Spring is here, people are getting out more, and bears are out and about too. They are hungry and some have cubs to look out for, so it’s time to brush up on bear safety. Speak to your children about the best ways to stay safe and when you hike with others, ensure they know the bear safety rules before you hit the trail. A friend’s carelessness could endanger your family.
|I met Cinny the Grizzly on my way back to camp.|
- a) the brush is thick to announce your presence and that you are not stalking the bear; avalanche slopes and meadows with berry bushes are prime bear areas where you should be extra noisy;
- b) the trail is narrow and winding;
- c) you are near streams (bears may not hear your coming and be startled); or
- d) the wind is blowing in your face (bears cannot smell you coming).
- Winter Note: Did you know our local grizzly bears are active until mid-January and only “hibernate” until late March? Young bears especially will leave their dens if disturbed, so it’s still possible to see bears between January and March. Keep bear spray warm (in an inner jacket pocket or ideally on a chest holster) so it will work in the event you must use it. Bear spray will not shoot as far in temperatures below 0F/-17.7C and loses potency when repeatedly exposed to the cold.
|Grizzly tracks seen along the Bow River in Lake Louise on March 20, 2016|
Bear spray is effective in deterring and stopping bear attacks and is even more effective than firearms. A man was attacked by Bryant Creek Shelter some years ago and would have been killed has his friend not used his bear spray on the attacking Grizzly (who was concerned about her two cubs). In the recent bear attack in Canmore, a woman saved her friend with bear spray.
Since it is hard to remove the safety in some models and most of us are a poor gauge of distance, I encourage you to test your bear spray so you know how the spray comes out. Bear spray sprays wide, so test it on a calm day in a remote location and keep children away. Manufacturers have explicit instructions on how to use bear spray; read them so you know what to do and when/how to spray it.
|BIG Grizzly prints and my trusty bear spray (which I’ve thankfully never had to use)|
|Bear in Area signs are no joke! I have seen grizzlies every time I’ve been to this park!|
8. Know the signs of bears of bears in the area: bear scat, scratchings, diggings, and footprints. If they look fresh, stay alert, be extra loud, and consider going back the way you came. If you come across a fresh kill or fresh bear scat, go back the way you came immediately.
|Fresh bear diggings over a 2 metre long area|
9. Keep dogs on leash. Roaming dogs can aggravate wildlife, including bears, and lead them back to you. Even where not designated by law, it is safest to keep dogs on a leash.
|Grizzly running away after I talked to her. Phew!|
10. When camping, store everything with a smell (food, dishes, lip gloss, sunscreen) in your vehicle. When backcountry camping, store food and items with a smell in a bear canister or dry bag in a bear locker, or hang them from a bear wire. If bear lockers or bear wires are not available, hang your food in a tree at least 100 feet (300′ in grizzly country) from your tent. Leave No Trace has good instructions on Hanging a Bear Bag here. Also, do not litter, even if waste is biodegradable. Leaving food by trails attracts wildlife.
Bonus: Travel on official trails during daylight hours. Bears are most active at dawn and dusk, and during the night.
*Knowing where bears like to hang out at different times of year is also helpful. Typically, bears are in the high country in summer and in the lower lying areas (valleys, riverbeds) in spring and fall. Bears also frequent avalanche chutes and meadows with berry bushes.
Bear attacks on groups of five or more are extremely rare, so if you follow the first two bear bear safety rules, you should hopefully never have to use your bear spray.