BearSmart preaches prevention in avoiding close encounters

By Patrick Burles - @PatrickBurles on Twitter
May 19, 2017 - 9:22am Updated: May 19, 2017 - 9:58am

CROWSNEST PASS – If you go out in the woods today…

With the Victoria Day (May Long) weekend upon us, and countless campers making their way into the forests and mountains, be sure to remember whose territory you’re visiting.

Bears are well out of hibernation by this point, and there have been a number of close encounters with humans in the Banff and Jasper area in recent weeks.

There have been no such encounters in the Crowsnest Pass area to this point, and that’s something the Crowsnest Pass BearSmart Association is working hard to maintain. But they can’t do it without your help.

Association president and field coordinator, Christy Pool, says it all starts with prevention.

“The first thing [campers] should keep in mind, is having somewhere secure to put their food and their garbage,” explained Pool. “The smell of that alone will draw bears into their campsite, and of course creating a major safety risk.

“What we recommend is a good air-tight cooler inside the vehicle, not inside the tent or near the tent. And then of course, garbage as well, wrapped-up and cleaned-up and put inside the vehicle, or if they're camping somewhere near a dumping station, at the end of the night take it down to the dumping area so it's nowhere near your sleeping area,” she added.

As for when you’re away from your campsite, she says the key to avoiding bears is to simply make a lot of noise, helping them to avoid you.

Of course, even while taking those steps, there is always a chance of coming across a bear while enjoying the outdoors. In those instances, Pool says it’s critical that you handle the situation in the right way.

“The biggest thing is giving them space. I know everybody likes to get pictures and they're cool to see, but the first thing [hikers] want to do is look for the safest way to remove themselves from that bear's area. Bears are very much about having their personal bubble, and they don't like it invaded.

“Never run,” Pool quickly added. “The worst thing a person can do is scream and run. That triggers the bear's prey-drive and response, and that could start a chase. So, back out slowly and just keep your eye on them.”

Pool also pointed out that if you’re going for a hike with your four-legged-friend, it’s important that you keep them close.

“Keep all dogs on-leash, because, a lot of times what a dog will do, is it will go running in either curious or protective, and then realize it's kind of out of it's league and come running back to you, bringing the bear with it.”

Before wrapping-up the interview, Pool wanted to add one final message, saying that by not taking the proper precautions, you’re jeopardizing both your safety, and that of anyone who comes after you.

“Take out what you bring in, that's a big thing,” she stated. “Leaving their garbage behind isn't just bad for the environment, but also, bears will find it. Every type of contact that a bear has with human food, human waste, it makes them that much more comfortable with it, so they're not so uncomfortable next time if somebody else comes camping in that area.”

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