Bears may be encountered throughout many parks during the summer months.
Bears are not tame, gentle or cuddly; they are unpredictable and potentially
bears are simply travelling
through and make every effort to avoid humans, a bag of garbage or some unattended
food on a picnic table may be irresistible to their keen sense of smell.
A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear
be a contributor to food-conditioning.
Bears that scavenge food begin to associate food with humans, and become "food-conditioned."
Food-conditioned bears lose their natural fear of humans and become a threat
to park visitors as they roam through the park in search of an easy meal.
There is little or no chance of correcting a food-conditioned bear and Park Rangers
are forced to destroy them when they become aggressive towards humans.
Avoiding Dangerous Encounters with Bears
There are some simple precautions you must take to prevent the food-conditioning of bears and avoid dangerous
- Never feed or approach
bears or other wildlife.
- Reduce or eliminate
odours that attract bears. At
the campground, store food in air-tight containers in your RV or car
- Bear caches must be used if they are available at the park.
- Pack out all your
garbage. Store garbage with your food,
out of reach of bears. Do not bury garbage or throw it into pit toilets.
Only paper and wood may be burned: plastics, tinfoil, and food items
do not burn completely and the remains will attract bears (besides creating
an unsightly mess). Storing garbage in bear-proof containers is recommended.
- Cook and eat well
away from your tent.
- Clean up immediately
and thoroughly. Never leave cooking utensils, coolers, grease or dish
water lying around. Dispose of dish water by straining it and then throwing
it into a gray water pit or pit toilet. Solids should be packed out with
- The odours of cosmetics, toothpaste
and insect repellent can attract bears. These should be stored out of
reach with your food and garbage, never in your tent. Leave strongly
perfumed items at home.
- Obey all closures and warnings.
Fish smells are a strong attractant for bears.
- Do not store food or bait in your tent and keep your campsite clean.
- Giving bears plenty of room. Leave your fishing spot if a bear is in the river and give them plenty of space. If approached by a bear, reel in, and leave the area. Cut your line if playing a fish. You may return to your fishing spot when it is safe to do so.
- Bleed and clean your catch in the stream, not at your campsite, and throw offal into deep or fast moving water.
- Do not handle roe used for bait on picnic tables. Wash your hands afterwards, do not wipe on clothing.
- Do not build fires or cook by the river's edge.
While staying in Bear Country
- Always keep children
nearby and in sight.
- Always sleep in a
tent - not under the stars.
- Obey all park regulations, stay on designated trails and comply with posted warnings.
- Hike portages and trails as a group. Solo hiking is not advised — you reduce the risk of an attack by traveling together
as a group. Do not let children wander.
- Keep pets leashed. If possible, keep pets at home. Free-running pets can anger a bear and provoke an attack.
Reduce the chance of surprising a bear.
- Always check
ahead for bears in the distance. If one is spotted, make a wide detour
and leave the area immediately.
- Make warning noises
and loud sounds.
- Watch for bear
sign: tracks, droppings, overturned rocks, rotten trees torn apart,
clawed, bitten or rubbed trees, bear trails, fresh diggings or trampled
Stay clear of dead wildlife.
- Take note of
signs that may indicate carrion - such as circling crows or ravens,
or the smell of rotting meat.
- Carcasses attract
bears. Leave the area immediately!
- Report the location
of dead wildlife to Park staff.
If you have an
encounter with a bear, please leave the area immediately and report
it to park staff as soon as possible.
Bear pepper sprays have been effective in deterring some bear attacks. However, do not
use them as a substitute for safe practices in bear country. Avoidance
is still your best bet.
- Bears are as fast as racehorses, on the flats, uphill or downhill
- Bears are strong swimmers.
- Bears have good eyesight, good hearing, and an acute sense of smell.
- All black bears and young grizzlies are agile tree climbers; mature grizzlies are poor climbers,
but they have a reach up to 4 metres.
- If a bear is standing up it is usually trying to identify you. Talk softly so it knows what you
are. Move away, keeping it in view. Do not make direct eye contact.
How to Identify a Bear
Identifying bears is important
if you are ever approached by one.
Black Bear (Ursus americanus Pallas)
Black, brown, cinnamon or blond,
often with a white patch on the chest or at the throat.
90 cm at the shoulder.
kg to more than 270 kg. Females are usually smaller than males.
face profile; short, curved claws; barely noticeable shoulder hump
forested areas with low-growing plants and berry-producing shrubs (e.g.
small forest openings, stream or lake edges, open forest).
Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis Ord)
Colour: Varies. Black (rare), brown or blond. Fur often white-tipped or "grizzled".Light-coloured patches may occur around neck, shoulders and on rear flanks.
above one metre at shoulder; 1.8 to 2.0 metres when erect.
kg to more than 450 kg. Females are usually smaller than males.
or concave face long; curved claws; prominent shoulder hump
spaces preferred. High country in late summer and early fall; valley bottoms
late fall and spring.
What to do if you see a Bear
If It Does Not Approach
- If spotted in the
distance, do not approach the bear. Make a wide detour or leave the area
immediately. Report your sighting to Park Staff at the first opportunity.
- If you are at close
range, do not approach the bear. Remain calm, keep it in
view. Avoid direct eye contact. Move away without running. Report
the sighting to Park Staff.
If the Bear Approaches
- If the bear is standing up, it is usually trying to identify you. Talk softly so it knows
what you are. If it is snapping its jaws, lowering its head, flattening
its ears, growling or making 'woofing' signs, it is displaying aggression.
- Do not run unless
you are very close to a secure place. Move away, keeping it in
view. Avoid direct eye contact. Dropping your pack or an
object may distract it to give you more time. If it is a grizzly,
consider climbing a tree.
What to do if a Bear Attacks
Your response depends on the species and whether the bear is being defensive or offensive. Bears
sometimes bluff their way out of a confrontation by charging then turning
away at the last moment. Generally, the response is to do nothing
to threaten or further arouse the bear. While fighting back usually
increases the intensity of an attack, it may cause the bear to leave.
is unique and the following are offered as guidelines only to
deal with an unpredictable animal and potentially complex situations.
Grizzly Attacks From Surprise (defensive)
- Do nothing to threaten
or further arouse the bear.
- Play dead. Assume
the 'cannonball position' with hands clasped behind neck and face buried
- Do not move until
the bear leaves the area. Such attacks seldom last beyond a few
Black Bear Attacks From Surprise (defensive)
- Playing dead is not appropriate. Try to retreat from the attack.
Grizzly or Black Bear Attacks Offensively (including stalking you or when you are
- Do not play dead. Try to escape to a secure place (car or building) or climb a tree unless
it is a black bear. If you have no other option, try to intimidate
the bear with deterrents or weapons such as tree branches or rocks.
Grizzly or Black Bear Attacking For Your Food
- Abandon the food. Leave the area.
- Do not deal with a problem bear unless it is an emergency.