Filson 101: Wesley Larson’s Guide to Safety in Bear Country

Wesley Larson
Wesley Larson is a Missoula, Montana native who has been working with Dr. Tom Smith of Brigham Young University for five years as a bear biologist. He has spent multiple field seasons studying denning polar bears on Alaska’s North Slope, as well as black bears within the Bryce Canyon National Park area. Here are his three rules for preventing or controlling a potentially dangerous bear encounter. Download your own printable poster here.

Bear Safety Poster

Bears are majestic, powerful animals that have histories steeped in myth and legend. Seeing them in the wild is a privilege. If you are prepared for an encounter, you may be able to observe an emblem of the wilderness without fear, but with the respect and awe that they deserve.
When you have 600 pounds of grizzly charging towards you, a simple message is often best:
1. Stay in a Group: Bears are far less likely to attack groups. Stay together.
2. Stand Your Ground: Running from a bear may force the bear to make a quick decision, and if that decision is that you are food and it should chase you, you are not going to win that race. Never run, don’t even back away. Just stay put.
3. Have Bear Spray Ready: Yes, it works. It works on bears. It works on moose. It works on cougars. But it will do you no good if it’s not with you when you encounter a bear. So, don’t leave it at your campsite. Clip it onto your belt.
— Wesley Larson, Bear Biologist, Brigham Young University