Which is Scarier: A Rattlesnake or a Grizzly Bear?

Imagine this:  You’re hiking on the third day of a six day backpacking trip, deep in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, when you “run into”* a) a rattlesnake… or….. b) a grizzly bear.

*what exactly does “run into” mean?  that’s up to you

Which is scarier?

My Facebook friends weighed in the issue, with twice a many folks voting for the grizzly. (Six for the grizzly, three for the snake, and three ties, including one who said “They both scare the Bejeebus outta me.”)

Two friends “liked” the question, but apparently had no time to give it the serious thought it deserved and didn’t make a choice.

While I hiked this morning, I spent a couple of hours pondering the question, and here’s what I came up with:

1. Grizzly bears are big. Way bigger than snakes. Big is scary. (One of my friends commented that she is “still” bigger than a snake, so she was choosing the bear.  I’m guessing she’ll rethink her position if she shrinks enough to be smaller than the snake.)

2. But snakes are sneaky. They hide in the bushes next to the trail. And use that “low to the ground” thing to lure you into stepping on them. That’s scary.

3. Grizzlies growl. Don’t like that. But snakes do that rattling thing.

4. So far, it’s a draw.

5. A grizzly bear can come into your tent at night…and eat you. Not good.

6. A snake can come into your tent at night, too. But no eating involved.

7. Grizzly is pulling ahead.

8. If a grizzly bear attacks you, you need some serious acting ability to do the “right thing”:  you’re supposed to “play” dead. I don’t know about you, but I just don’t think my 7th grade acting class has adequately prepared me.

9. If you “run into” a snake, you can just be yourself: no acting involved.

10. Grizzly getting scarier.

11. “Night of the Grizzlies.”

12. “Snakes on a Plane.”

13. “Night of the Grizzlies”, no contest.

Looks like I’m with my Facebook buddies on this one.

But I’m so curious to know:  where do you weigh in?

About westerner54

Hello. I'm Cindy, and I love to hike, bike and explore the outdoors - particularly the western U.S.
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23 Responses to Which is Scarier: A Rattlesnake or a Grizzly Bear?

  1. The Landy says:

    Now, I’ll preface this by saying we don’t have bears in Australia, but we have the world’s meanest snakes! Having spent a lot of time in the push and around snakes, they will usually get out of your way long before you come across them, unless you are running perhaps, but they don’t chase you. Bears might actually chase you, from what I have read…give me the snakes anyday!!

  2. writer77 says:

    Look at the situation from a risk perspective only, my money says the grizz is a far greater danger. I’ve encountered rattlers at close range and they’ve been pretty shy unless bothered with. I would – avoid. that. bear.

  3. kaitwatts says:

    I have such an incredible fear of snakes but have seen my fair share of rattlers while living in Colorado. So I might be more desensensitized to them.bears might scare me more.I always carried bear spray in WYoming but lately people have been speaking firearms for protection.maybe I am nieve on bith accounts.

  4. lylekrahn says:

    I have a theory. Fear of the unknown generally scares people more – so whatever you have seen less will seem more scary. In my case that means the snakes are scarier since I’ve never had to deal with a rattler in the wild but I have seen grizzlies. In both cases, the creatures generally tend not to track you down to harm you otherwise the number of human encounters would mean massive numbers of fatalities.

    • westerner54 says:

      You’re definitely on to something here, and a friend of mine said exactly this in her facebook answer – except she said she’s more afraid of bears since she’s never met a bear. And I realized that I don’t have a fear of mountain lions – even though they’re around – because I’ve never seen one.

  5. montucky says:

    I greatly prefer rattlers. Of course I really enjoy seeing them anyway and I do not like being close to Grizzlies.

  6. I think the bear would be scarier. I remember reading or hearing how even if they grizzly is shot in the heart it can still come after you because it’s heart beat is so slow.

    • westerner54 says:

      I think Lewis and Clark had exactly this experience. Didn’t one of them say something along the lines of “our curiousity is pretty well satisfied with regards to this creature”?

  7. Deano says:

    Grizzly for sure. You probably have more chance of surviving an attack from a snake. There is no coming back from being eaten though!

  8. Grizzly, hands down. Just the thought of running into a griz gives me pause before heading into the woods. A rattler? Not so much. Tough thing to be thinking about as you were hiking. I hope the scenery was good so you found something else to think on!

  9. josh meier says:

    Chalk me up with another vote for the griz. A few years back this might have been a toss up, but after hiking through California on the PCT and having several close rattlesnake encounters, I actually came to relish seeing them. I’ve done a lot of hiking in grizzly country as well, and also savor a safe, appropriately distanced sighting, but they certainly present greater potential threat. Great topic for discussion, though!

  10. You know where I stand: GRIZZLIES! Snakes usually curl up in the shade during the day, under a rock, and tend to slither away if they feel your footsteps headed their way. You can get anti-venom and survive a rattlesnake bite. Grizzlies are huge, fast, and have sharp teeth and long claws. No contest!

  11. Stacey Bradley says:

    Rattle snakes bite you then leave, then you die. Grizzlies take their time and eat you as you watch.

  12. westerner54 says:

    Ha! And yikes. Will I ever go into the woods again?

  13. I’m with you on this one. Though I have no desire to meet either of them up-close-and-personal!!!

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