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TikTok trending question about ‘being stuck in a forest’ with ‘a man or a bear’ yields strategic tips

A popular TikTok trend has women responding to the question, “Would you rather be stuck in a forest with a man or a bear?” 

Many women say immediately that if they had to choose between the two — they’d prefer to be stuck with a bear

The trend began on April 10 with a TikTok video posted by the “screenshotq” account. In the 29-second video, only one of the eight women who are asked the question replied that they would rather be stuck with a man in the woods. 

All the rest opted for the bear. “Men are scary,” said one woman. 

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On X (formerly Twitter), the question continues to be debated — with some women saying people would believe them if they were attacked by a bear. 

“So men are not understanding why women would prefer to meet a bear in the woods rather than a man. Listen and really soak this in. The WORST thing a bear can do is kill me. I cannot say the same about the man,” posted X user “@ItsMrsRabbitToU.”

But how dangerous, really, are bears in the woods? 

And what should people do to stay safe, regardless of the species they might encounter? 

The National Park Service (NPS) suggests that people stay calm if they’re noticed by a bear, as “most bears do not want to attack you; they usually just want to be left alone.”

However, there are some key strategies to know.

“To make a long story short, I’ve never felt ‘threatened’ by a bear,” Emma Rosset, a Florida-based backpacking guide for Valiant Outfitters, told Fox News Digital. 

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Rosset, a mom of four, said she’s “had more close encounters with bears than I care to count.”

But while she’s never been threatened by a bear during her time in the woods, she has been “startled.” 

“Are they harmless? Not exactly — they deserve respect and space, but fear? Nah,” she said. 

Preparedness for any encounter — bear or otherwise — is key to having a safe hike, she said. 

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“If you’re prepared and plan ahead, bears are just part of the call to wilderness,” she said. 

To best avoid any situations that would result in being stuck in the woods with a bear, a person should be extra cautious while hiking through bear country, according to the USDA Forest Service.

This includes being aware of your surroundings and eschewing headphones, making lots of noise and carrying a weapon — such as bear spray. 

“If you see a bear, maintain a safe distance and alter your route to avoid the bear. Never block a bear’s travel route,” said the USDA Forest Service’s website. 

If a bear cub is spotted alone, do not go near it. The cub’s mother could be nearby and will be very protective of her cub. 

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Bear attacks, thankfully, are rare — but they are not unheard of, according to multiple sources. 

There are three species of bears that can be found in the United States: black bears, grizzly bears and polar bears (the latter are found in Alaska only, according to the NPS). 

Hikers are told a rhyme that dictates what to do if they encounter a charging bear in the woods: “Black, fight back; brown, lay down; white, goodnight.” 

Essentially, if the bear that is charging at someone is a generally smaller black bear, a person should “fight back with everything you have,” says the NPS website.

“Do not play dead. [Use] direct punches and kicks at the bear’s face, and use any weapon like rocks, branches, or bear spray to defend yourself.”

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Conversely, and somewhat confusingly, if the attacking bear is a much larger grizzly or brown bear, a person should play dead — at least at first. 

The NPS says, “If you are attacked by a brown/grizzly bear, leave your pack on and PLAY DEAD. Lay flat on your stomach with your hands clasped behind your neck. Spread your legs to make it harder for the bear to turn you over. Remain still until the bear leaves the area. Fighting back usually increases the intensity of such attacks.”

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Unlike with a black bear, those who are attacked by a grizzly bear should remain silent — as if trying to convince the bear that they are not a threat. 

“Do not get up right away because the bear may still be in the area. Wait several minutes until you are sure that the bear is gone,” says the NPS. 

If the attack continues — only then should a hiker fight back. 

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Polar bears, which are not located in the continental United States and are found in the wild only in Alaska, are very aggressive when threatened. 

They are the largest bear species in the world, says the Library of Congress website, and have no natural predators. 

The most recent polar bear fatality in the U.S. occurred in 2023. 

The park service notes that it shares only general tips. It urges people to “please check recommendations for each park you visit: Recommendations do vary from park to park based [on] local bear behavior.”

As for encountering unexpected people in the woods — there are also steps that can be taken to ensure the safest hike possible. 

Similar to the tips for avoiding bears, a person should remain alert and avoid distractions, said the USDA Forest Service. 

Other things people can do include telling someone about a planned itinerary, including start and end times — and developing an emergency plan before heading out into the woods, the service said. 

“Give children whistles with the instructions to ‘stop and blow’ if they become lost,” the service also said. 

Additionally, it is best to stay on marked trails and to follow all the rules of the park, said the USDA Forest Service. 

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