I’m going to talk like we are brothers and sisters here because I’m not a bear expert—hope that is ok. I do know a few things and want to share.
Bears are sooo rare! in Middle Tennessee—During dozens of hiking trips in Middle Tennessee I have never seen a bear.
In other areas like the Smokey Mountains in East Tennessee I have seen black bears on almost every trip. But it’s ok as long as you learn a few things and apply them. When you are up moving around and making noise, they steer clear of you. When all is quiet I always put food, tooth paste, chapstick, cosmetics etc in a bag. Then I hoist it up on a bear wire about 150 feet from camp. If a bear is out taking a walk in the dark, smells something yummy, it is up in the air where he can’t reach it and not in your tent. Once agin he moves on—problem solved.
In Yosemite on a week long trip I saw one bear. Because I was in brown bear country and they are a bit more aggressive, I bought a bear canister for about $80.00. I put all the stuff I would hoist in the air in the Smokies in the can at all times. At night I put it on the ground at least 150 feet from the campsite so it wouldn’t attract attention to the camp. If a bear had found it, decided to play with it, no bid deal—it’s smash proof and the bear can’t get the lid off gets tired with no reward and moves on. When I saw the bear on the trail I stopped, crossed my hiking poles in the air over my head, stood up on my toes, turned my body slightly so he could see my backpack to make myself appear bigger. I do the same thing in the Smokies with black bears. Each time I have done this, the bear takes a second or two to look me over. Then he decides that whatever I am, he doesn’t want anything to do with me and runs off.
Leave the bear alone and respect it. Don’t approach a cub for a photo shoot. Don’t try to feed the bears. Don’t approach a bear at all.
But don’t worry about the bear. Seriously, if we thought about the odds of having a car wreck, we would not drive. The odds of you being hurt by a bear are so so much smaller than that of having a car wreck that, in my opinion, it shouldn’t keep anyone out of the woods anymore than knowledge of a car wreck will keep you from driving a car.
Hope this helps you hike without irrational fear. Respect, yes—fear, no.