There’s a difference between running WITH bears and the Running with the Bears race. Although our marathon winner from 2013 actually DID see a bear at mile 21, he didn’t actually run with it. It acted like a bear and ran off. Here are some facts about Northern California black bears for all our runners who might have any concerns.
- Although the color of bears in this area changes, they are all the same black bear
- Black bears avoid humans. If encountered, leave them an escape route
- Males weigh up to 500 pounds, females 300 pounds. They measure on average 3 1/2 feet tall when not standing
- Black bears can sprint up to 35 mph and are strong swimmers and great tree climbers
- Black bear diet consists of berries, plants, nuts, roots, honey, honeycomb, insects, larvae, carrion and small mammals
- There are on average two deaths a year from black bears in all of North America. Bear attacks are very rare
- 12 bear attacks have occurred in California since 1980 – at least 8 of those were from bears who were accustomed to being around people and eating “people food”
- If you encounter a bear, make noise. If it’s close to you, fight back. Throw rocks, hit with tree branches, etc…
- Do not run away – this instigates prey behavior. Stand tall and look as large as you can
- If camping, keep all food in closed containers preferably in your vehicle, and remove trash
- Standing is an indication of curiosity. Pick up children, restrain dogs and talk in a soothing voice
- Black bears are very intelligent and curious, they live over 25 years and are very shy
At our 2013 race, marathon winner Chuck Engle saw not one but two bears on his weekend visit. The night prior to the race, he saw one meandering around the location he was staying. At mile 17, just after he took the lead and was trying to gain some distance, he thought he saw a stump on the side of the road, until it moved. Chuck did exactly what he should have done. He stopped, paused, considered going a different way and running downhill, but the bear wandered off like they predictably do. It did startle Chuck and he was surprised, but as the miles wore on he realized that he had seen two bears within 24 hours which is rare. He felt as though it was a privilege to have experienced the sightings and although he did pause at mile 17, he wasn’t afraid of the bear. He followed the steps he should have when encountering one and continued on to finish the race. The takeaway of this blog post is that you don’t really have to worry about running from bears at the Running with the Bears race. The bears are more afraid of you anyday.