Beware The Bears

Sharing our space with any number of wild animals is a part of everyday life on Vancouver Island. Deer roam our streets, elk cross our highways, bunnies hop across our front yards and occasionally black bears will make their presence known around the neighbourhood. With winter around the corner, it’s high season for hungry black bears that are looking to fill their bellies before hibernation begins.

Campground Resident

While berries and wild salmon are their preferred diet, brave bears are finding their way into residential areas for food scraps. That said, here are a few tips* to help you to stay safe while sharing our Island with the black bear population:

  • Don’t ever feed bears or purposefully leave food for them – doing so will only diminish their fear of humans, making them a larger threat.
  • Stick to marked trails when hiking or biking and leave your pets at home. If you must bring them with you, keep your dog leashed at all times!
  • Keep your eyes open for signs of bears in the area; this includes scat, claw marks, digging and shredded wood or stumps.
  • Bring your garbage cans to the curb the day of pick-up, not the night before. Further, pet food should be stored indoors.
  • With summer behind us, it’s likely that your BBQ is smothered with grease and/or food scraps. Make sure your BBQ is thoroughly cleaned – a bear’s sense of smell is its most keen sense!
  • Vegetable gardens, berry bushes, fallen fruit from fruit trees and compost bins are prime targets for bears, so keep them tidy.

Sept10-08 Small Black Bear
Photo: sointula on Flickr

Don’t let the name of the black bear fool you. Black bears can range in colour from jet black to cinnamon blonde and can weigh up to 500 pound or more, depending on the sex, age and time of year.

Black bears are typically less dangerous than their grizzly counterparts; however, should you encounter a black bear, it’s recommended that you back away slowly and calmly, never taking your eyes off the bear. Do not yell or wave your arms to provoke the bear. If a physical encounter is unavoidable, assume the fetal position and use your hands to protect the back of your neck with your head tucked under.

* Source

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9 Comments on “Beware The Bears

  1. we have cougars (or a cougar) right now in tofino. always a good idea to keep an eye on outdoor pets or let them sleep inside… there are lots of signs for missing dogs and cats right beside the cougar warning signs.

  2. @Paul – That totally breaks my heart. I hope more people will take responsibility concerning their pets’ safety.

  3. In the back of my mind I’d always had the “play dead in the fetal position” warning in the back of my mind if I ever encounter across a bear. (Back in Australia we’re trained from an early age how to deal with killer snakes & spiders and not LARGE animals like bears and cougars.)

    But when I was on the Island last June I came across a ranger notice that said that when it came to one breed of bear (I couldn’t remember whether it was the black or the grizzly) you SHOULDN’T play dead or seem submissive as you’ll appear as prey. It said that you should actually stand your ground, maintain eye contact and, if it approaches, make yourself appear as large as possible. Playing dead wouldn’t help as it’d probably just encourage an attack.

    After reading that I thought “Oh great! And here I was about to lay down, hug myself and shit my pants”.

    Now if I can only remember which breed of bear it was. *shrugs*

  4. There is a bear that lives near my house. I walk the woods, where it lives, every day on my way to and from work. Sometimes, I hear rustling in the bushes and want to run all the way home!

  5. @VJM – I heard that’s true of cougars. Making a lot of noise and appearing larger will frighten them. As far as I’ve always been told growing up on the Island, the fetal position and protecting one’s neck is the best “defence” against a bear. That said, don’t quote me on it. πŸ˜‰

  6. A woman in our rural neighborhood walks every day with a glass bottle filled with rocks. On one of my walks we met and she asked me where my bear repellent was and showed me her jar. She said she had come across at least 7 bears in that week. She told me that at the spot we were chatting, a bear came out of the bush and reared up on its hind legs, grunted a couple times at her, claws drawn and then took off. It was 10 feet away from her…needless to say that was my last walk in the area! She still walks daily.

  7. I’m hearing more and more that tying a bell to a dog’s collar is like telling a bear dinner is on. Yes, you should not surprise a bear as it’s foraging by making regular noises (talking in conversation is supposed to be alright), but people have been saying bears are getting used to dogs with bells and are starting to relate the noise of a bell to a possibility of food.

    If you’re attacked by a grizzly, you have a better chance of surviving as it will eventually leave you alone if you play ‘dead’, granted they still still maul you a couple times. Blackbears (or so I’ve read and seen on documentaries) will continue to maul you even if you’re a limp noodle.

    Either way, bears that I have seen in the wild have stopped, looked at us and went a different direction. I don’t want to have a first day I see a Sow with her Cubs though… ugh

  8. “With winter around the corner, it’s high season for hungry black bears that are looking to fill their bellies before hibernation begins.”

    The moment I read that I keep picturing Yogi Bear and Booboo stealing picnic lunches and then going to sleep.

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