It’ blew up on TikTok’s blowing up on social media right now. Women are asked if they’d rather be stuck in the woods with a man or a bear. Most women answer, A bear. Which apparently has annoyed some male human beings. But the women are correct.

When I hada class in backwoods safety many years ago, we were asked to guess which was the most dangerous animal we’d encounter in the backwoods of New England. Of course we all answered, A bear. Not so, our (male) instructor replied. The human being is the most dangerous animal in the backwoods of New England, by far. Humans are big, smart, strong, and potentially vicious. Second to human beings, he said, we should be wary of moose. Why a moose, someone in the class asked. Because moose are big, near-sighted, stupid, and easily annoyed. If they’re annoyed, they might charge you. But if they charge you, just duck behind a tree. Free-roaming dogs can also be major dangers, and should be avoided. Bears, on the other hand, were unlikely to be a problem. The only bears in the New England backcountry are black bears. Black bears are bigger and stronger than humans, they might steal your food when you’re not around, but they are mostly peaceful, shy, and retiring. — So said our instructor.

Obviously, the original intention of the #manvsbear debate is to draw attention to the problem of male violence against women. And everything I’ve just said simply confirms that original intention. Of course women should fear a male human more than a bear. Human beings are way more dangerous than bears, and statistics show that male human beings are way more dangerous than female human beings. By the same token, however, just remember that if you’re a man who decides to go out backpacking in the backcountry alone, the animal that you need to fear more than any other is — another male human.

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