There are many places to camp and hike in British Columbia and while all of these places are quite safe, there is still a good chance that anyone can find themselves face to face with a bear. People should know that their risk of being injured by a bear is much lower than being hit by lightening or having a car accident. There are many things that a person can do to avoid a bear encounter or have an encounter become deadly.
When a person is camping, they need to make sure that bears are unable to get into the food, garbage, pet food, cooking utensils, fuel for stoves or lanterns, cosmetics, insect repellents, lotions and toothpaste. As soon as a bear finds that they can get into any of these items easily at a campground, they will become more aggressive and bold. This is when they will start to damage tents, vehicles and may possibly hurt someone. Any of these items should be stored in a bear resistant food storage box, a secure vehicle, a bear resistant backpacker food cache or suspended at least 10-15 feet off of the ground and at least 4 feet from each vertical support.
There are a few other guidelines that a person that is camping should follow. No one should ever sleep in the clothes that they have cooked a meal in. Everyone should have a flashlight and bear spray in their tent at night and people should never sleep out in the open. The sleeping area should always be at least 100 yards from where food is prepared and cooked and should never be located by a trail, berry patch, carcasses or any fresh bear sign. No one should ever cook foods like bacon or fish, because these have a strong aroma. All garbage and food scraps should never be buried, instead remove it from the campsite. All pets need to be kept on a leash.
If a person is out hiking and happens to find a bear in their path, they should never run. They need to calmly assess their surroundings in order to determine what they need to do. If the bear has not noticed the person, then the person can leave the area quietly. If the person has been spotted by the bear, then the person will need to identify themselves as a human to the bear. The person will need to speak in a calm voice and move their arms up and down at their sides very slowly. This will let the bear know that the person is not another bear or a different animal of prey. A person never wants to have direct eye contact with a bear, but the person should definitely keep their eye on the bear. If the bear runs away, then the person should walk in the opposite direction and leave the area immediately. However, if the bear is still looking at the person, but ignoring them, then the person can walk away backwards while still talking to the bear.
If a person is ever approached by a bear, that person needs to stand their ground. A bear that is defensive will feel like a person is a threat. The bear will then woof, chomp its teeth, growl, move its head back and forth, hit the ground with its front feet, charge forward or smack its lips and salivate. Defensive bears are usually protecting their cubs, food or their space. If the bear happens to attack a person, the person’s best plan is to play dead. The person needs to leave their backpack on and lay face down on the ground with their arms and hands over their head. The person should not move or make a sound until the bear leaves the area.
Everyone who is camping or hiking should carry at least one can of bear spray. The spray has been effective in reducing bear attacks. The bear spray has capsaicin in it, so it will temporarily disable the bear, but it will not cause any permanent damage. This bear spray should only be sprayed on bears that are approaching or charging. It should never be sprayed on a backpack, clothing, tents or people.
Hikers should also make sure to stay on the trails and make noise while hiking. Everyone needs to be aware of their surroundings at all times.
Hiking and camping are great outdoor activities that can be done safely as long as people are aware of the wildlife. Bears do not want to hurt people and as long as the bears are given space and not bothered, both the bears and people can enjoy the woods together.