How Fast Can a Bear Run: The Ultimate Guide to Keep You Safe

We all know the basics about bears: they like to eat honey, they’re furry, and some of them are even good at playing hockey

But how fast can a bear run? That’s one question we haven’t really tackled yet.

So today I want to give you an answer that will help you keep safe if you ever need to outrun a bear.

Read on to find out just how fast bears can run!

5 Things you didn’t know about bears

1. Bears can run up to 35 mph

This is partly because of their heavy muscular build and their claws for traction. But also due to the fact that they have a shorter stride than humans. 

A typical human running speed starts at about 18 miles per hour (and can reach speeds up to 27 mph). For Jamaican sprinter, Usain Bolt, the fastest human that speed clocks in at 27.78 mph. While very fast, this speed can only be sustained for 1-2 seconds. 

There are some claims that bears can reach high speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, but this is unlikely due to their size and weight. 

Despite their top running speeds, bears are not as fast over short distances and they cannot keep this pace up for long periods of time. 

2. The average speed is 25-28 mph for a short distance

Even when bears are running at full speed, they can only cover a short distance before their energy is depleted.

From several reports from the 1930s in Yellowstone National Park, a bear can sustain speeds of 25 to 28 miles per hour for only 2 miles.

3. Bears are the only animal that can’t jump, so they have to run instead

The only animal that cannot jump is the bear. 

For this reason, bears have to run instead of jumping when they need to cover a large horizontal distance in order to get something on higher ground or reach their food source.  

Bears are built more for power than agility, so they don’t have the same jumping capabilities that other animals do. Their hind legs and forelegs are built differently, and their muscles are more designed to move slowly over long distances.

If you see a bear, try and stay behind something or climb up anything that’s taller than you so they can’t reach for you with their paws or claws.

4. Bears don’t climb trees very well

Unlike other animals, bears don’t climb trees very well.

This means that if there is a tree nearby and you’re being chased by one, this can be an option for safety so long as the tree is close enough to reach or climb up. 

If you have to climb one though, make sure that the bear can’t reach your location from the ground and has already stopped chasing after you so they don’t see which way you’ve gone. 

Otherwise, it could simply continue following up to where you’re now perched on top of a tree.

5. A bear’s sense of smell is about 100 times stronger than ours

Bears have a keen sense of smell that is 7 times stronger than an average bloodhound, making it nearly 2100 times than the average human.

This helps them sniff out food sources from afar and find their way home if they wander off, which often happens when they’re hunting for something to eat. 

If you happen to be in the same area as a bear, make sure that you don’t have food with scents like fish or cinnamon, and stay away from any natural smells such as apple trees or raspberry bushes.

Another option is to carry bear spray, or pepper spray with you to deter the bear. Bear spray is a bear deterrent that comes in a can. It can be sprayed in their face or eyes, and act as an irritant to keep the bear away. 

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It’s also been proven to be about 90% effective against bear attacks, so it’s worth carrying with you when hiking or camping, or when you’re anywhere bear activity is likely.

How fast can a black bear run
American Black Bear Grazing through Field of Wheatgrass

What Should You Do If You See A Bear?

The best thing to do is stop and slowly back away. 

Bears are generally not aggressive unless they feel threatened, so the last thing you want to do is make any sudden movements that might scare or agitate it. 

If the bear approaches closer than 20 feet, it is likely to get more uncomfortable or defensive and you should try to calmly walk away without running.

If the bear follows after you, stop moving so that they can’t smell your scent any longer. After all, bears are excellent at tracking down their prey by relying on their sense of smell!

How Fast Can Each Bear Run?

Whether you’re being chased by a pack of black bears, grizzly bears, or polar bears, it’s important that you stay calm and be aware of your surroundings.

Peak Bear Speeds by Type

  • Brown bear: 35 mph
  • North American black bear: 30 mph
  • Polar bear: 25 mph
  • Panda bear: 20 mph
  • Sloth bear: 20 mph

How quickly they can run depends on the kind of terrain you’re running across and the nature in their path because each type has different strengths that will help them catch their prey.

Some bears are built for running on water and others like grizzlies can run across both land and snow. 

The important thing is to get as far away from it as possible.

How Fast Can a Grizzly Bear Run?

Average speed: 25 mph to 30 mph

Top speed: 35 mph

The grizzly bear, also known as the brown bear, has been clocked moving at top speeds of 35 miles/hr. This can be accomplished on both land and snow and is almost 7 miles/hr faster than the fastest human alive, Usain Bolt. 

The grizzly is only slightly faster than the world’s most common bear species, the American black bear.

Some reports also state that these brown bears have been seen climbing small-to-medium-sized trees in order to catch their prey, so this is something to think about if you’re being pursued by one.

If they are following after you, the best thing to do is stop running because it could sense your scent trail and figure out which way you’ve gone. 

However, if they are closing in and you have nowhere to go- your best bet is to stop running and play dead. 

Lie down on the ground with your feet together, arms at either side of your body, and don’t make any noise or eye contact!

How fast can a bear run
A Grizzly Bear Running in the wild

How Fast Can a Black Bear Run?

Average speed: 25 mph

Top speed: 30 mph

The American black bear species are generally more docile than brown bears, so it’s important to stay calm and not panic.

The maximum speed recorded for a black bear is 30 mph, which can be accomplished only on land.

It’s important to keep in mind how they move and what kind of terrain you’re running across because if it sees something edible along the way, it might stop chasing after you.

Black bears are the fastest and most agile of all the types but they typically only do so when they want food or if a human is in danger, like defending their young.

How Fast Can a Polar Bear Run?

Average speed: 25 mph

Top speed: 25 mph

The maximum speed recorded was also 25 mph, which can be accomplished only on snow.

They can walk on top of snow or ice with much more ease than humans because they have wide webbed toes which distribute weight evenly and prevent them from sinking into snowy terrain. 

This species of bear is quite unique. The fur around polar bears’ paws also prevents moisture from clinging to the paws. A polar bear’s paw has four curved claws that provide traction and balance when running through snow or ice. 

As you might imagine, a human would have a serious disadvantage when trying to outrun a polar bear, especially if they intrude on your cold-weather camping tent.

It’s important to stay away from them because they are typically more aggressive and territorial than other bears, which is one of the reasons why there has been an increase in polar bear attacks on humans over recent years.

How fast can a polar bear run
A mama Polar Bear and her cubs trekking across snow

What is the fastest bear?

The grizzly bear is the fastest land animal on earth. It can run up to 35 miles per hour, but only for very short distances of about 100 yards.

Is It Possible To Outrun A Bear?

It is possible to outrun a bear, but it’s not really recommended.

It might not be too hard for some humans, but bears are pretty fast animals and have been known to run in excess of over 30 miles per hour when they hunt their prey. While they can’t sustain it for more than a few miles, that’s more than quick enough to catch up with a human!

If you come across one, the best thing to do is stop running and try not to make any noise because that will only excite it more. 

It’s equally as important to stay aware of your surroundings and think about how the bear moves across each environment. If they happen upon something edible along the way, they may just stop chasing you.

Final Thoughts

We hope this post has helped you learn more about how fast a bear can run and what to do if you’re ever in an unfortunate situation where one is chasing after you. 

Whether you’re camping in a National Park, like Yellowstone National Park, or you’re just out on a hike keep these tips and tricks in mind. They might just save your life!