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Bearsmart Blog

5 common mistakes people make in bear country

1. Wearing bear bells to scare bears away. For the most part, this really doesn’t work. Bear bells have no biological significance to a bear, so they don’t relate the sound of bells to people approaching. The best way to alert bears of your presence is by talking loudly, singing songs or breaking sticks. In grizzly country especially, try to hike in a group on established trails during daylight hours.

2. Thinking it won’t happen to them. There’s something weird programmed into human DNA – people don’t seem to think shit’s gonna happen to them. Well it does. So be prepared.

3. Screaming. While screaming in black bear country isn’t likely to cause too much of a ruckus. Screaming at a grizzly bear, particularly if it’s a momma with cubs, may cause her to react defensively to the perceived threat. Always talk in a quiet calming voice to de-escalate defensive behaviour – whether a bear is protecting cubs, themselves or a valuable food cache, it’s best to calm the situation.

4. Leaving food or garbage behind. This is the most fatal mistake a person can make. And I mean fatal for the bear. Bears that learn to associate people with a food source inevitably get into a lot of trouble and pay for it with their life. Why? Because officials always err on the side of safety and any bear that is even remotely considered to be a risk to human safety is eliminated. Is it right? Well, that’s a whole ‘nother blog.

5. Approaching bears for a photo. Every bear has its own “personal” space. Once a person has violated that line (which may be 15 m for one bear or 100 m for another), they have forced the bear to react – either to run away or to deal with the threat. Learn more at www.bearsmart.com.