EXPLORING AND ENJOYING AREAS WHERE BEARS LIVE

NSBBS/Tony Joyce

With more people venturing out to enjoy the North Shore mountains and trails, it is important to remember that we share the landscape with bears. Taking steps to reduce attracting bears to picnic tables and campsites and to reduce our impact when exploring in their home is vital if we want to responsibly coexist. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the best practices for exploring in bear habitat and how to respond if you meet a bear.

Black bears live, rest, and raise cubs in the forest – it is their home. Black bears are not nocturnal and daytime activity is normal. Bears are most active from March to late December, but you could see one over the late winter. Increased human and dog activity allows little time for bears to forage and rest without interruption. As intelligent animals, they are adapting. Bears aim to avoid close encounters with people, but do not expect them to run away; they are not fearful. 

BEST PRACTICES FOR MOVING THROUGH AREAS WHERE BEARS LIVE

  • Take the time to research the area you are visiting, read trail notices and tell someone your trip plan.
  • Respect all warnings, including bear-in-area notices and trail closures.
  • Always make noise with your voice. Be louder and slower on narrow, low visibility trails and when travelling by rivers and creeks. Bear bells are quiet and do not identify you as human.
  • Be present, alert and aware of your surroundings in all directions.
  • Avoid wearing headphones.
  • If you see a bear ahead in the distance and it does not notice you, calmly and quietly back away and take a different route. Tell others you pass and advise them to do the same.
  • Travel in pairs or groups and avoid exploring alone.
  • Learn to recognize bear sign and avoid areas with an abundance of natural food or signs bears are using the area.
  • Keep pets on a close leash. Off-leash dogs can pressure bears to feel defensive and are involved with many negative encounters between people and wildlife.
  • Avoid exploring between dusk and dawn when wildlife is generally more active.
  • Never litter the trails with garbage or food scraps, this encourages bears to spend more time in areas closer to people.
  • Never feed bears. As well as being illegal, bears that find food from humans are almost always killed.
  • Never feed any wildlife. The whiskey jacks on Cypress Mountain and chipmunks at Lynn Peak should not be eating unnatural foods. Feeding small critters can attract bigger animals into the area.
  • Always keep food and packs within reach.
  • Never leave food unattended, not even for a moment. Bears rarely approach people for food but they will take opportunities if we are careless.

BEAR SIGN

From marked trees to shredded logs, piles of scat and muddy tracks, clues that bears are using the area can be found all around us if we take the time to look. We encourage you to be present and aware of your surroundings when moving through areas where bears live. If you notice an abundance of fresh bear sign, avoid or leave the area.

BEARS AND DOGS

 

NSBBS/Emily Pickett

If you’re exploring in areas where bears live with your dog, it is important that you familiarize yourself with the best practices – keep dogs on leash and carry bear spray.

Dogs, especially those off-leash, can pressure bears to feel defensive, or push vulnerable bears into the path of a dominant male who could be a danger to them.

Off-leash dogs are involved in more than half of all recorded negative wildlife encounters. Keeping your dogs on a close leash will help to further reduce risk to pets, people and wildlife.

Carry bear spray and have it immediately accessible. In the rare situation when encountering a bear that doesn’t leave, or if you or your dog surprise a bear at close range, you may need to deploy this non-lethal tool. Bear spray sets boundaries and teaches bears not to enter our personal space.

Bears are intelligent animals who are adapting to increased human and dog activity in their home. Do not expect bears to run from you or your dog. Bears aim to avoid close encounters, but in order to survive, they may tolerate your presence at a distance. Just like humans, that level of personal space is different for each bear. Never approach bears intentionally and remember that it is illegal under the Provincial Wildlife Act for your dog to harass wildlife.

BEAR ENCOUNTERS

 

NSBBS/Tony Joyce

IF YOU MEET A BEAR:

Expect to see bears on trails, crossing roads, passing through the neighbourhoods and even on the beach. Black bears are very active during the day and spend a great deal of time in human occupied areas without incident, however, living close to bears requires us to become familiar with how to respond if we meet one. By nature, black bears are peaceful, polite and in our experience, predictable. Here are some things to consider if you see one:

Stay calm

Talk to the bear in a calm voice (any language)

Slowly distance yourself and leave the area

If you encounter a bear try to remain as calm as possible. It helps to take a deep breath. Remember that black bears are calm animals, by staying calm you reduce startling the bear. Black bears are very intelligent and they recognize human voices and respond to tone. Communicate that you are not a danger by using a calm tone to speak to them in any language. Show the bear you are respectful of their personal space by slowly distancing yourself. Calmly prepare your bear spray, but do not spray the bear unless they approach at close range with their focus on you. Keep the bear in sight and focus your attention on their chest. Animals may interpret prolonged, direct eye contact as a threat. Ensure the bear has an exit. Continue to slowly leave the area and take an alternate route. In most cases, when you start speaking in a calm tone to a black bear, they walk away, climb a tree for safety, or go back to eating or resting.

