Black bears are normally shy, retiring predators with little or no desire to interact with humans, unless forced. That said, these are powerful creatures that can cause serious injuries if provoked. Like other animals, bears have what I call a “threat space”—if something encroaches into the space, the bear will either run away or respond aggressively. The size of the threat space is different for every bear and every situation.
Shy bears are easy to identify: they usually run away once they spot or sense you. In fact, most bears will retreat from a perceived threat, with younger bears or cubs also likely to climb a tree. With life experience comes knowledge, and large mature boars will also generally retreat from humans, but only because they’ve learned we can be dangerous. Younger boars, however, are less predicable, since they’re still gaining experience by testing different scenarios—and that can be nerve-racking.
Because spring bear hunting involves food, rutting animals and humans all in the same vicinity, the usual rules for avoiding interaction with bears in the wild don’t really apply. When restocking a bait station, I enter quickly, making loud noises so I don’t surprise any bears that may be around there. I also always have my bear spray or a short-barrelled rifle in hand for protection.
When entering bait sites, also be sure to look up for treed cubs. I learned this lesson after watching a bear dash away from a bait station as we drove in on an ATV. Once we parked and started unloading the bait, we noticed the bear wandering back, apparently unafraid of us. Then we looked up and spotted two treed cubs—we were between them and the approaching sow. It was not a good situation, but with bear spray in hand, we stood tall and yelled, keeping the bear at a safe distance until we were able to leave.