Be ‘Bear Aware’

There are several different types of large wild animals native to the Kamloops area, and hikers should learn all they can about each one and where they might be encountered. Wild animals are naturally unpredictable, and they may consider a sudden encounter with a human to be a danger to them. Different animals will react differently, so if you do find yourself face-to-face with one you will need to know which set of tactics to use.

The most familiar, and perhaps the most misunderstood, of the large wild animals around Kamloops is the black bear.

standing BEAR IMG_8105
This bear saw Al then stood up perhaps to get a better look, then dropped to all fours, turned away and disappeared into the forest.

There were more than 14000 complaints about black bears in BC in 2017 and a number of these have involved bear-human conflicts on the hiking trail. These conflicts are almost invariably caused by inappropriate human behaviour – they are never the fault of the bear. Black bears are naturally shy and will avoid people if given the chance, so if you see one at a distance, do not approach him.

If you encounter a black bear on the trail, give him plenty of room. Black bears have a strong sense of personal space – a distance that varies from bear to bear and from which they won’t back away, and if you end up inside that space, you are likely to experience a combination of highly intimidating behaviours. You are entirely responsible for your own safety if this happens, and to manage a human-bear conflict successfully you must be able to communicate with the bear in a way that he understands.

bear IMG_6953
In the bush, we saw this bear before he saw us, so we moved ourselves out onto the road and continued the hike. On the return he paralleled us and again seemed to be oblivious of us. Then came into the open right behind us and then moved on.

Almost all bear attacks are defensive bluffs based on fear, and many of the behaviors that appear ferocious are really expressions of the bear’s own anxiety. So make yourself appear physically harmless; face the bear but avoid direct eye contact, talk calmly to him to identify yourself as a human and not another animal, then slowly begin to back away. Do not turn away from him, and NEVER RUN. This takes nerve, but remember that the bear is defending something; cubs perhaps, a food source or just personal space, and is not making a predatory attack – black bears do not prey on humans. Once there is enough distance between you, the bear will no longer feel threatened.

Leave the area immediately following the encounter, preferably the way you came in. If you choose to detour around the bear and continue your hike you may very well face him again on your way back.

More information about bear encounters see pg 35 of Kamloops Backcountry Hikes

BEAR VIDEO       There’s a little blurb below the video too!!


Al Budreau