BLACK BEARS ARE ADAPTING

Do not expect our North Shore bears to run from you or your dog. Bears are adapting to increased human and dog activity in their home, they aim to avoid close encounters, but running away wastes energy. In addition and contrary to popular belief – bears are not fearful. If bears were afraid of people or dogs they may feel pressured to defend themselves during an encounter. With increasing numbers of people and dogs enjoying areas where bears live on the North Shore, attempting to make bears afraid of us is not the solution. We do not want our bears to fear us, but we must make efforts to set boundaries and reduce encouraging bears to our homes with food.

GIVE BEARS LOTS OF PERSONAL SPACE

Don’t get close – never intentionally approach bears. It is very rare for black bears to make contact with humans, but they will not appreciate you encroaching on their personal space and you could pressure defensive behaviour. When bears are pressured by our presence, they show subtle stress signals such as excessive yawning, pretending to eat, moaning, huffing, salivating and jaw-popping. A black bear may take a step in your direction to request further space if you surprise them at close range or haven’t made efforts to give them space. Please do not misinterpret a bear’s stress signals as ”aggression”. Using that phrase to describe a bear almost always results with them being killed. During such encounters, we need to communicate to the bear through our tone and body language that we are not a threat. If you continue to pressure the bear by not calmly leaving, blocking the bear’s exit or using a harsh tone,  the bear may feel forced to make contact. Such contact is rare and brief, typically resulting in minor human injury. If a bear makes contact with a human, even a curious tap, the encounter will be labelled as an ”attack” by FLNRO/BCCOS. A minor nip, bite or scratch from a bear that believes you to be a threat will get you injured and the bear killed. More commonly, if we purposely get close, we can push bears into the path of a vehicle or another bear who could be a danger to them.

If you encounter a bear eating, calmly speak to the bear and slowly back away. If there is no alternate route, slowly and calmly create as much distance as possible, be patient and allow the bear to finish feeding and move on. Never try to move a bear away from a natural food source just because you want to take that trail.

IF A BLACK BEAR APPROACHES

On occasion, bears may appear to approach us. Bears can be pushed towards us by other bears, people or they simply may wish to take the path that you are on. On these occasions, the bear will not be focused on you and we should calmly speak to them as we slowly distance ourselves and allow them to pass.

Very occasionally, bears may approach us with intent, this is usually out of curiosity. It is important that we set boundaries and do not allow bears to enter our personal space. If a bear is quietly approaching with their focus on you, stand your ground and use a firm voice – tell the bear they are too close. Be persistent in using a firm tone and prepare your bear spray. If a black bear continues their approach, deploy bear spray. If you do not have bear spray and a black bear makes intentional physical contact, fight back with all you have, aiming for their eyes and nose.

We should always have bear spray accessible when enjoying bear habitat. On rare occasions when our voice is not enough to deter an approaching bear or if we surprise a bear at close range, we may need to deploy bear spray. Bear spray is a non-lethal tool which can be used to teach bears boundaries and it could save your life in the exceptionally rare case of a negative encounter.

Help us to collect valuable data and target education by reporting all North Shore bear activity to us.

BEARS ON YOUR PHONE MAY BE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR

If you encounter a bear, leave your phone alone and be present. Viewing bears through your phone can obscure how close they may be. During an encounter, be aware of your surroundings. Talk to bears in a calm voice as you slowly distance yourself. Using a calm tone and slowly moving away from bears communicates to them that you are respecting their personal space.

Approaching bears for photographs can pressure them to feel defensive. Bears may be comfortable with people at a distance, but the boundaries of personal space are unique to each individual. Never approach a bear intentionally.

