is a rare treat (there are no brown or grizzly bears in the park). While it is an exciting moment, it is important to remember that bears in national parks are wild and can be dangerous. Their behavior is sometimes unpredictable. Although rare, attacks on humans have occurred, inflicting serious injuries and death. Each bear and each experience is unique; there is no single strategy that will work in all situations and that guarantees safety. Most bear encounters end without injury. **Bear Spray is not permitted in the park.


A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear

Stay with or Store Your Scented Stuff at All Times

Black bears at Lassen Volcanic are beginning to associate humans and our stuff with food. Human-bear encounters have increased in recent years after multiple incidents of bears obtaining improperly stored food from hikers and backpackers.

Bears obtaining improperly stored food has and may again result in park closures. Allowing wild animals to obtain human food often results in aggressive behavior. Aggressive wildlife are a threat to human safety and will most likely be euthanized.

All visitors can help prevent closures and protect bears:

  • In campgrounds and cabins: store your food and scented items in food lockers. Only have the food out that you are actually using; if you are not using it, please put it back into the food locker.
  • In picnic areas and on the trail: always keep your food within arm’s reach and do not turn your back on your food. Never leave your pack unattended.
  • When backpacking: store food or scented items in a mandatory, bear-resistant container.
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Find out how you can keep your food secure and bears safe when you visit Lassen Volcanic National Park.


Bear Encounters

Most human-bear sightings occur at a safe distance without incident. However, if you encounter a black bear close-up or a bear is reacting to you, the following strategies can help prevent the situation from escalating.



  • Pick up small children immediately.
  • Identify yourself as a human by talking in low, calm tone so the bear knows you are not a prey animal.
  • Stay still and calm. A scream or sudden movement may trigger an attack.
  • Make yourself look as large as possible. Move to higher ground for example.
  • Slowly wave your arms. A bear may come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better look or smell. A standing bear is usually curious, not threatening.
  • Leave the area or detour around the bear. If this is impossible, wait until the bear moves away. Always leave the bear a way to leave the area without having to approaching you.
  • Move away slowly and sideways if the bear is still. This allows you to keep an eye on the bear and avoid tripping. Moving sideways is also non-threatening to bears.
  • Do NOT run or climb a tree. If the bear follows, stop and hold your ground. Bears can run as fast as a racehorse both uphill and down. Like dogs, they will chase fleeing prey.
  • Do NOT drop your pack. The pack can provide protection for your back in the event of an attack. Bears that obtain human food can become aggressive and may need to be euthanized.
  • Never come between a mother and cub or attempt to approach a cub. The chances of a bear attacking escalate greatly if she perceives you as a danger to her cubs.
  • Never imitate bear sounds or make a high-pitched squeal.

If a Black Bear Attacks

Bear attacks are rare; most bears are only interested in protecting food, cubs, or their space. However, being mentally prepared can help you have the most effective reaction.

Bear Pepper Spray is Not Permitted at Lassen Volcanic

The generally non-aggressive behavior of black bears at Lassen Volcanic National Park does not necessitate its use nor is bear pepper spray recommend for black bears (verses grizzly/brown bears).

Do Not Play Dead if You Are Attacked by a Black Bear

Try to escape to a secure place such as a car or building. If escape is not possible, fight with everything you have.

Bluff Charges

Bluff charges are meant to scare or intimidate. When a bear bluff charges, it will have its head and ears up and forward. The bear will puff itself up to look bigger. It will bound on its front paws toward you (moving in big leaps), but then stop short or veer off to one side. Often bears retreat after a bluff charge, or they may vocalize loudly.

If a Bear Appears to be Preparing to Bluff Charge You:

  • Slowly back away while waving your arms above your head and speak to the bear in a calm voice
  • When the bear charges you, hold your ground and stay calm.
  • After the bear charges, slowly retreat while keeping an eye on the bear.
  • Let the bear know that you’re a human and that you aren’t a threat.
  • Continue to speak to the bear in a calm voice and make it clear that you are a human until the bear moves away.
  • Do NOT run during a bluff charge, it may trigger the bear to attack. Stand your ground. Be ready for the bear to make contact in case the charge is not a bluff charge. Know how to protect and defend yourself in case the bear turns aggressive.

Aggressive Charges

This type of charge by a black bear is very rare yet very dangerous. Warning signs of an impending aggressive charge includes yawning, clacking their teeth, or pounding their front paws on the ground while huffing. These behaviors indicate that a bear is stressed and it may be getting ready to charge. Most aggressive charges by black bears are an attempt to protect a perceived threat to a cub or food source such as a deer carcass. A bear charging aggressively will have its head down and ears pointed back and will come at you like a freight train. Be prepared to fight with everything you have.

Last updated: July 30, 2021

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