If you’re working at a remote camp this spring, it’s important to know how to work safely during bear season. Spring is when our furry friends come out of hibernation and start to feed and breed. Here are some tips from Alberta Environment and Resource Development about how to Be Bear Smart!
The best method to avoid bear encounters
- Remain alert.
- Shouting regularly or singing loudly is far more effective than using bear bells.
- Keep your ears open. Do no wear earphones while on trails.
- Watch for fresh bear signs. Tracks, scat and digs indicate that a bear has been in the area. Leave the area if the signs are fresh or if you encounter carrion.
- Travel in groups and during daylight whenever possible.
- Keep your dog on a leash or leave it at home.
- Be cautious about bear safety & fishing.
- Carry and know how to use bear spray.
If you encounter a bear
- STOP! STAY CALM. Your calm behaviour can reassure the bear. Screams or sudden movements may trigger an attack.
- NEVER RUN – running may cause the bear to pursue you.
- Pick up small children and stay in a group.
- Bears may approach or stand on their hind legs to get a better look at you or to pick up your scent. This is their way of identifying you and is not an aggressive response.
- BE HUMAN. Speak to the bear calmly and firmly. This indicates that you are not a prey animal. Appear passive.
- If you have bear (pepper) spray, get your hands on it and be ready to use it. Take note of the direction and strength of the wind.
- Keep your backpack, hiking poles and other equipment – they can provide protection.
If the bear approaches you
- Remain calm and prepare to use your bear spray.
- Assess the bear’s behaviour and try to determine why it is approaching.
If the bear appears defensive
- A defensive bear may be feeding or protecting young or you may simply have surprised it – this is why it is imperative that you shout or sing regularly while on the trail.
- A defensive bear will appear stressed or agitated and may make noise.
- Try to appear non-threatening.
- Talk in a calm voice.
- Whenever the bear is not advancing, slowly move away without turning your back to the bear.
- If the bear continues to advance, stand your ground and keep talking. If the bear approaches to within 4 metres (12 feet or about a car length), use your bear spray.
- Note that some brands of bear spray can be used at a distance of up to 9 metres (30 feet) depending on wind and weather. Always check the instructions on the bottle.
If the bear does not appear defensive
- Young bears occasionally test their dominance or are curious. In the rarest of cases, a bear could be predatory.
- Speak in a firm voice.
- Move out of the bear’s path.
- If it follows you, stop and stand your ground.
- Shout and act aggresively.
- Try to intimidate the bear. Pick up a stick and/or raise hiking poles above your head to appear larger.
- If it approaches to within 4 metres (12 feet or about a car length), use your bear spray.
If a bear attacks you, it is important to know if the attack is defensive or predatory.
Defensive attacks are the most common.
- Use your bear spray.
- If the bear makes contact with you, play dead! Playing dead involves lying on your stomach with your legs spread apart and your hands interlaced behind your neck to protect it. Having your legs spread makes it harder for the bear to roll you over. Remain still until you are sure the bear has left the area.
- Defensive attacks usually do not exceed two minutes in duration. In most cases, injuries are relatively minor. If an attack lasts longer, it is possible that the defensive attack has become predatory.
Predatory attacks occur when a bear stalks you along a trail and then attacks, or when an attack occurs at night.
- Try to escape! A car or building may provide safe refuge. Climbing a tree is an option but offers no guarantee of safety. Black bears are excellent climbers and grizzlies have also been known to climb trees. If you choose to climb a tree, get as high up in the tree as you can as quickly as possible. Once you have a safe perch, prepare to use your bear spray.
- If you cannot escape, DO NOT play dead.
- Use your bear spray and fight back! Make lots of noise, throw rocks, hit the animal with a branch or your poles – do everything you can to dissuade the bear from continuing the attack.
Want to learn more? Join the conversation and follow us! Resources: http://esrd.alberta.ca/recreation-public-use/alberta-bear-smart/ http://www.albertaparks.ca/kananaskis-country/advisories-public-safety/wildlife/be-bear-smart.aspx