Keep Bears Wild

  
Bear Awareness

British Columbia is Bear Country



Photo: Tony Joyce

British Columbia is home to more bears than any other Provence in Canada, with an estimated population of 15,000 grizzlies and 140,000 black bears. British Columbia is 'Bear Country' and Vancouver’s North Shore is 'Black Bear Country'. The North Shore’s vast, dense, temperate rainforest is home only to the black bear, the smallest and most common bear species in Canada.

The North Shore is a diverse ecosystem, rich with creeks, rivers and green spaces which create natural wildlife corridors that extend to residential areas. It is normal to see black bears and other wildlife travelling in or around residential areas in search of food. If you live in bear country, you have a responsibly to make sure a bear doesn’t find a food reward in your yard. Each year in North and West Vancouver, black bears are killed for returning to urban areas when they find a food source. 

2018 map of 'Bear in Area' signs placed by the North Shore Black Bear Society/West Vancouver Parks                                                   

Black bears are a highly misunderstood species, and consequently, many people have an exaggerated fear of them. In fact, black bears are smart, tolerant animals that are adapting to increased human, dog and car activity in their home, in order to survive. 

Black bear sightings on the North Shore are fairly common but encounters are less frequent. Black bears expel a lot of time and energy attempting to avoid people, usually by hiding in trees (their safe place). However, encounters between black bears and humans will inevitably happen and it is important that you know what to do:

Stay calm – take a deep breath

Speak calmly to the bear (in any language) - identify yourself as a human

Slowly back away – give bears lots of personal space and an exit. Do not run, you could trigger a natural chase instinct

Home Bear Encounters Tips

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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.

Recreating in Bear Country

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Encounters and conflicts between black bears and humans can be avoided by practicing prevention.

The most effective tool you have in the forest is your human voice. Avoid surprising bears by making your presence known as you use the trails. Use your voice to talk, sing or call out to wildlife. Black bears don't want to be close to humans and will hide if they hear you coming. Bear bells are not as effective as your voice. 

Be aware of your surroundings in bear country and look for signs of recent bear activity. 

Look for fresh bear scat (poop).

This bear scat is full of blueberries, a healthy and natural bear food.
Photo: Luci C 


Photo: Luci C

Black bears are great climbers and spend a lot of time in trees. Male bears will also mark their territory by clawing at trees. Look out for fresh claw marks in the forest.

Photo: Luci C


Photo: Luci C

 
Stay away from dead animals; animals may attack to defend their food source. 
 

If you have a dog, keep it on a leash as dogs can antagonize bears and promote conflict. More than half of all negative wildlife encounters involve an off-leash dog. 

Mother Bears and Cubs

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Photo: Tony Joyce

Many of us have been taught that it is extremely dangerous to get between a black bear sow and her cubs. This a myth.
 
A mother black 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. Black bears are intelligent animals who attempt to avoid physical contact in an effort to avoid injury.  
 
It is believed that many people get between sows and cubs without even knowing it has happened. When mother bears hear or smell possible threats to their cubs (other bears, cougars, coyotes, humans, dogs) they send their cubs up into a tree to hide. The mother bear will hide close by until the potential threat has left the area. 
 
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. Report the sighting so wildlife officials can monitor the cub to see if it is infact abandoned or orphaned. 

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 WildSafe BC's guide to grizzly bears