How To Avoid Bears

Yogi bear is smart and seems to be harmless. After all, Yogi only wants picnic baskets. Not all bears are harmless though. Whether you are traveling to one of Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park’s in Canada or hiking through some of Canada’s beautiful terrain, you need to be aware of bears.

Being aware of bears means knowing what to look for, general knowledge of their behavior, how to respond should you come across one, and how to avoid them.

Bears, and Bears, and Bears – Oh My!

There are three species of bears known to be in Canada: the black bear, grizzly bear, and polar bear.

  • Black Bear – Black bears are the most common bears in Canada. While usually found in wooded areas, they have been known to come out of the woods in search of food. You would think with a name like “black bear” that these guys are black, right? Well, the truth is, black bears can be found in many colours. They are usually found in shades of black and brown, but there are black bears that are also shades of white. The white variety is rare and resides in the northwestern part of British Columbia. Black bears have a very slight shoulder hump, straight face profile, and short curved claws.
  • Grizzly Bear – Grizzly bears are also referred to as brown bears. These guys prefer semi-open spaces, and like to hang out in the high country of Canada during summer and early fall. They may move to valley’s in the late fall before they hibernate, and stay there for the spring months. Usually brown or blonde in colour, there are rare black grizzly bears. Their fur may have white tips, and some have light colour patches. These bears have a large shoulder hump, dish-shaped face profile, and long curved claws.
  • Polar Bear – You would have to go out of your way to find a polar bear in Canada. Home to two-thirds of the polar bear population, Canada is committed to their conservation. You would have to make special arrangements, and likely take a tour, to see these beautiful creatures.


Bare Bear Facts

You don’t have to be a bear expert to spend time in the wilderness of Canada. However, you would be wise and know some basic facts about black and grizzly bears. These facts apply to both species:

  • They are omnivores. This means they eat plants and animals.
  • They love fish. In warm weather, they can be found hanging out near rivers and other sources of running water.
  • Mama bears are fiercely protective of their cubs. Stay away from those cute, cuddly looking babies!
  • Bears have personalities and moods. If someone tells you that the local bears aren’t aggressive, this may be true on a good day. Never assume to know how a bear is feeling on any given day.
  • Young bears may be more aggressive than older ones. They rank low on the totem pole and need to be assertive at times.
  • A bear standing on his two hind legs is usually trying to get a better view and smell of things. This doesn’t indicate it’s going to attack. Indicators that may mean a bear is agitated and preparing to attack are:
    • - It looks you directly in the eyes.
    • - Its ears are pinned back, and head is hung low.
    • - Grunting, moaning or barking sounds.
  • Bears like to have their personal space.


There's A Bear On Your Trail

In general, bears aren’t going to be taking a walk on a known hiking trail. If you happen to spot a bear while hiking in Canada, you will want to be prepared. First of all, avoid hiking alone. Have at least one hiking buddy, and make some noise while on the trail. Talking, laughing, and singing are all good ways to warn a bear that you are approaching, giving them time to move away.

Carry bear pepper spray with you. Please note that this is different from human pepper spray. Don’t ever use your bear pepper spray on a bear that isn’t attacking. You may cause an attack that otherwise may not have occurred.

Don’t make eye contact with a bear. Keep watch on it, but looking in its eyes indicates aggression on your part. Stay still and try to remain calm. Don’t run unless you have to. Bears are known to chase one another, and may chase you too. The key is to avoid confrontation. Give the bear his space, and allow him to move away. If you need to move out of its space, do so slowly, backing away at a diagonal and stopping if the bear follows you. Don’t yell or make high pitched sounds, talk quietly.

Again, only use your pepper spray if the bear moves to attack. Your goal is to avoid an attack.


When Camping, Don't Leave The Picnic Basket Out!

Bears that enter campsites are usually more dangerous than those on a trail. They are looking for food and know that campsites are a food source.

The best way to keep bears out of your campsite is to make your food unavailable. A bear that doesn’t find food is probably going to leave. Keep your food out of a bear’s sight. You can do this by using airtight containers and double bagging foods. Hang food from a tree whenever possible. The National Parks Conservation Association says you should hang it at least 14 feet high and 4 feet away from the tree. If you can’t hang your food, make sure it’s in containers. Place food containers in your car.

Always put your tent as far as possible from your food sources.

You probably won’t have to deal with Yogi’s not so nice buddies while enjoying the splendor of Canada. However, it never hurts to be aware and prepared.


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