Picture this: I’m camping with my family and best friend in High Point, New Jersey as a teenager. For this visit, we decided to rent a cabin. (Usually, we’d all just pitch a few tents on the campsite and truly camp.) We were all exhausted while returning from a walk/hike by the water when we noticed a large black bear near our cabin and cars. Immediately, I knew I was the culprit. However, I did not want to admit to my alarmed family members that I may or may not have left my half-eaten sandwich on the picnic table…
Now, for the most part, we knew not to approach the bear or make any sudden quick movements. Because we were closer to the opposite end of the cabin from the bear, we were able to sneak in through a side door and avoid its path. (I will admit, at this point, I was shaking in my hiking boots!)
The bear didn’t seem to notice us — success! Until…
A Bear Jumped on My Car While Camping
We continued to watch the black bear in all of its glory outside our cabin when we noticed it begin to grow more curious and playful. (It must’ve felt a burst of energy after enjoying my sandwich…) From the kitchen window, my family all gathered to watch and monitor the black bear’s next move. To our surprise, it began to push against my car.
My small Toyota Camry, which was on its last legs as-was, moved back and forth as the bear pushed against it. Within seconds, the bear hopped on top of the car hood and took a seat like it was getting ready for a drive-in movie.
Mind you, I had never seen a bear in person before. I had, however, hiked many New Jersey State Parks and been told many scary bear stories by my outdoorsy grandpa. Even so, I’d never actually seen a black bear in person. The intimidating yet majestic creature must have known I was a newbie and decided to put on a show for me that lovely evening.
How I Scared the Bear Away
It took everything in me not to run out of the cabin and chase the bear away from my beloved (albeit failing) car. (Okay, fine: no part of me wanted to exit that cabin and be within even one mile of that bear, but I rest my case.) However, since we knew we were safe inside, my family began brainstorming ways to scare the bear away. As we contemplated our various choices, my brothers took matters into their own hands. They opened the door and stood on the porch, making loud noises to scare the bear away. Without approaching the bear or threatening it in any way, they were able to alert the creature of our presence. Ultimately, the bear got spooked enough to leave on its own. Thankfully, it didn’t do any damage to my car (though it certainly could have if we hadn’t scared it away!)
The more I learned about bears in the years following, the more I realized that most black bears are not aggressive creatures. Black bear attacks (especially severe or fatal ones) are rare and typically only occur if they feel threatened. Nevertheless, these playful animals can destroy property. I still joke with my family that I almost lost a car that day.
What To Do if a Bear Approaches Your Car
If a bear happens to jump on your car while you’re inside the vehicle, immediately roll up your windows, lock the doors, and honk the horn to scare it away. Additionally, never leave your car unattended with your windows down or doors unlocked, as bears are smart and strong enough to break into vehicles.
What To Do if You Encounter a Bear Outside
If you encounter a bear face-to-face outside of your home, such as in the woods or on a campsite, attempt to slowly back away from it. The last thing you want is for the bear to see you as a threat and attack you. If you are forced to confront the bear, however, yell, clap, and make yourself look as big as possible. Odds are, the bear will back off. As mentioned before, black bears in particular are typically not aggressive. In fact, they’re usually more afraid of us than we are of them.
Whatever you do, be sure not to run away from the bear. Bears are known to chase fleeing animals and might instinctively run after you.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Dolores M. Harvey/Shutterstock.com
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