Spring has sprung in the Sea to Sky corridor and we are ready to get out there and embrace all that it has to offer. Although it’s a time of great adventure and exploration, there are a few things to be aware of while out in the bush this beautiful season, and at the top of that list is bears. If you’ve ever had an encounter with a bear in the wild, then you know just how important it is to be prepared. Here are a few of the best methods you can use to stay safe in bear country.
Be aware of your surroundings – Never wear anything that could impede your hearing or vision while out and about in bear country. Avoid using headphones or wearing a hood in such a way that it will block your peripherals. It’s generally a good rule of thumb to try and have eyes on a predatory animal before they have theirs on you. Look around while you are walking around, doing a full 360 every once in a while means you won’t be caught unaware.
Hike in groups and make noise – Although the solitude of a day alone in the woods can be especially relaxing, traveling in groups of 2 or more and making loud noise intermittently will greatly reduce your risk of an unwanted up-close encounter. When taking our guests on the river we talk loudly or shout, “Hey Bear!” before entering high bushes with little visibility and no escape routes. It gives any bear that might be hanging out an opportunity to get up and go before we get there.
Plan ahead – Learn the risks associated with each area and season as necessary. Bears have different behavioral patterns associated with each season and knowing what they are up to may just be the difference between a peaceful encounter and an attack. Knowledge is power!
Be prepared – Knowing the most effective methods to deter a bear is key to maintaining your safety. It is paramount that you have bear spray on your person when you are in bear country. Make sure you know how to use it and it is ready to go in case of an escalated encounter. You can also carry bear bangers with you which should only be used at a safe distance. These will keep an interested bear from coming closer to you.
Keep your distance – In the event of an encounter with one of these majestic creatures it is always best to observe from a safe distance. While bears will not typically seek out human interaction they will react accordingly if cornered or startled. Make sure you maintain a distance of at least 100 yards and remember if a bear changes its behavior as a result of your presence then you are too close!
If a bear is surprised by you or is expressing aggressive behaviour:
Do not square up your body towards the bear – This is aggressive body language for a bear. Turn your body slightly to one side and back away slowly, do not make eye contact and do not try to scare the bear away if they are expressing aggressive behaviour. Get your bear spray in your hand and pointed at the bear in case it charges.
Never run – While it may seem like a good idea to try and vacate the area quickly, it is not. This will instinctually cause the bear to pursue you and considering bears can run at speeds of up to 50km/h your chances of outrunning one are slim to none.
Be especially cautious if you see a female with cubs – Never place yourself between a mother and her cub. Never attempt to approach them, the chances of an attack escalate greatly if she perceives you as a danger to her cubs.
In the unlikely event of an attack it is extremely important to know how to react appropriately according to species.
Grizzly Bears – If a grizzly bear attacks you, leave your pack on and play dead. Lay ﬂat on your stomach with your hands clasped behind your neck to protect your vital organs and spinal cord. Spread your legs to make it harder for the bear to turn you over and remain still until the bear leaves the area. Fighting back usually increases the intensity of such attacks. However, if the attack persists, fight back vigorously.
Black Bears – If a black bear attacks you, DO NOT PLAY DEAD. Try to slowly escape to a secure place such as a car or building. If escape is not possible, try to ﬁght back using any object available. Concentrate your kicks and blows on the bear’s face and muzzle.
Don’t be scared, be prepared!
Although some of this information may seem daunting please don’t let it discourage you from getting out and enjoying the beautiful outdoors. Having the knowledge of what to do in the event of an encounter is imperative in preserving not only your safety but the bears as well. Now that you are bear aware it’s time to get out and have an adventure!