Bear Aware Canmore
We have put together this brief guide to help keep you safe on the trails during bear season. Most information is courtesy of Parks Canada and Alberta Environment and Parks.
This first thing to do is avoid an encounter with a bear if possible. Although an encounter with a bear can be very exciting, it can also be extremely dangerous so keep your distance.
Identifying bears. A quick quiz.
When hiking make a noise. Talk loudly or maybe sing. Bear bells may not be enough, especially near other noise, like running streams or on windy days. Perhaps the visibility is poor so a bear may not see you coming and it will be startled. If you have a dog please keep it on a leash at all times. It maybe tempting to allow your dog to run free, but bears can see a dog as a sign of aggression and this may provoke an attack. Traveling in large groups of 4 or more is safer and certainly don’t allow children to go off and explore on there own. Stick to the main pathways and trails in daylight. Cyclist and runners should be aware that you will be traveling quietly and faster on the trails, this may attract attention from bears who maybe startled.
If the bear approaches.
Stop and remain calm. Get ready to use your bear spray. Do not run away. Assess the bear’s behaviour and determine why it is approaching.
Is it Defensive?
The bear is feeding, protecting its young and/or surprised by your presence. It sees you as a threat. The bear will appear stressed or agitated and may vocalise.
- Try to appear non-threatening.
- Talk in a calm voice.
- When the bear stops advancing, start slowly moving away.
- If it keeps coming closer, stand your ground, keep talking, and use your bear spray.
- If the bear makes contact, fall on the ground and play dead. Lie still and wait for the bear to leave.
Is it Non-Defensive?
A bear may be curious, after your food, or testing its dominance. In the rarest case, it might be predatory–seeing you as potential prey. All of these non-defensive behaviours can appear similar and should not be confused with defensive behaviours.
The bear will be intent on you with head and ears up.
- Talk in a firm voice.
- Move out of the bear’s path.
- If it follows you, stop and stand your ground.
- Shout and act aggressively.
- Try to intimidate the bear.
- If it approaches closely, use your bear spray.
Handling an Attack
Most encounters with bears end without injury. If a bear actually makes contact, you may increase your chances of survival by following these guidelines. In general, there are 2 kinds of attack:
This is the most COMMON type of attack.
- Use your bear spray.
- If the bear makes contact with you: PLAY DEAD!
PLAY DEAD! Lie on your stomach with legs apart and position your arms so that your hands are crossed behind your neck. This position makes you less vulnerable to being flipped over and protects your face, the back of your head and neck. Remain still until you are sure the bear has left the area.
These defensive attacks are generally less than two minutes in duration. If the attack continues, it may mean it has shifted from defensive to predatory—FIGHT BACK!
The bear is stalking (hunting) you along a trail and then attacks. Or, the bear attacks you at night. This type of attack is very RARE.
- Try to escape into a building, car or up a tree.
- If you cannot escape, do not play dead.
- Use your bear spray and FIGHT BACK.
FIGHT BACK! Intimidate that bear: shout; hit it with a branch or rock, do whatever it takes to let the bear know you are not easy prey. This kind of attack is very rare, but it is serious because it usually means the bear is looking for food and preying on you.
Carry bear spray with you at all times on the trail, and know how to use it. Bear spray can be effective with some bears when used properly. Be aware that wind, spray distance, rain, freezing temperatures and product shelf life can all influence its effectiveness. Familiarise yourself with the proper use of bear spray (including the manufacturer’s specific instructions) and keep it readily accessible, don’t put it in your backpack, have it to hand. Please remember that you may not be able to take bear spray when crossing international boarders. It is not a toy so keep out of the reach of children. Do not spray it on any of your clothing, hiking equipment as the lingering smell can actually attract bears.
How to use Bear Spray
What if you get sprayed by mistake.
You’ll experience a number of symptoms after coming into contact with bear spray. If it gets to your eyes, they will be forced shut, since the strong burning sensation will prevent them from opening. If you get it on your skin, you’ll experience inflammation.
Breathing in the spray cloud will restrict your breathing, something that can be especially dangerous for asthma patients. These extreme side effects are why you should be extra vigilant when using any bear spray product.
- Leave the affected area
- Remove affected clothing (if possible).
- Remove contact lenses (if you have them on).
- Flush your face with cold water for 15 minutes.
- Use a workable cleansing solution for your eyes, face and skin•Be prepared for at least a couple of days of inconvenience.
- Seek medical advise
If you see a bear by the road
Slow down—consider not stopping. Bears need to forage undisturbed in order to gain enough fat to survive the winter. Your decision to drive on by gives bears the space they need to make a living in this challenging landscape.
At all times . . .
- Observe and photograph bears from the safety of your car.
- Remain a respectful distance from the bear.
- Never feed a bear.
If you stop . . .
- Be aware of the traffic around you.
- Pull over where it is safe to do so.
- Use your hazard lights to alert other drivers.
- Watch for a few moments, take a quick photo, and then move on!
- If a traffic jam develops, move on. It is unsafe for people and bears.
How you can help protect bears
The best thing you can do for bears is to limit their exposure to you.
•Consider not stopping when you see a roadside bear.
•Put all garbage in bear-proof garbage bins.
•Keep your picnic or camping site attractant-free. Move the food, cooler, dirty dishes, recyclables, BBQ, lotions and pet food into your vehicle, trailer or storage locker (tents are not bear-proof).
•Use official trails only and leave the wild trails to wildlife.
•Respect closures and group access requirements—they are in place for your safety and to give bears a chance to use critical habitat undisturbed.
•Pay attention to warnings—follow recommendations. Be careful when travelling through these areas, or choose a different route.