The hills are beginning to change colour, and the smell of another season is in the crisp fall air. Being active outdoors this time of year is a must for many, especially with the weather being as nice as it is. With bears being just as active in their voracious search for food before winter comes, it is as important as ever to exercise bear awareness and safety.
This time of year, bears are loading up on any nuts, berries or fruit still available to them. Grizzlies, for example, can consume upwards of 200 000 berries a day during peak feeding times! It sounds like a lot, but when you consume up to 25 000 calories/day of mostly vegetation, it seems appropriate.
With their noses down in search of food, it is up to us to practice bear awareness to prevent unwanted bear encounters when working, living, or recreating in bear country. Simple things to remember when outdoors include:
- Make lots of noise
- Watch for signs of bear activity (including diggings, tracks, scat, broken berry bushes, etc.)
- Properly manage and store all attractants (i.e. food, pet food, garbage, toiletries) out of reach of bears
- Obey trail and area closures
- Carry bear spray and a noisemaker and make sure you know how to use them
- Keep your campsite clean and pack out all garbage
For more information and to find resources on bear safety and how to practice Alberta BearSmart, you can visit the Alberta Environment and Parks webpage here at http://aep.alberta.ca/recreation-public-use/alberta-bear-smart/default.aspx
Personally, I’ve found these guidelines very helpful in keeping me safe when recreating in the Peace Country, and keeping bears alive. Recently, I was very happy (and wise) I brought my bear spray along with me, on a hike in the north end hills in Peace River. Half way through my hike I noticed scat on the trail, and though it appeared to be an older sample, it was indication a bear had been in the area and I should be cautious. I was already singing loudly and yelling out “WHOA BEAR, HEY BEAR” around corners and in thick brush, but having that spray with me was better assurance in case a bear and I crossed paths.
Thankfully my singing and yelling seemed to have done the trick, as I didn’t see any bears during the remainder of my hike. And if I had encountered a bear, I had my bear spray ready to use.
Reducing the chances of a bear encounter doesn’t take much if you are prepared, and have practiced proper bear safety. Looking for signs of bear activity, making lots of noise, and carrying bear spray (and being ready to use it) are simple things we can all do. Being informed and educated on how to prevent bear encounters in the first place, and knowing how to react to an encounter if it does happen, are important steps in minimizing human safety risks and helping keep our bears alive.