Outdoor enthusiasts of Cranbrook and Kimberley and their surrounding areas are fortunate to have access to countless trails for hiking, biking and exploring the natural beauty of the Kootenays.
Wildlife, however, will also often use these same trails to get from place to place, and WildSafeBC have tips for staying safe and minimizing conflict with the area’s animals like cougars and bears.
The organization recently posted a variety of resources on their website including a 30-minute video entitled “Staying Safe in Bear Country,” which is a good place to start.
Some basic tips include carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it — keep it in an easily accessible holster, rather than in your backpack.
While on trails, its important to be aware. Look for fresh bear scat and claw marks on trees, and be aware if you’re in an area that contains bear food sources like berries. If biking, slow down around blind turns and call out ahead.
Wearing headphones isn’t recommended and it’s important to make a lot of noise as you move through the trails, even just by calling out loudly sporadically.
Keep your dog under control or leave it at home to avoid conflict between it and a bear.
WildSafe also has tips for if you do happen to encounter a bear:
- Stop, stay calm, and back away slowly without turning your back on the animal.
- Do not yell or run as this can trigger and attack.
- Bring children close and group together.
- If the animal continues towards you then move off the trail and let the animal pass.
- If the bear continues to approach, then you must hold your ground and become more aggressive. Speak to the bear in a loud and low voice. If you have bear spray, prepare to deploy it. Make yourself appear large and if with others then group together.
- A bear defending a cub, food source or its personal space my charge and then retreat. Back away and let the bear know you are not a threat.
- While rare, a predatory black bear will approach with confidence and determination. In these attacks always fight back
If you should happen upon a cougar, keep these potentially life-saving tips in mind:
- Stop, stay calm. Never run or turn your back as this can trigger an attack.
- Pick up small children and dogs; for older children place them in front of you so you can control their actions and not trip on them.
- Back away slowly and seek shelter.
- If the cougar follows or shows aggression, then you must respond aggressively. Make yourself look big and maintain eye contact. Yell with a low and loud voice.
- If a cougar attacks, always fight back. Deploy your bear spray or use rocks and sticks. Focus on the facial area. Convince the cougar that you are not easy prey.
Always make sure to report any conflicts with wildlife to the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277. You are also encouraged to report conflict with wildlife other than bears, cougars or wolves using WildSafeBC’s online Wildlife Alert Reporting Program (WARP), found at www.wildsafebc.com/warp