WildSafeBC Cranbrook-Kimberley is urging caution to those walking in the Kimberley Nature Park in the coming weeks, after reports of a brown-coloured black bear that has been behaving defensively in that area.
“Always remember that we live in wildlife country,” said WildSafeBC Community Coordinator Danica Roussy.
“Bears are everywhere, just because you are within the area on the map does not mean you will or will not encounter a bear. You may encounter a bear anywhere; bears can travel great distances in a day if they so choose, so please be mindful and review the tips below to avoid any encounter – the best bear encounter is the one you can avoid.”
The first report came after a woman was walking from Lower Army Road towards the 3 Corners passed the kiosks towards Eimer’s Lake Loop. The woman was carrying bear spray and utilized it correctly and immediately started to leave the area. The bear came at her again, forcing her to discharge the bear spray a second time.
The second report was from a man walking from the Higgins entrance towards Eimer’s Ridge. He noticed a smaller brown-coloured black bear that “got a little too close for comfort.” He was also carrying bear spray and prepared to deploy it, but fortunately didn’t end up having to, as the bear climbed up a tree and the man went back the way he came.
With this in mind, Roussy has a few reminders pertaining to bear safety for people living and recreating around the animals.
READ MORE: How to avoid bear encounters
Avoid hiking alone while making a lot of noise, even just talking or singing loudly, and avoid wearing headphones. Make sure you’re carrying bear spray and know how to use it.
Be aware of your surroundings at all times and look out for signs of bears including scat, tracks, freshly overturned logs and claw marks on trees. If you come across an animal carcass, immediately vacate the area and notify the Conservation Officer Service or the owner of the land.
Keep your pets leashed or under control. According to a WildSafeBC press release, after a review it was found that dogs were involved in over 50 per cent of black bear inflicted injuries on humans. Bears may perceive dogs as a potential threat or even prey.
Roussy also recommends learning more about the subject of staying safe in bear country. There are training courses available at https://wildsafebc.com/learn/courses-and-training/
WildSafeBC provided a map indicating where you need to be extra cautious, but again, bears could be anywhere, so it is important to be aware and know what to do if you encounter one.
“If you encounter a bear, stop, stay calm and never run,” Roussy said. “Most bears are wary of humans and tend to avoid us. Black bears evolved in wooded habitat, so they are more inclined to flee into the forest rather than engage. However, a bear defending a kill or a female bear protecting their young, can be protective and act defensively.”
If you happen upon a bear that is unaware of your presence, leave the area quietly while keeping an eye on it and readying your bear spray.
If the bear is aware of you but appears to not react to your presence, speak softly and back away slowly. If the bear begins to leave, let it and don’t follow it.
If the bear appears agitated it will make noises such as jaw-popping, moaning, woofing and it may stomp the ground or bluff charge — all indicators of defensive behaviour and that you’re too close. In this case you should speak calmly and softly and back away slowly.
Do not make direct eye contact but try to keep the bear within your sight. Pull out your bear spray and be ready to use it. If the bear charges, wait until it is within a range of five to ten metres and use the spray. Most bluff charges stop short of contact, but you could be knocked down.
Finally, if a bear is steadily approaching you, it could simply mean its trying to use the same path you are on, so slowly yield to the bear. If it continues to approach, this could be a dangerous situation where the bear may be predatory.
In this case, yell at the bear and get onto higher ground and “be prepared to fight for your life if the bear attacks,” according to WildSafeBC. Again, if you have bear spray, spray it at the bear when it is within five to 10 metres.
Make sure to call the Conservation Officer Services RAPP line to report aggressive bear behaviour at 1-877-952-7277.