Summer is a busy time for bears; mothers are teaching cubs survival skills, juveniles are navigating life away from mom, and fathering cubs is a focus for adult males.
With more people venturing out to enjoy areas where bears live, it is important to remember that we share the landscape with bears. Taking steps to reduce attracting bears to our picnic tables and campsites or to reduce our impact when exploring in their home is virtual if we want to responsibly coexist with these peaceful animals.
During mating season, which will continue into mid-July, males will travel extensively in search of females. Expect to see increased bear activity, as the pursuit of a partner brings dominant males closer to areas occupied by people. Mating pairs stay together for a short time during courtship before separating and living independently.
When moving through areas where bears live, it is important to make our presence known. Bears are not fearful, and we shouldn’t expect them to run away but using our voice provides them with the opportunity to avoid a close encounter. Talk to friends, family, and the local fauna as you explore. Be louder and slower when close to water or in low-visibility areas. Be much louder and call out often if you are biking or running. These activities are typically fast and quiet, increasing chances of a close, surprise encounter. Carry bear spray and have it immediately accessible. Be aware of your surroundings, avoid wearing headphones and look for clues a bear is using the space: fresh scat, shredded logs, tracks, natural bear foods. Keep dogs on a close leash to avoid unnecessary pressure to bears, which can force them to feel defensive.
If you see a bear ahead in the distance, calmly leave the area and take an alternate route. Always give bears space and ask others in the area to do the same.
If you meet a bear, be present, stay calm and use a calm voice to identify yourself as human. Say “hey bear” in any language and keep talking to the bear in a calm tone as you slowly leave the area.
If you’re taking food to the beach, forest, or mountains, be sure to never leave anything unattended. It is rare for black bears to approach people for food, but they will take opportunities if we leave food available at campsites, picnic tables and in backpacks. If a black bear approaches, don’t throw your food or pack. Stand your ground and use a firm tone. Black bears understand tone and it is rare for them to continue their approach. If they do, deploy bear spray. Pack up all food and garbage and leave the area. Always use bear-proof garbage containers or preferably, take everything home. Never litter the trails, even with organics, as this encourages bears to spend more time closer to people.
Only camp at authorized sites or you could be pitching your tent on an active wildlife corridor. Avoid a rude awakening and remember that all toiletries and food must be stored securely and away from where you are sleeping. Make the effort to clean your campsite regularly. Sugary odours from empty cans are enough to tempt a bear into your camp whilst you are sleeping.
Bears and other wildlife regularly cross roads and graze by the roadside, so please drive with caution. If you see wildlife when driving, slow down and allow them as much space as possible. Do not approach bears in your vehicle and do adhere to speed limits. Every year bears are killed on North Shore roads; a young male bear has already lost its life in West Vancouver.
Bears are polite and predictable animals. Treat them with respect by allowing them lots of personal space and by respecting their beautiful home. Happy summer from the North Shore Black Bear Society!
Luci Cadman is Executive Director, North Shore Black Bear Society, and a certified bear-viewing guide.