A Bear Attack near Los Alamos

From today's Albuquerque Journal: "State Game and Fish officers are searching for an adult black bear that attacked a 56-year-old man Wednesday morning on a hiking trail near Los Alamos."

The story continues: "The Los Alamos man ... suffered deep flesh wounds and scratches to his head, chest and hands." Later it mentions that at the time, the man was 2 1/2 miles (4 km) from his car, and he had to walk out to the highway to get help. The bear was a female with a cub and presumably was defending it.


As for the lessons for the rest of us:

  1. Bear attacks do occur in the mountains of New Mexico. If you're in bear country, don't be ashamed to have a bear bell on your pack or bear spray on your belt (or both).
  2. While I keep reading tips about how to deal with a bear you encounter, let's face it, no matter what you do there's a good chance you'll be bitten and clawed. That means serious injuries requiring more than a token first aid kit.
  3. In New Mexico's wild places, rescues often mean self-rescue.

If a bear charges you, your best defense is bear spray. No, not a gun, even though the Second Amendment includes the word "bear." You can read about which works better here. There's an additional benefit to using spray: the survivors include the bear. Highly appropriate, considering that it's the bear's home and you're the home invader.


If you pack bear spray, it's critical to deploy it within a couple of seconds. Which means that you can't keep it in your pack; it needs to be at your hip. The bear spray shown at left comes with a nylon holster with a belt loop. If you use a pack with a padded hip belt, as I often do, you can attach the spray to the hip belt instead. I started by attaching the holster to my shoulder strap, but having the nozzle so close to my face made me too darn nervous.


Postscript added May 28, 2017: if you decide to start using a bear bell, there's an alternative to those tinny commercial bells—as I describe here.