How to Survive a (Very Specific Type Of) Bear Encounter

It’s pitch black, you’ve just dropped off a bunch of drunk people at the casino, and you’re driving through the parking lot of your hotel in Lake Tahoe, looking for an open space. The music is loud, and you’re air-guitaring like nobody’s business. All of a sudden, your sister gets quiet. And not just her usual, you’re so fucking annoying quiet, but ominously quiet. A few seconds pass and she turns to you and says, “Was that a bear?” 

Clearly, I almost died. And the crazy thing is that this could happen to anyone. Since bears won’t leave human habitats even though they were there first, this is just something we have to deal with. If you’re a person who exists in the world, what happened to me could happen to you, too. And remember, I nearly lost my life. This is serious, and I don’t want anyone else to feel unprepared in the face of such a traumatizing situation, so here are seven slightly shitty tips on how to survive this very specific type of bear encounter.

1. Leave the parking lot.

I didn’t know what to do, so I just kept driving until I looped out of there. I went to the nearest well-lit grocery store parking lot to collect myself and figure out what I was going to do to survive.

2. Call somebody.

I called my cousin, who was inside of the timeshare unit, to explain the situation and hear what she thought we should do. She said, “I don’t know what to tell you,” and I said, “Can you please put your mom on the phone?”

3. Park in the handicap space right in front of your room and sprint to safety.

Despite the risk of getting ticketed, my aunt and I concluded this was definitely our best chance of surviving this very dangerous situation.

4. Turn off the car before getting out.

When your life is legitimately on the line, it can be very easy for this to slip your mind. However, this is perhaps the most critical step, because what if the bear steals your car? That might be worse than getting mauled.

5. Make the person with the best chance of survival carry the food.

If there’s food in the car, you should probably try to take it out so that the bear doesn’t break in. And if your sister only has to run twenty feet while you have to run an extra ten to get around the car, you should give her the food. Protect the car and even out your odds of survival.

6. Don’t trip while sprinting to the door.

I would recommend avoiding the “white girl in a horror movie” stereotype because, yeah, it wasn’t fun. It wasn’t even funny until afterwards when I was safely in the room.

7. Don’t listen to your drunk mother.

If you text your mom that you had to park her car in a handicap space so that you wouldn’t die, and she tells you to go back outside and move the car so she doesn’t get a ticket, ignore her. That toxic, drunken advice will do nothing but get you killed. Tell her that you’ll pay for the ticket yourself because your life is worth more than a $500 maximum fine.

Remember that bears are actually precious creatures and they’re really just out trying to live their lives, as we all should. Stay safe, everybody!