Parks Canada announced that the very first bear sighting of Spring 2023 has been confirmed. 

Like many of us, bears have spent the frigid winter months in hibernation, but now with Spring here, the majestic animals are waking from their slumber and venturing out for some much-needed grub. Parks Canada is reminding hikers and adventures alike to be vigilant and reminding everyone that the best way is to avoid an encounter.

According to the Parks Canada website, bears are extremely sensitive to the stress of human activity. You can help protect these animals by avoiding encounters with them. Other recommendations include:

  • Make noise! Let bears know you're there. Call out, clap, sing or talk loudly especially near streams, dense vegetation and berry patches, on windy days, and in areas of low visibility. Bear bells are not enough.
  • Watch for the fresh bear sign. Tracks, droppings, diggings, torn-up logs and turned-over rocks are all signs that a bear has been in the area. Leave the area if the signs are fresh.
  • Keep your dog on a leash at all times or leave it at home. Dogs can provoke defensive behaviour in bears.
  • Larger-size groups are less likely to have a serious bear encounter. We recommend hiking in a tight group of four or more. Never let children wander.
  • Use officially marked paths and trails and travel during daylight hours.
  • If you come across a large dead animal, leave the area immediately and report it to park staff.
  • Dispose of fish offal in fast-moving streams or the deep part of a lake, never along stream sides or lake shores.

When it comes to bear spray, it is recommended to always carry it with you at all times on the trail, and know how to use it. 

"Bear spray can be effective with some bears when used properly. Be aware that wind, spray distance, rain, freezing temperatures and product shelf life can all influence its effectiveness. Familiarize yourself with the proper use of bear spray (including the manufacturer’s specific instructions) and keep it readily accessible," the website stated.

However, if you happen to spot a bear, you should stop and remain calm. 

"Get ready to use your bear spray. Do not run away."

If the bear does not notice you, it's best to move away quietly without getting its attention. However, if the bear does see or notice your presence, Parks Canda recommends that you:

  • Stay calm. Your calm behaviour can reassure the bear. Screams or sudden movements may trigger an attack.
  • Speak to the bear. Talk calmly and firmly. This lets the bear know you are human and not a prey animal. If a bear rears on its hind legs and waves its nose about, it is trying to identify you.
  • Back away slowly. Never run! Running may trigger a pursuit.
  • Make yourself appear BIG. Pick up small children and stay in a group.
  • Do not drop your pack. It can provide protection.

"Bears may bluff their way out of an encounter by charging and then turning away at the last second. Bears may also react defensively by woofing, growling, snapping their jaws and laying their ears back," Parks Canada added. "If you must proceed, make a wide detour around a bear or wait at a safe distance for it to move on."

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