I am somewhat confused by the latest advice I’ve read about how to protect yourself during a bear attack. I do have a pretty good handle on the subset of fatal bear attacks that occur when someone enters a cage with a bear in it.

The National Park Service has some tips if you are “involved in a bear attack.” As a writer, I would prefer they say “attacked by a bear.” Anyway. If you are experiencing an aggressive encounter with an ursine-American, you need to first assess the danger and the bear’s intentions. Because it could be a “bluff charge.” You simply have nothing to worry about if the bear is bluffing. She just does that to scare you. It’s probably not necessary to go to all that trouble on her part, but she might not be assessing you properly.

You can tell it’s a bluff charge if she’s standing up all puffy with her ears forward and bounding toward you in big galumphing leaps, and—here’s the key—veering off just before she gets to you. If you believe a bear is bluffing, you should wave your arms slowly over your head and walk away slowly, murmuring quietly and in an unthreatening manner, perhaps “Who’s a good bear? You’re a good bear.” If the bear charges, you hold your ground and then continue to walk away slowly if she stops short or veers off.

Now. Suppose it isn’t a bluff.

Their first suggestion is to try to seek shelter in a building or vehicle. These are the same people who put “Warning: May contain nuts” on a bag of nuts. If you do have a choice between a tent and a Buick, don’t go for the tent. Bears think they’re tortillas.

Speaking of a bag of nuts, my leaky brain still has seared upon it the image of an old bull’s testicles swinging like grapefruits in a pair of tights, a hairy pendulum knocking against the old bull’s ankles with every step in a manner that I can only assume is irritating to the bull. Bull in question was in a fenced field in Utah that my sister Bobbie and I entered to look for petroglyphs, and the bull was between us and our car and our frantically gesticulating family. “Don’t run,” Bobbie said, and off we went, but it was clear within seconds that a mere stroll was not going to put us on a trajectory to outpace the bull, and so our strides became longer, and longer yet, until we were keep-on-truckin’ across the landscape at around 25 mph and leaping over arroyos.

Which is why I’m pretty sure I can’t follow the most important instruction of all, which is “do not run from the bear.” I am not zippy by nature but given enough adrenaline I am Usain Bolt.

Secondly, they say you have to do different things according to the bear species. If you’re being attacked by a black bear, try to beat the crap out of him. Pummel him with your little fists. Kick him in the face with your size-sixes. Call him a big stupid bear. Grizzly bear, however: be prepared to play dead.

I’m a goner. My only hope is that the bear will be put off by explosive diarrhea.

Happy birthday, Katie B.!