Keep Bears Wild

  
Bear Awareness

General


 
The North Shore is blessed with many green spaces containing streams, creeks and rivers which form natural wildlife corridors that extend into residential areas; hence, we live in black bear country, and we all need to know how to react if we encounter a bear.

Remember the four S's:

  • Stay calm
  • Stand still - Do Not Run! 
  • Speak calmly  
  • Slowly back away

Black bears are a highly misunderstood species, and consequently, many people have an exaggerated fear of them. Here are some facts taken from Living with Bears by Linda Masterson that put the dangerousness of black bears into perspective:

  • Every year, millions of people in North America encounter black bears; yet, between 1900 and the summer of 2005, only 57 people were killed by black bears. Meanwhile, 50 Americans are reported to die annually from bee stings, 300 Americans died from domestic dog attacks in the USA in 19 years (between 1979 and 1998) and 2 million people die worldwide each year from diseases that are carried by mosquitoes. Apparently you have a better chance of winning the lottery than being killed by a black bear!
  • Most fatal attacks have occurred in remote areas where bears are unaccustomed to people.

This information is about the relatively low danger of encounters with black bears, and it is important to realize that some human activity that does not provoke a black bear can cause a grizzly bear to attack. Linda Masterson writes, "Most grizzly attacks result from sudden encounters, particularly getting between a mother bear and her cubs, or disturbing a bear defending a food cache." (Living with Bears, p. 231)

Home Bear Encounters Tips

▲Top

If you see a bear in your backyard, remember that it is in your territory so do what you can to safely discourage the bear.

  • Give the bear lots of space, and go inside with your pets
  • If the bear is eating, let it finish as eating is its number 1 priority
  • From a safe vantage point, shout loudly, bang pots or throw water balloons and wave your arms to let the bear know it is not welcome. Remember to accompany the unwelcoming experience with your voice
  • When the bear has left, remove all attractants from yard. Keep in mind that it will likely return several times to check for the same source of food that it found before
  • Let your neighbours know about the bear and tell them to remove attractants
  • Report your sighting to 604-990-BEAR(2327)

If you see a bear up a tree, give it some space by leaving the area or going inside if you are at home. A black bear will climb a tree because it is anxious and stressed. Let the bear come down in its own time. It may wait until nightfall. Do not bring extra attention to the bear by inviting friends and neighbours.

If you have a chance, when the bear is leaving and away from the tree, shout at it from the house or use noisemakers to reinforce that it is not welcome.

Trail Bear Encounters Tips

▲Top

In the wilderness, you are in the bear's territory. This is its home, so give the bear the space it needs.

  • Make sure the bear has a clear way to exit the area
  • Once a bear has started to leave, continue to back away
  • Leave the area immediately, and do not follow the bear
  • Report your sighting to 604-990-BEAR(2327)

Preventing Encounters

▲Top

Conflicts can be avoided by practicing prevention.

Always be alert to the possibility of a bear encounter by looking for signs of recent bear activity. Signs can include scat (droppings), tracks, evidence of digging, and claw or bite marks on trees.
 
Avoid surprising bears by making your presence known as you walk on trails by making noise. The most effective way to do this is with your voice: talking, singing or calling out to wildlife.
 
Stay away from dead animals; animals may attack to defend such food.
 
If you have a dog, keep it on a leash as dogs can antagonize bears and promote conflict.

Mother Bears and Cubs

▲Top

Many of us have been taught that it is extremely dangerous to get between a sow and her cubs. This a myth.
 
A mother bear is not a high safety risk to you as long as you are not a threat to her family. She may make noises to encourage you to leave the area. A bear will do everything it can to scare a threat away to avoid conflict. 
 
However, if you have been making noise and do not encounter the bear family by surprise, the sow will likely have sent her cubs up a tree for safety, and she may hide until you have passed. It is believed that many people get between sows and cubs without knowing it has happened. 
 
If you see a lone cub, its mother may be close by, but out of sight. In these cases, do not presume that the cub has been abandoned, and do not approach or feed the cub. Call 604.990.BEAR(2327) to report the sighting. 

If you plan to hike or camp in grizzly country, you need to gather additional information about how to keep yourself safe. If you get too close to a grizzly sow and her cubs, you could be perceived as a threat and be attacked. A good resource is the DVD Staying Safe in Bear Country.