Staying Safe While Hiking in Canadian Bear Country

We have always been fascinated by bears, and with Georges love of wildlife photography it was a no-brainer our next working holiday adventure would be to Canada. If you have been following our travels so far we love the outdoors, whether that is exploring the deep blue or hiking up mountains. But how can we stay safe while out hiking in bear country?


Where is Bear Country

What types of Bears are in Bear Country

What do bears want

Tips for hiking in Bear Country

What to do if you see a bear

Don’t let the thought of bears stop you

Where is Bear Country

Bear Country is defined as any location where you can encounter bears, most of North America is defined as Bear Country with British Columbia having one of the largest populations of black bears in the world.

What Types of Bears are in Bear Country

It all depends on where you are in Canada as to what Bear you might encounter, there are three main species.

The Black Bear, The Grizzly Bear and The Polar Bear.

The Black Bear is the smallest species of bear in North America, however they can still grow to be around 400lbs and 5-7 feet when standing on their back legs. That doesn’t sound too small to me! Even though they are named the black bear, they can have different coloured coats ranging from a blue-grey to brown and sometimes even white which is known as the Kermode bear. They are mainly omnivores so spend their days eating grass, plants and berries with the occasion salmon added into their diet.

The Grizzly Bear is known for being large bears, with the males weighing up to 360kg! The main difference between a grizzly and a black bear is the large muscular hump on the back of their neck, they use this to help power their front legs for running, digging and pulling apart logs. They are very private, solitary animals and will take whatever food they can get their hands on berries, plants, insects and of course meat. If it comes down to eat they will eat another bear. Not an animal I would like to stumble upon while out hiking.

The Polar Bear is the most aggressive out of the three as they are known to have actively hunted humans in the past. Two thirds of the worlds population of polar bears can be found within Canada and in 7 out of the 13 provinces and territories. They are mainly found within the Arctic Circle as this area has an abundance of sea ice and home to a thriving seal population. Unless you find yourself hiking near sea ice, you won’t be coming across a polar bear on your trail adventures any time soon.

What do Bears Want

First and foremost bears want food, it is always about the food with most black bears eating for around 20 hours a day. It is said that a bears sense of smell is 7 times that of a bloodhound, which has the most sensitive nose out of all other dog breeds!

When out camping in bear country you need to take extra care with other items that carry a scent not just your food. That can be deodorant, toothpaste and even beauty products, if it has a peculiar scent to a bear they might think they can have it for a tasty snack.

Tips for Hiking in Bear Country

  1. When out hiking avoid being alone if possible, if you are in a group you will make more noise than on your own and this will alert any bears in the area of your presence. Decreasing the chances of catching one by surprise.
  2. Make sure to make noise while out on trail, if a bear hears you coming they are more than likely not going to stay on the trail.
  3. Don’t leave your backpacks unattended at any point, if a bear catches a smell that backpack won’t be there when you return.
  4. Bears are most active during dawn and dusk so try to hike during daylight hours.
  5. Always stick to the trail
  6. Look out for signs of a bear along the way, is their any scat (bear poo) or markings on nearby trees
  7. Securely pack up your food to seal up the scent and don’t leave any rubbish on the trail

What to Do if you See a Bear

The first thing you need to do when you see a bear is to stay calm don’t alert them of your presence and most definitely do not run. If you run it may trigger a chasing response and the bear may run after you!

Don’t approach the bear when you see it, enjoy the sighting from a distance and slowly walk away in the opposite direction, if the bears spots you just have a friendly chat. This shows the bear that you are the dominant species and not prey.

If a bear does start to approach you make yourself look as big as possible, this can be by standing on higher ground, lifting your arms in the air or even just opening up your jacket. Only back away from the bear when it stops approaching you.

It is incredibly cute and adorable to see little bear cubs roaming around the trails while out hiking, but you should be extremely cautious when you see a cub. Their mum will be close by and you aren’t sure how many cubs she will have, the last thing you want is to be standing between the mum and her cubs.

Always make sure to have you bear spray packed in an easy to access place, some recommend on your chest or holster. If you encounter a bear on trail you don’t want to be fishing around your pack to find it! Check out wildlife safe bc for some tips on what bear spray to get and how to use it.

Don’t Let the Thought of Encountering a Bear Stop you

It is a scary thought, coming across a bear while out on trail but you can’t let this stop you from exploring! Do your research on what to do if it was to happen and you will be ready for your hike.

It is actually extremely rare for a bear to attack a human never mind kill them, it is recorded that there are around 40 attacks on humans worldwide every year from bears with maybe 4-5 deaths. More people die each year from being stung by a bee than a bear. Keep that in mind.

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