Can You Outrun A Bear?

Picture this: You’re hiking through a forest and you encounter a bear. Doesn’t matter if it’s a grizzly bear or a black bear. All you know is that it’s not wise to try and confront it. Odds are, you don’t have time to look up an article whether you can outrun a bear, and if possible, how you can outrun a bear. 

So, you’re probably at home planning your hiking trip and trying to figure out the possibilities of you outrunning a bear and making it out alive. Or, you’re in the middle of a heated debate with your friends about how you have the skills to outrun a large grizzly bear, but nobody agrees with you. 

So, here is the definitive guide you have all been waiting for. Here is the answer to the age old question: can you outrun a bear?

So…Can You Outrun a bear?

To put it very simply: no – you cannot outrun a bear. Sorry. 

There are three species native to North America: The grizzly bear (or brown bear), the black bear, and the polar bear. These bears are far bigger than you would expect, but that doesn’t mean they lack speed. If anything, bears are surprisingly fast animals. 

For reference, here are the dimensions of each species of bear and their average speeds:

Grizzly bear 

Height to shoulder: 3’-4’6” (0.91-1.37 meters)

Length: 5’6”-8’ (1.68-2.44 meters)

Weight: 300-800 lb (136-363 kg)

Average speed: 35 mph

Black bear

Height to shoulder: 2’11”-3’5” (0.89-1.04 meters)

Length: 50-70” (1.27 – 1.77 meters)

Weight: 130-660 lb (60-300 kg)

Average speed: 35 mph

Polar bear 

Height to shoulder: 3’7”-5’3” (1.09-1.6 meters)

Length: 7’10”-9’10” (2.4-3 meters)

Weight: 330-1500 lb (150-680 kg)

Average speed: 25 mph

These dimensions are important because while you might not think 35 mph or 25 mph is a fast speed to run, let’s take a look at the average dimensions of a human being:

Human

Height: 163 cm (Female) / 176.5 cm (Male)

Weight: 55.1 kg (Female) / 57.3-77.41 kg (Male)

Average speed: 18.23 mph

As you can see, if the average human can run the average speed of 18.23 mph, they wouldn’t have much of a chance trying to outrun a bear with speeds of 25-35 mph successfully, would there?

Here’s the catch. There’s a bunch of factors that could get in the way between you and the bear, which could give you the slim chance of outrunning the predator. The environment is important, because if you’re running through a forest that the bear inhabits, then chances are the bear will run faster than you because they are adapted to the environment. If you’ve come across a bear in an environment that isn’t their own (such as a human settlement), you might be able to outrun them by outsmarting them. However, chances of this are very slim. 

Sure, you can try to climb a building or get into your car to escape, but bears can climb. Bears can also see you run into your car, and when they stand on their feet, they are far taller than the vehicle. 

What Do You Do If You Encounter A Bear?

Thing is, a bear isn’t likely to immediately chase you if they don’t have their young nearby. Most of the time, you can get away from a bear unnoticed, but only if you keep your wits about you. If they have their young nearby, however, you’ve got to be very careful with how you move. These predators are highly protective of their young. 

If you’re on a run or hike and you suddenly encounter a bear, the first thing you must do is stop. Don’t attempt to get any closer than you already are. If the bear hasn’t clocked that you’re there, take the next few seconds to watch the animal in awe before slowly turning around and walking back down the trail as quietly as you can. 

If the bear has noticed you, do not run. You might think you can outrun the bear (which we have established is not humanly possible), but it will only aggravate the bear by triggering a chase response. Instead, back away slowly and quietly. You can either walk backwards to watch the bear, or you can occasionally look behind you. Just remember to stay calm. 

Not only will you not have the speed to outrun a bear, but a bunch of factors can lead to you failing this mission. You could be slowed down by a dense forest, you could trip over your feet in the mad rush, or you might end up running into another bear.

If the bear begins to chase after you, try your hardest to look as big as you can. Stand your ground, and yell at it. If it comes to it, spray bear spray towards the bear if you have some on your person. 

Can Usain Bolt Outrun A Bear?

While he may be the fastest human in the world, Usain Bolt cannot outrun a bear. Usain Bolt’s average speed is 23.5 mph, and even though he has reached 27.44 mph, this still isn’t fast enough to outrun a grizzly bear or a black bear. 

However, he could hypothetically outrun a polar bear, which has an average speed of 25 mph. This is a theoretical statement, of course, because there’ll probably never be a situation where this can be proven. 

Conclusion

To conclude, no matter how fast you think you might be, it’s physically impossible for a human to outrun a bear. In fact, it’s highly advisable to never attempt to outrun a bear. If you encounter a bear while on a run or hike, you mustn’t try to outrun it, because this will trigger the bear’s chase response. Not only will it be able to easily outrun you, but it might try to attack you as you pose a threat to their home and their young. 

In short, no – you cannot outrun a bear, and you shouldn’t ever try!