People will say that these predators avoid humans, and usually they do, but the bears in particular have been getting surprisingly cozy with my friends and relatives. Here are their stories, close encounters of the furry kind.
Bears are understandably concerned with dental hygiene, they do not have dental insurance, and it would take a lot of berries and insect grubs to convince a dentist to put their hands in a bear's mouth. So I suspect Smokey the Bear's new motto is, "Only you can prevent tooth decay."
So do not forget to bring toothpaste when camping, dental hygiene is important, and besides bears prefer toothpaste to human flesh. You do what to give them what they like best don't you?
This same cousin had another bear encounter. The bear got into her vehicle looking for food and left a greasy spot on the window. Other than that it left the vehicle unharmed. She was watching this happen. I was impressed at how careful the bear must have been that it did not rip the upholstery. Most wild animals seem to know that it is not safe to harm humans, but some even seem to respect our property.
The two previous adventures were with black bears, but my cousin, her two brothers and my aunt and uncle had a run in with a grizzly when the kids were young. They were camping in their car at a major camp. The two boys were asleep in a box on top of the station wagon. She was sleeping on the front seat. My aunt and uncle were sleeping in the back with the tailgate down. The grizzly bear brushed up against the tailgate, raising it a little and waking the adults. My uncle banged on a pan to drive the bear off.
In another instance the bear found my friend in the water, maybe thirty feet from the bear. The bear tried to get at his food ,which had been secured in a bear box, but failing that, left. My friend figured that the bear would return, which made it difficult to sleep. At night he heard an animal walking closer and closer. He switched on his flash light only to find himself facing a deer about three feet away.
I myself have encountered deer several times, mostly in densely populated Berkeley, California. The deer seem to like the city, no hunters, bears, or mountain lions. It is understandable. The bears and mountain lions usually do not eat us, but the deer are not so privileged. Check your human privilege.
On still another occasion my friend was saving money camping in Alaska. This was close to a town, and as he found out close to the dump. He discovered that the grizzly bears were commonly walking close to his camp site on their way to the dump.
Still another friend at our church coffee hour had an Alaska grizzly story. She was visiting her in laws. When she was walking out from the main house to one separate buildings in their compound she forgot to make noise and when she turned a corner saw a three year old grizzly bear that she estimated was about 700 pounds, about half full size. She screamed, the bear ran.
As your fellow humans will usually kill the bear if it kills you, you are not safe to eat. So for your sake and the bear's do not run. It sends the wrong message.
We are also advised to make noise, and wear bright colors. We are advised to do this so we do not surprise the animals. I support the experts and their advice, but I believe that the real reason why it is good advice is that these are signals that tell the bears and other predators they we are not safe to eat. Rattlesnakes make noise, poison dart frogs have bright colors. If an animal attracts attention to itself and does not run, it is usually dangerous to eat. This is the message we want to send the bears and other predators.
This is less true for polar bears and barren ground grizzles. Barren ground grizzles are grizzly bears that live north of the tree line on land that is barren of trees. There are no amphibians, and almost everything that moves is safe to eat with the exceptions of humans and in some areas porcupines. Porcupines which have a range that stretches to the North Coast of Alaska. It has been frequently noted that polar bears and barren ground grizzles are the most aggressive and dangerous of mammal predators. I suspect this is because they live in an environment where almost everything that moves other than a human is safe to eat.
But most of the mammalian predators we meet up with have to be conservative about what they eat, perhaps following a rule of only eating what their mothers taught them was safe.
Still my co-worker took a huge risk that was probably unnecessary. There are about a million bears and mountain lions in the United States and Canada and about 360 million people. The bears and mountain lions have hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of opportunities to eat a person, yet only three or four are eaten each year. I suspect that the mammalian predators avoid a hundred million, perhaps a billion opportunities to eat a person for every time that one actually does prey on a human. Bears frequently charge, but rarely kill and eat.
It is also impressive that tens of thousands of coyotes live in our cities eating perhaps millions of our cats and dogs yet it has been decades since one killed a small child. In those decades they must have had a huge number of opportunities, but these animals are fairly good at knowing the limits of what they can get away with.
So do not do anything dreadfully dangerous to escape a predator that probably will not press its attack.
About one out of every hundred million people in the United States and Canada are eaten by mammalian predators in the average year. Many more die early than they should of heart attacks. Exercise is important to extending your life. So do not avoid it just because you are worried that there is a bear in the woods.
There is also a page that treats the topic in a more theoretical way. It attempts to answer the question of why predators don't eat us.
Finally there is biology index page with lots of other web pages with my speculation, just so stories, and hypothesis on many topics in biology. I have presented these topics to biology professors many times and usually the ideas are well received. They do not find much wrong and sometimes even say they should be submitted for academic publication.