May 2, 2016

The Bears are Awake!

With black bears and Grizzly bears coming out of hibernation, it’s important to be bear aware when visiting Jasper National Park. Thanks to Parks Canada, here are a few important things to keep in mind before you hit the trails to keep yourself safe from bears in the park:

Avoid an Encounter

Though you can run into a bear anywhere here, the most effective safety precaution is to try and avoid encounters with bears as much as possible. Bears are sensitive to human activity, and the best way to protect them is to avoid them. You can do this by: making noise, watching for fresh bear signs, keeping your dog on a leash at all times, staying in large groups, using officially marked trails and paths and staying away from large dead animals (and reporting them to Parks Canada staff if found).

Bear Spray

Carrying bear spray is a must, especially when travelling on the trails. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the proper use of bear spray. Always keep it readily accessible.

If you See a Bear

Stop, remain calm, have your bear spray ready and DO NOT run away. If the bear is unaware of your presence, move away very quietly without getting its attention.

If the bear is aware of your presence:

Stay calm: Calm behavior reassures the bear. Loud sounds or sudden movements may trigger an attack.

Speak to the bear: Speak calmly and firmly. This lets the bear know you are human, and not a prey animal.

Back away slowly: Again, DO NOT run. Calmly back away. Running can trigger a pursuit. 

Make yourself appear BIG: Pick up small children and stay in a group.

Do not drop your pack: Your pack can provide protection.

If the Bear Approaches

If the bear is defensive (feeding, protecting its young or surprised by your presence):

  • Try to appear non-threatening
  • Talk in a calm voice
  • When the bear stops advancing start slowly moving away
  • If it keeps coming closer, stand your ground and have your bear spray ready
  • If the bear makes contact, fall to the ground and play dead. Lie still and wait for the bear to leave

If the bear is non-defensive (a bear may be curious, after your food or testing its dominance):

  • Talk in a firm voice
  • Move out of the bears path
  • If it follows you, stop and stand your ground
  • Shout and act aggressively
  • Try to intimidate the bear
  • If it approaches closely, use your bear spray

Handling an attack

If a bear attacks you:

Use your bear spray and play dead. Lie on your stomach with legs apart and position your arms so that your hands are crossed behind your neck.

If the attack lasts longer than two minutes:

This is a predatory attack. Fight back!

This is very rare, but if it does happen:

  • Try to escape into a building, or up a tree
  • If you cannot escape, do not play dead
  • Use your bear spray and fight back (Intimidate that bear: shout; hit it with a branch or rock, do whatever it takes to let the bear know you are not easy prey. This kind of attack is very rare, but it is serious because it usually means the bear is looking for food and preying on you)

Staying bear aware in Jasper National Park is the best way to avoid any conflicts and to enjoy the park safely. For more information about bear safety, visit the Parks Canada website, or talk to the Parks Canada Visitor Information Centre Staff. 

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