(WASHINGTON) — A family who had a close encounter with a bear while hiking in Washington shared their story — and video of the incident — as a reminder for others to stay vigilant in the wilderness.
Less than half an hour into the family’s hike near Myrtle Falls at Mount Rainier National Park on Sunday, a small bear wandered up to Jasmine Bartley’s teenage brother, according to ABC News Seattle affiliate KOMO-AM.
Bartley said she heard a woman behind her audibly gasp, turned around and saw the bear just a few feet away from her brother. Everyone else behind him ran up a hill for their safety.
The bear checked out the teen, who did not have any food on him, for a few seconds and then continued on down the hillside.
“I couldn’t even breathe. I was terrified,” Bartley told KOMO-AM. “I didn’t know what to do. It was the first time seeing huge wildlife. And I was just scared. Gut-wrenching, honestly.”
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Police captain Jeff Wickersham told KOMO-AM the encounter was very unusual.
“When the bear walked up to the one hiker and got right at their feet, there’s not much you can do at that range and that proximity,” Wickersham said.
“I can’t say I’ve ever seen a video of that happening in that type of location before,” he said, adding that the family didn’t do anything wrong.
He advised other hikers if you encounter a bear to make yourself appear bigger than they are, get distance between yourself and the animal, carry bear spray and don’t run.
“Sometimes animals will just start following you when you start running away,” Wickersham added. “And they didn’t. They stood their ground. And I think that was probably a wise choice.”
Bears typically look for food to prepare for winter during this time of year, Wickersham said.
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