Hiker Fends off Black Bear with Knife


A woman hiking on an Adirondacks trail in New York managed to ward off a group of bears with her knife last month. According to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, the unnamed woman said she was followed by three bears while hiking alone on September 18. The animals continued following her to Stephens Pond near the Lake Durant Campground. One of the black bears eventually closed the distance, and fearing for her life, the hiker produced a knife and stabbed the bear. The action was enough to send the bears running.

When officers with the New York Department of Conservation (DEC) retraced her steps, they found no signs of the bears. A group of three bears likely meant a sow and two cubs, or three young bears wandering by themselves. The DEC had previously received reports of aggressive bears in the area and have already posted numerous signs warning visitors of the increase in sightings. Against black bears, the best weapon is prevention.

“If approached by a bear, do not run—stand tall, wave your hands over your head and to your sides, yell and clap hands,” warned the DEC. “If the bear doesn’t move off [throw] rocks, sticks or other objects. Do not throw food or objects containing food. If attacked by a black bear, fight back. Use whatever items you have to punch, poke or club the bear.”

Some hunters carry small but powerful revolvers while moving through bear territory, but knives are rarely considered a reliable defense against bears. Despite this, a Canadian outdoorsman used a hunting knife to kill an aggressive bear in 2006. In the original report by the CBC, canoeist Tom Tilley was on vacation in northern Ontario when he was confronted by a black bear. When his dog came to protect him, the two animals became entangled in a scuffle. Tilley leapt to his pet’s aid armed with a six-inch-long hunting knife and stabbed the roughly 200-pound bear to death. It was fortunate that the bear was relatively small, a larger animal might have shrugged off the knife wounds.

As always, wildlife experts tell hikers, campers, and hunters to carry bear spray whenever possible.

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