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EXPLAINED: What to do if you meet a bear in Sweden's forests

TT/The Local
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EXPLAINED: What to do if you meet a bear in Sweden's forests
A bear in Hälsingland. File photo: Mikael Fritzon/TT

Two hunters were taken to hospital at the end of August after they were attacked by a bear on the first day of Sweden's bear hunt. Here's what you should do if you encounter a bear in Sweden's forests.


According to Sweden's public broadcaster SVT, the bear had attacked the father in a father-and-son hunting team, pinning him to the ground. The son then hit the bear hard on the head, after which it turned on him and bit him on the wrist.

While the bear's focus was away, the father managed to get his gun and shoot it dead. 

According to Benny Gäfvert, an expert on Swedish predators working for the wildlife preservation charity WWF, it is rarely a good idea to attack a bear in this way. 

Very rare for bears to attack 

Unless they are out hunting with dogs, it's very unusual for people out in the forest to encounter a bear, as bears will normally get out of the way of humans and hide before even being seen.  

"Bears have very good hearing and a good sense of smell and often sense that people are on their way. Getting close to a bear unnoticed is very difficult," Gäfvert said.

Even in the rare occasions where you the bear does not see you, hear you, or pick up your scent -- for example if you have come over a hill with a strong wind blowing towards you -- it is unlikely to attack. 

"In such a situation, you should try to make the bear understand that you are a human. Then it will want to get away. Back away slowly while speaking calmly," Gäfvert said. 


Why do bears attack hunters? 

Bears are most likely to attack hunters with dogs, as the dogs make the bears stressed and frightened and so more likely to be aggressive, although they do also sometimes attack forestry workers, or people who stumble on a bear as it is eating prey. 

What should you do if a bear attacks? 

If, against all odds, a bear does attack you, Gäfvert recommends lying down flat on the ground with your arms protecting your head and neck

"Bears' powerful jaws can cause nasty injuries. But in cases where bears have attacked, it is usually just to give a warning that we are encroaching on their territory, then they tend to leave the area." 

The most dangerous situation is when a bear has been shot and wounded by a hunter.

"The difference then is that the bear mainly just wants to eliminate a threat. It might run over you and then run away. But a wounded bear is life-threatening, and to a greater extent completes an attack," he said. 


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