Getting close to bears on purpose disturbs their natural behaviour and adds further stress to their daily life. Our actions around bears have a huge impact on their lives. We can interrupt valuable teaching opportunities between moms and cubs or force bears away from natural food sources. Being too close can pressure bears to flee into the path of a vehicle, or another bear who could be a danger to them.

Bears are not here for our entertainment. Never attempt to take a selfie with a bear. If you’d like a close up photo with a bear, visit our educational display and pose with Ted, our life size bear cut out!

BIKING

Biking is a high-speed, quiet, and often technical activity, which increases your chances of a surprise encounter with a bear. Learn how to respond if you meet a bear and follow these best practices to help reduce your impact and risk of a close encounter:

  • Respect all warnings, including bear in-area notices and trail closures.
  • Be heard. Use your voice to alert wildlife that humans are close by. Use a loud, firm voice and call out often. Be louder on narrow, low visibility trails and when travelling by rivers and creeks.
  • If you see a bear in the distance and it does not notice you, quietly turn around and take an alternate route.
  • Be present, alert and aware of your surroundings. Avoid wearing headphones.
  • Stay on legal, established trails. Using unsanctioned trails makes your behaviour less predictable to bears, further increasing the risk of a surprise encounter.
  • Slow down on corners and in low visibility areas.
  • Travel in groups; avoid biking alone.
  • Tell someone your trip plan (destination, route and expected return time).
  • Learn to recognize and be alert for natural bear foods, bear tracks and bear scat. Avoid or leave areas with an abundance of fresh bear sign or natural bear food.
  • Never intentionally feed bears. Bears that find food from humans are often killed
  • Never leave food unattended. Bears are opportunistic, always keep food within reach.
  • Pack in, pack out. Littering the trails with food scraps and garbage encourages bears to spend more time close to areas occupied by humans.
  • Avoid biking between dusk and dawn when wildlife is most active.
NSBBS/Lukas Handley

Off-leash dogs can pressure bears to defend themselves and are the cause of many negative encounters between people and bears. We advise keeping your dog at home when biking, to reduce risk and impact on wildlife.

Bears and other wildlife have a natural chase instinct. If you encounter a bear whilst biking, do not pedal away, this could trigger the bear’s instinct or curiosity. Your movements around bears should be calm and slow.

If you meet a bear: be present, stay calm and use a calm voice to identify yourself as human.

Slowly dismount and place your bike between you and the bear. Prepare your bear spray and continue to speak to the bear in a calm tone as you slowly back away.

Keep the bear in sight and focus your attention on their chest. Animals see eye contact as a threat. Using a calm tone and slowly distancing yourself communicates to the bear that you are not a danger to them. Ensure the bear has an exit. When the bear leaves, continue to slowly leave the area and take an alternate route.

On occasion, bears may appear to approach us. They can be pushed towards us by other bears or people, or they simply may wish to take the trail that we are on. On these occasions, the bear will not be focused on you. Calmly speak to them and slowly distance yourself and allow them to pass.

Very occasionally, bears may approach us with intent – this is usually out of curiosity. It is important that we set boundaries and do not allow bears to enter our personal space. If a bear is quietly approaching with their focus on you, stand your ground and use a firm tone – tell the bear they are too close. Raise your arms to appear bigger. Be persistent in using a firm voice and prepare your bear spray. If the bear continues to approach, deploy bear spray.

Bear spray is just as important as a helmet.  Everyone in the group should have their own can. We advise carrying bear spray on all North Shore trails, year-round. Bear spray is your best defense in a surprise, close encounter when the bear does not leave. Wear bear spray on a chest or hip holster for immediate access as you may be separated from your pack or bike.

CAMPING

Camping in bear country comes with a unique set of responsibilities to keep people and bears safe. Bears have an unparalleled sense of smell. Keeping your tent and campsite odours to a minimum goes a long way to reducing the risk of attracting a bear to your campsite. A stick of gum or a forgotten strawberry lip balm left in your tent could bring a curious bear and a rude awakening. Careless camping in bear country contributes to black bears being killed across BC, and on very rare occasions, has resulted in human injury or death.

