Bear attacks like one in Yellowstone are extremely rare, but when it happens, what should you do to protect yourself?

Wednesday, a female grizzly bear attacked and killed a man hiking through Yellowstone National Park. A National Park Service statement said the man and his wife surprised the mother grizzly and her cubs, and in an attempt to defend a perceived threat to her cubs, the bear attacked and fatally wounded the man. The woman ran before dropping to the ground, and survived the attack after the bear picked her up by her backpack but then left her alone.

In June 2010, a grizzly just released after being tranquilized for study killed an Illinois man hiking outside Yellowstone's east gate. Last July, a grizzly killed a Michigan man and injured two others in a rare nighttime campground rampage near Cooke City, Mont., northeast of the park.

How to best protect yourself

Many experts say that playing dead is the best repsonse. Walk away slowly and avoid sudden movements. If you are not familiar with the area, ask locals where bears are most commonly seen, and plan your route accordingly, said Ted Oakes, producer of the BBC's The Bear Family and Me.

It's really important to not surprise them, said Oakes. You can achieve this by attaching bells to your hiking gear and make noise so the animals know you are there.

Hiking in a group can also help ensure safety. If you camp, keep food away from the tents, as bears are omnivores and will hunt for whatever is possible. Oakes recommends putting food in a sealable bag and hanging them on a tree about 300 feet from the campsite.

Grizzly bears can weigh up to 1,500 pounds and can run at up to 35 mph, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Dr. Lynn Rogers, founder of the North American Bear Center, provided slightly different advice, reported the BBC.

If the bear is with cubs then it is a good idea to play dead and clasp your hands around your head at the back of the neck, said Dr. Rogers. The goal is to be as non-threatening as possible.

He said unlike black bears, grizzly bears evolved in more open landscapes and therefore developed mroe aggressive tendencies.

Dr. Rogers added that while fear of an attack should not undermine the enjoyment of the wilderness, it is worth being prepared, such as carrying pepper spray.

Pepper spray is easier to carry and much easier to aim than a gun, he told the BBC.

There has not been a bear-caused killing in the Yellowstone National Park since 1986, according to park officials.