Apart from being an inspiring story of courage and bravery, Altha Williams’ incident with the bear shows people the importance of reacting properly to a bear attack. It is clear that a person’s behavior is key to what the outcome may be. It is important to always assess the situation – is the bear merely curious and exhibiting calm behavior? Or is it getting defensive and threatening?
Once a bear seems defensive or gets in the typical attack pose of raising its front legs and standing up, the only thing to do is to start screaming as loud as possible and grab any object around to fight against it. Any rocks, sticks, or large objects that can be thrown at the bear will help deter it from getting closer.
Never Get Close
Let’s be honest – bears are beautiful animals, and they often seem friendly, harmless, and cuddly. But as marvelous as these creatures are, they are and always will be wild animals. Regardless of a bear’s behavior at a certain moment, they can become defensive in a second since their behavior is unpredictable.
They are also one of the biggest, strongest, and most powerful animals in the wilderness and are at their most dangerous when they’re with their cubs. Therefore, any wildlife agency will always advise against getting close to them; one must never approach these animals under any circumstance.
A Golden Rule
It is a cardinal rule of wilderness survival to never run from a bear that is approaching you. Just as in a situation of predator and prey, once a bear senses you’re an object they must catch, the situation becomes worse. Of course, running away from such a big animal is a natural instinct and immediately what anybody would think of doing.
Unfortunately, if a bear is already approaching you or already in very close proximity, the best thing to do is to assess the bear’s attitude – if it seems calm, one must remain calm and still, but if the animal appears to be aggressive, the best thing to do is to make a very loud noise and try to intimidate them.
Altha’s reaction to the bear served as an eye-opening reminder that having enough information about wild animals and knowing how to react to them is imperative for survival. She made a point in emphasizing the fact that, usually, bears are very calm and scared of humans. “I’ve seen plenty walking through my backyard and never felt afraid of an attack; they always respected my space, and I respected theirs,” explained 90-year-old Altha.
She further said that this bear’s behavior was obviously a rare occurrence and the fact that her cubs were around made the animal even more defensive. Altha pointed out the importance of her having done research and gathering information on how to react in a situation like this. She said to a local reporter that that's what saved her life.
Not a Common Incident
Among the countless national parks in the United States, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited in the entire country. Over 2 million people go camping and hiking in the park every year, and thousands report bear sightings that are calm and uneventful.
In the last three decades, there have only been six known attacks, and only two of them were deadly. Rangers are not sure what caused bears to exhibit such aggressive behaviors in those particular cases, but it’s usually due to one of three things – food, strong smells, or protecting their cubs. Of course, there’s always the unpredictability factor.