With cloudless skies and balmy temperatures, spring and summer are some of the most ideal times to experience the ancient rainforests, sweeping grasslands and rugged mountains that make up Canada’s natural landscape. Venturing into the outdoors, whether hiking, mountain biking or camping, means we’re sharing the land with the wildlife that also make this their home, including grizzly and black bears, some of the most iconic symbols of the Canadian wilderness. If you’re planning on spending some time outdoors this summer, here’s what you need to know about venturing into bear country.
Where Is It?
Bear country refers to anywhere where these land animals live, which includes a range of ecosystems from the Arctic tundra, dense forests and grassy areas to inlets and regions along the coast where salmon spawning grounds are found. Bears prefer remote areas away from human activity, so spending time in the wild increases the odds of encountering one.
While exploring the Canadian backcountry, you’re most likely to come across grizzly and black bears. British Columbia is home to more than half of the country’s 26,000 grizzlies, while the rest are spread out between western Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, northern Manitoba, the Yukon, Northwest Territories and southwestern Nunavut. Black bears, Canada’s smallest and most common bear, have a population of some 380,000, and are found mainly in forests across the country, except for Prince Edward Island.
Distinguishing between the two types of bears can be difficult because both black and grizzly bears can vary in colour from blonde to black. A more reliable way to tell them apart is by the distinct hump on their shoulders, a concave face and claws that are often longer than your fingers, which are all characteristic of a grizzly bear.
How to Deter Bears
Regardless of bear type, bear spray remains the most effective way to deter charging bears when used properly. When hiking and camping in the summer, carry either SABRE Wild or Frontiersman Bear Spray using a hip and chest holster, which allows you to conveniently access it in a pinch. Both bear sprays are available at MEC or Canadian Tire and offer the maximum strength stopping power. These bear sprays release 32 grams of spray per second (roughly 1.13 ounces) and can cover a distance up to 10.5 metres to provide maximum protection in minimal time. To deploy bear spray, aim it at a 45-degree angle down, deploy a one-second burst, and spray more if the bear doesn’t leave.
Bears generally hibernate from around October to April, when the snow tends to melt. During the spring and summer months, bears are most active in the early morning and late evening to avoid the heat of the day. These are times when they forage, climb and swim. But because bears have become nocturnal to avoid people in places that experience high human activity, these animals can be seen any time of day.
As omnivores that enjoy a diet of fish, insects, plants and berries, bears aren’t typically aggressive towards humans unless they’re startled or sense danger towards their young. One way to prevent a bear encounter is to make noise as you hike to alert them of your presence, especially in louder areas like near streams and in areas of high vegetation and low visibility. The Frontiersman Bear Bell creates noise as you walk, and its Velcro strap makes it easy for you to secure it on your backpack. The magnetic silencer means you can silence the bell without removing it from your bag. Talk, sing or yell to accompany the noise of the bell.
How to Store Food Safely
Bears also have a keen sense of smell and will be tempted to investigate your campsite if you leave food scraps, toiletries or garbage unattended. Keep scented items away from your campsite. The Frontiersman Bear Safe is a reliable solution. Its generous 11.86-litre capacity means it can comfortably store goods for multi-day adventures in the backcountry. Despite its size, the tapered design maximizes space and helps facilitate a balanced load in your pack. Tightly sealed with three screws, the bear safe ensures that this food storage container is bear resistant.
Though adventuring in bear country comes with risks, being adequately prepared remains the best way to protect yourself and the wildlife whose land we share.
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