Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Black Bear Encounters

If You Encounter a Bear at Your Campsite


A black bear in the forest.
Most black bears prefer to avoid humans.
  • Use noise to scare bears away: Yell, clap, or bang pots immediately upon sighting a bear near your campsite.
  • Stay calm: Walk slowly and speak in a loud and calm voice.
  • Leave slowly: Cautiously back away from the bear and leave the area.


  • Approach, surround, or corner a bear: Bears aggressively defend themselves when they feel threatened. Be especially cautious around cubs as mother bears are very protective.
  • Run from a bear: They may chase.
  • Throw your backpack or food bag at an approaching bear: This will only encourage bears to approach and "bully" people to get food. By teaching a bear to approach humans for food, you are endangering yourself, other campers/residents, and the bears.

If You Encounter a Bear in A Building


  • Provide an exit for the bear: Give the bear a clear escape route out of the building.
  • Leave doors open: As you back away from the bear, leave all doors open.


  • Lock the bear in a room: Locking the bear in the room creates a more frustrated bear. This endangers yourself and other who will release the bear from the building in the future.

Further Action

  • If a bear approaches you: Raise your arms and speak in a loud, calm voice while backing away.
  • If a bear charges you: Stand your ground. If you have bear spray (leaves DEC website), dispense directly at the bear.
  • If a bear follows you: Stand your ground. Intimidate by making yourself look bigger by waving arms, clapping, shouting, or banging sticks. Prepare to fight or use bear spray.
  • If a bear makes contact with you: Fight back with anything at hand (knife, stick, rocks, or fists).
A black bear standing tall on its hind legs.
Did you know?
A bear standing on its hind feet is not a prelude to
an attack. Bears stand taller so they can get a
better view and smell of their surroundings.

Plan Ahead

Remove all attractants: Follow DEC's guidelines for reducing human-bear conflicts at home, at your campsite, and while in the backcountry by removing all attractants from the area.

Pack bear spray: Purchase and learn how to use bear spray (leaves DEC website) before the trip.

Use the buddy system: Multiple people together appear to be a greater threat to the bear in case of an encounter. Do not separate.

Contact the NYSDEC about the area you plan to visit:

  • Eastern Adirondacks: (518) 897-1291
  • Western Adirondacks: (315) 785-2261
  • Northern Catskills: (607) 652-7367
  • Southern Catskills: (845) 256-3098
  • Central New York: (607) 753-3095 ext. 247
  • Eastern Allegany region: (607) 776-2165, ext. 16
  • Western Allegany region: (716) 372-0645

To report the feeding of bears or a bear encounter, contact the nearest regional DEC wildlife office.

For more information about black bears, check out:

  • Reducing human-bear conflicts-Advice on avoiding conflicts with bears in your back yard as well as in the backcountry.
  • Black bears-Black bear facts, home range map, and links to other DEC black bear resources.

  • Important Links
  • Links Leaving DEC's Website
  • PDF Help
  • For help with PDFs on this page, please call 518-402-8883.
  • Contact for this Page
  • Bureau of Wildlife
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233-4754
    Send us an email
  • This Page Covers
  • Page applies to all NYS regions