“Do’s” and “Don’ts” – Tips for Hiking In Bear Country

Category: Banff National Park, Safety

Do’s” and “Don’t’s” – Tips for Hiking In Bear Country

Here are a list of “Do’s and “Don’ts” when Hiking the mountain trails, or walking around a town that is “home” to  bears, (Canmore and Banff ,for example).

 “DO”:

Do Keep young children at arms reach – if they run, they could trigger an attack. Arms reach makes it easier to stop a frightened child from running and it allows you to quickly pick them up.

Do Make noise – sing, talk, and shout out “YO BEAR”.  You are in their backyard, let them know you are in “their hood”  Think of it this way, would you just walk into your neighbours house, or would you knock on their door first?

Do Carry bear spray, and know how to use it – Check out this very informational video by Alberta Parks.  The video is 6 minutes long, but well worth it!

My family lives in bear country, my boys keep bear spray in a safe, accessible place when playing in our yard.  They know how to use it!

Make sure the bear spray has not expired.

Do Obey trail closure signs – they are there for a reason and everyones safety, including the bears.

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Love the smile!!! (pic from the net)

Do Take a Bear Awareness Course, or attend a Bear Awareness Event – Wildsmart in Canmore, has a bear awareness day every spring.  All family members that will be hiking should attend, the event is hands-on and it is a lot of fun!

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looking for a bear in the trap.

Do Scan for Scat and Digs – look for fresh signs of scat, tracks, digs, overturned logs and rocks. If you see any of these signs, turn around and head back.

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Bear dig on Wapta Falls trail, Yoho National Park, 2015
October 2009, Larch Valley Hike, Morgan and Justin standing in a Grizzly Bear dig
Bear Dig, Larch Valley, Banff National Park, 2009. The boys could not believe how big the dig was.

Do Travel in groups- Parks Canada recommends a tight group of 4 or more.

Do Leave the area immediately if you see a dead large animal on the trail, or if you smell something bad,(thinking rotting meat…which it is).  Report your finding to park staff, or call Banff Dispatch at 403.762.1470 or Kananaskis at 403.591.7755

Do Listen to your “spider senses”, if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.  Turn back and find another trail, or activity, to do.

This was right at the start of the trail, and my “spidey senses” kicked in. I have seen bear scat many times on trails, but for some reason, things just didn’t’ seem “right”.

DON’T:

Don’t  Leave behind any food, or garbage. Pack out what you pack in, including dog poop! As “yucky” as it sounds, bears, cougars and coyotes will eat dog poop as a source of “survival food”.   The dog food that we feed our dogs is so high in protein, that a lot of  dog poop is high in protein, which attracts the wildlife…and in some cases, other dogs…mine included.  (YECH)

Don’t Let your dogs off-leash!!!  This is  a huge pet peeve of mine. Dogs can be seen as a threat and/or dinner! Plus, not everyone on the trail likes dogs, and not all dogs like each other.  ( I am a dog owner, love dogs, but not when they can put someone, or some animal,  in danger)

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Bear Scat, Kimpton Creek Trail, Kootenay National Park, 2015
August 2009, Black Prince Trail Warspite Lake Hike, J&M and Dakota
Dakota is on leash, always! When he was younger, he carried his own pack with a snack and many poop bags, he also carried his own poop out. He is 13 now, and has really slowed down.  He doesn’t come on many long hikes anymore, and he no longer carries his own pack….his humans carry his supplies.
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LOVE THIS!!!! comic taken from Western Wildlife Outreach.

Don’t Just Use bear bells-   Studies have shown that the noise of the bell can actually attract some curious bears, and they are not as effective as a human voice.  As a matter of fact, you can hear a human voice long before you hear a bear bell.  They do make great Christmas tree ornaments though.

Don’t attach a bear bell to your off-leash dog!!!   Seriously????  This is the equivalent of a  Neon Sign saying “open for business, millions served”.   Need I say more?

Don’t approach or feed bearsa fed bear is a dead bear .  As a matter of fact, you shouldn’t approach any wildlife.

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Okay, you can approach Yogi Bear, he  is the exception. Picture taken at  Grand Canyon National Park, 2014.

Don’t plant/keep bear attractants in your yard.  This is particularly important if you live in Bear Country.  As beautiful as those crabapple trees are, they are “easy food” for bears when there isn’t enough natural food for them.  This fall, Canmore has seen their fair share of bears attracted to fruit and berry trees on peoples lawns.

This Black Bear, (almost looks like a human, doesn’t it?), was eating the Mountain Ash berries from my neighbours tree.  On this particular occasion, my oldest son was on our driveway fixing his bike.   This bear was not afraid to be there.  We did frighten the bear off by yelling”  Get going bear”, “Go On”…of course, this was all done from the safety of our front steps.  The bear sauntered off, and we quickly called Kananaskis dispatch, at 403.591.7755 to report the sighting.

This is on my neighbours lawn, right beside us, very close!
Black Bear eating Mountian Ash Berries on our neighbours lawn.

MOST IMPORTANT…..

Don’t Be Afraid To Hike in Bear Country!  

Just be smart about it!

If you follow these steps, and check out the Wildsmart and BearSmart websites,  you will feel more confident about heading out and “Taking a Hike With Your Children”

Happy Hiking!

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