Be bear aware

Your guide to staying safe outdoors in Smithers

Ready or not, bears active this time of year and it’s everyone’s responsibility to educate themselves on the bear facts. Here’s what you need to know to prevent conflict with bears:THE ESSENTIALS – Never approach a bear – Never feed a bear (either intentionally or by not properly disposing of garbage). – Respect bears; do not attempt to take photos of them.

FACTS ABOUT BEARS – There are both black bears and grizzly bears in the region and they are difficult to distinguish by colour since they both can range from light brown (or white in black bears) to black. Grizzly bears have a pronounced shoulder hump, a concave profile and larger claws than the black bear. Black bears have a flatter profile, larger ears and no shoulder hump. -Bears generally avoid humans and are usually drawn to fruit trees or other vegetation like wild onions or bird feeders and improperly disposed of garbage. – Bears consume up to 25,000 calories per day and are attracted to almost any food source to help meet their needs.

PRECAUTIONS – “Make lots of noise,” said conservation officer, Kevin Nixon. “Be aware of any signs like torn up logs or fresh scat.” A surprised bear is not one you want to meet. If you see these hints that a bear is in the area, don’t stick around. – If you see a dead animal, or signs that one is nearby, leave the area. – Hike in daylight hours within a group if possible.

IF YOU SEE A BEAR – If you are in a vehicle, remain inside with the windows up. – If you are on foot, make a wide detour. – If a bear is acting aggressively towards you, bear spray should be used with caution, Nixon said. “Fifty per cent of people who use bear spray end up contaminating themselves,” he said. – If you see an aggressive bear, or one in town, call Animal Conservation at 847-7266.

BEWARE OF FOOD – Bears are attracted to the smell of food, no matter how faint. Don’t sleep in the clothes that you cooked in. – Store food where bears can’t reach or smell it. – Don’t keep any food inside your tent at all. – Properly dispose of any food waste and be aware of any scent of food that may be left behind on yourself or your campsite. And, “if you see a baby bear up in a tree,” Nixon said, “it’s a good thing to get out of there as soon as possible. Mama’s not far behind.” The most aggressive bears tend to be those who are defending either their young or a kill. Most bears don’t want to have anything to do with us humans — unless we are an easy source of food. Check out www.bearaware.bc.ca for more info.