  • Only camp at authorized sites or you could be pitching your tent on an active wildlife corridor.
  • Check the site for signs bears have visited the area: strewn garbage, bear scat, natural bear food. Never set up at a location where you have found evidence a bear has recently used the space.
  • Report all bear activity or signs a bear is in the area to rangers. Report campers who are leaving food unattended immediately.
  • Keep food in a secure area or within reach at all times. Whether you are going on a day hike or walking to the outhouse, always leave your campsite clean and never leave food or garbage unattended.
  • Keep vehicles free of all food and garbage if possible. Keep windows closed and doors locked. If you notice a bear close to your vehicle, trigger the vehicle’s alarm.
  • If a bear is approaching your campsite, stand your ground and use a firm tone. Be persistent and keep encouraging the bear to move on. Prepare your bear spray. Please do not allow a bear to take food from your campsite, backpack or picnic. Bears can be taught. In rare situations where bears don’t listen and continue to approach, we should deploy bear spray as a non-lethal teaching tool.
  • All food, dish ware, toiletries and petroleum products should be stored well away from your tent.
  • Backcountry campers should store odorous items in the cooking cabin, food cache or in a bear-resistant container at least 100 meters from your tent.
  • Front country campers should store food in bear-resistant storage options at campsites, in the trunk of your locked vehicle or hard side of your locked RV.
  • Pet food and bowls should be stored with your food and toiletries.
  • Cook away from where you are sleeping and ensure all food is removed from grills before turning in. Wash cookware thoroughly and dispose of grey water in designated area.
  • Avoid wearing body scents. Store clothes you have cooked in away from where you are sleeping with your other odorous items.
  • Garbage/empty bottles and cans must be cleaned up regularly and stored securely. Sugary odours from cans are enough to tempt a bear into your camp whilst you are sleeping.
  • Camp with bear spray immediately accessible. Bear spray is not a repellant; if its sprayed around your tent, the oil and pepper that settle may attract a bear!

BEAR DETERRENTS

BEAR SPRAY

If you are exploring bear country, you should always carry bear spray and know when and how to use it. When we spend time in bear habitat, we have a responsibility to reduce our impact on bears by practicing avoidance strategies, such as: using our voice to alert wildlife to human presence, slowing down on narrow, low visibility trails and keeping our dogs on-leash. Whilst we can do all of these practices to reduce the risk of a surprise encounter, occasionally, they will happen.

Bear spray is your best defence against a bear that is in close range and intent on approaching you. It is very likely that you will never have to deploy your bear spray, but you should never head to campsites or the trails without it.

Bear spray is a non-lethal tool that we can use to protect ourselves and bears in the rare case of a negative, close encounter. Bear spray can save your life, as well as the bear’s.

  • Purchase bear spray from reputable outlets. Bear spray is not the same as pepper spray. Bear spray contains capsaicin, an extract from hot peppers. In Canada, bear spray contains 0.86 to 1% capsaicin.
  • Read the manufactures instructions and, if possible, practice with inert bear spray bear before venturing into bear country.
  • Always practice removing the bear spray from your holster, removing the safety clip and holding the can securely with both hands.
  • Bear spray is only to be used as an airborne deterrent, aimed at a bear at close range. Never spray it on you or around your tent. When bear spray settles, it can become a bear attractant!
  • Bear spray has a shelf life, which effects the pressure and distance the spray will deploy. Check the expiry each year.
  • Bear spray must be transported in a sealed container.
  • Your bear spray must be immediately accessible. Carry it on a chest, waist or hip holster, as you may be separated from your pack or bike. If you need bear spray, you need it immediately!
  • Do not allow yourself to become complacent with using bear avoidance strategies just because you are carrying bear spray.

AIR HORNS

Air horns are effective at moving some bears from the community or away from you on the trail, but please use them responsibly. If a bear is on the trail you wish to take, please do not use an air horn or other methods to push the bear away unless they are approaching you with intent. Take an alternate route and allow the bear space and time to forage for natural foods. Some bears are accustomed to loud noises and air horns don’t work to move them on from residential areas, this does not mean the bear is bold or aggressive but rather that they are intelligent animals who are adapting. Using a firm tone and making eye contact from a safe place (deck or window) if a bear is on your property is fast becoming a most effective method of teaching bears boundaries.

BEAR BANGERS

We strongly advise against using bear bangers. They are very aggressive, easy to misuse and a fire hazard. Given the popularity of local trails with humans and dogs, using aggressive measures to push bears away from the community is not advised. Our intention should never be to make bears fearful of humans or dogs, doing so increases the chances of bears feeling pressured to defend themselves during an encounter.

BEAR DETERRENT SUPPLIERS

MEC
Margo Supplies
Atmosphere
This page is under content protection