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The Bears Are Waking

Tips For Hiking in Bear Territory

Most of the time bears are just as eager to stay out of your way as you are to stay out of theirs, still bears can be very protective. All bears are individuals and so all bear encounters will be unique. Serious attacks are rare, but you must always be cautious and alert when enjoying the outdoors. Carrying bear spray and noise makers are a good plan when hiking in bear territory. Should you come across a bear during your exploring, stopping to get a closer look or take a photo is NOT advised.

A defensive encounter occurs when the bear is feeling stressed or threatened. The bear may have been surprised by your sudden appearance or feel that you are a threat to itself, its cubs or its food source. In such an encounter, the bear may show some of the following behaviours:

  • Vocalizing: blowing, huffing, "woofing", growling or snapping its jaws
  • Flicking the ears back
  • Swatting the ground
  • Swaying the head
  • Making a bluff charge

Here are some more tips to help you stay safe and get the most enjoyment from your adventure.

  • 1. Avoid Hiking Alone

    A group makes more noise than a single hiker, increasing your chances of giving any bears in the area a heads up.

  • 2. Keep Loved Ones Close

    Never let your children or pets run off. Keep them close.

  • Photo: Mateo Novo
  • 3. Stick to The Trail

    It may take some of the adventure out of your hike, but by staying on the trail you’ll minimize potential bear encounters.

  • 4. Avoid Bear Food

    If you smell something dead or see birds circling overhead, avoid the area. You don’t want to encroach on a bear food source.

  • Photo: Alan McLauchlan
  • 5. Hike During Daylight

    Bears are most active during early morning and late afternoon hours in the spring and summer. We all love hiking at sunrise or sunset, but in bear country, this can increase your odds of coming across a bear.

  • 6. Avoid Bear Areas

    Avoiding areas known to have a high bear population is always your most safe option. Research the location you plan to hike and find out if it is known for bear activity.

  • Photo: Dave Rusk Photography
  • 7. Watch For Signs of Bears

    Tracks, scat (poop) and markings on trees are all good indicators. Find out what kind of bears might be in the area you plan to hike and what kind of specific signs to look for.

  • 8. Don't Leave Packs Unattended

    Chances are there is something in your pack that might smell interesting to a bear.

  • Photo: Dave Rusk Photography
  • 9. Don't Run Away

    Your attempt at flight could trigger the bear’s predatory response and you are not going to out-run a bear. Instead, stand calmly and assess the situation.

  • 10. Back Away

    If the bear doesn’t know you’re there, quietly and calmly leave the area, backing away.

  • Photo: Dave Rusk Photography
  • 11. You've Been Spotted

    If the bear sees you, talk to the bear and slowly wave your arms up and down to identify yourself as a human without making eye contact. Most of the time the bear will just walk away or go back to what he was doing. If that’s the case, slowly back away from the bear in the opposite direction from which he went or just away from the situation. Continue to talk and move your arms as you retreat.

  • 12. If Attacked

    If the encounter escalates and the bear attacks, it’s best to play dead by lying face-down with your hands over your head. Do your best to stay in that position even if the bear rolls you over. Once the bear perceives the threat as neutralized, it will likely leave you alone. Be sure the bear is gone before you move again to prevent another attack.